Bill 7: Alberta Government Aims to Set Deadlines for AER Project Approvals

On Wednesday, the Alberta Government tabled Bill 7, the Responsible Energy Development Amendment Act, (“Act”). If passed, the Act would allow Cabinet to specify time limits for the review and approval of energy projects by the Alberta Energy Regulator (“AER”). Bill 7 is intended to provide project proponents and other applicants with greater certainty as to approval timelines.   

Bill 7 does not prescribe the maximum timelines, rather it authorizes Cabinet to approve regulations establishing same (see s. 60(2) of Bill 7). In doing so, Bill 7 removes the requirement that the AER must make a written decision, with reasons, within “the time prescribed by the rules” after the completion of:
  •  a hearing on an application (s. 35(1));
  • a regulatory appeal (s. 41(1)); or
  • a reconsideration (s. 44(1)).
Instead, Bill 7 proposes amending section 60 of the Responsible Energy Development Act by including the following subsections:
(2) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations
  • (a) to establish time limits on the exercise of powers, duties and functions by the Regulator;
  • (b) to establish time limits in respect of any process, hearing or decision concerning which the Regulator may make rules under this Act or any other enactment.
(3) A regulation made under this section prevails over any rulethat is made or amended by the Regulator with which it conflictsor is inconsistent to the extent of the conflict or inconsistency.
Uncertainty remains in relation to how the government will arrive at the prescribed timelines, what consultation or input from the AER will be received and whether or not the imposition of timelines will resolve the concerns voiced by industry. Moreover, the government has made it clear that the AER’s obligations to fully consider social and economic effects and the effects of any activity on the environment and landowners is unchanged.  

The government is hopeful that the changes proposed by Bill 7 will assist in restoring predictability to the regulatory process without sacrificing rigor in conducting assessments of proposed projects. Whether the imposition of deadlines will be effective in achieving this goal remains to be seen.