Canada to cut number of reviews on big projects

TORONTO, April 17 Tue Apr 17, 2012 10:32am EDT

TORONTO, April 17 (Reuters) - Canada will streamline the way it performs environmental reviews on major projects in a bid to speed the development of mines and pipelines, the government said on Tuesday.

The right-of-center Conservatives, who predict Canada could see C$500 billion ($505 billion) of new investments in energy and mining industries over the next decade, say the current process is far too complicated and lengthy.

"We have to compete with other resource-rich countries for fast-growing markets and scarce capital. And we must do it now," Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said in a speech as he unveiled the new rules.

The federal government will hand over responsibility for some reviews to Canada's 10 provinces, while ensuring each project is assessed only once. Ottawa will also impose legally binding fixed timetables on the reviews.

Oliver said over 40 federal government departments and organizations have responsibility for project reviews. This will be cut back to three.

Environmentalists - who complain about the Conservatives' tight ties to the energy industry - say trimming the regulatory process could lead to disaster.

Companies which could benefit from the new rules include Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP and Enbridge Inc , which both want to build pipelines from the oil-rich western province of Alberta to the Pacific Coast.

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