Oil Sands Province Cuts Agency Meant to Help Environmental Image

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(Bloomberg) -- Alberta is disbanding an agency that helped consumers and businesses become more energy efficient, undoing another of the previous government’s efforts to portray the home of the often-criticized oil sands as a more environmentally friendly jurisdiction.

The Canadian province is shutting Energy Efficiency Alberta, which sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by helping consumers and businesses cover the cost of more energy-efficient equipment and installations. That included rebates for certain home improvements and rooftop solar power, among other initiatives.

The agency was established in 2017 by the center-left New Democratic Party as part of its effort to blunt criticism of the province’s oil sands, which have been attacked by environmental activists as a major contributor to global climate change. Their plan also included the introduction of a carbon tax and a cap on emissions from the oil sands, the world’s third-largest crude reserves.

The United Conservative Party ousted the New Democrats in an election last year and has set about undoing many of their signature programs, including the carbon tax. The conservative government began winding down some of Energy Efficiency Alberta’s programs in October.

The legislation introduced Thursday will transfer the remaining programs to Emissions Reduction Alberta, which focuses on promoting technologies that help industries emit less greenhouse gases, and the Ministry of Environment and Parks.

“There’s no need to have that agency anymore,” Grant Hunter, Alberta’s associate minister of red tape reduction, said in response to reporters’ questions. “We don’t need to have two agencies doing the same thing.”

The legislation introduced Thursday also removes the requirement that new oil-sands projects receive approval from the province’s cabinet, which Hunter said could speed some approvals up by 10 months. The Alberta Energy Regulator will now have sole decision-making power over such projects.

The legislation also:

  • Eliminates Canadian residency requirements for boards of directors
  • Allows the Surface Rights Board to handle more landowner claims for unpaid oil and gas development on their properties
  • Allows all Canadians, not just Albertans, to participate in sales of public land, obtain grazing leases in public parks and obtain grazing permits in forest reserves

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