UCP leader calls new pipeline approval process 'worst possible news' for industry

United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says the federal government’s new process to approve and regulate pipelines will stop future projects from going ahead.

Ottawa creating new Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to evaluate energy projects

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney is in Ottawa this week to speak at the Manning Networking Conference. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press )

United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says the federal government's new process to approve and regulate pipelines will stop future projects from going ahead.

"This is the worst possible news, at the worst time, for Canada's energy industry," Kenney told reporters in Ottawa Thursday.

The changes are contained within Bill C-69, introduced earlier Thursday by the federal Liberal government.

The bill creates the new Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to hold more extensive consultations with groups on the environmental, health, social and economic impacts of proposed oil and gas projects. The agency will also assess potential impacts on Indigenous communities.

Ottawa will also replace the National Energy Board with the Canadian Energy Regulator, which will still operate out of Calgary.

Kenney, who is in Ottawa to speak at the Manning Networking Conference, says it will now be harder for energy companies to get projects approved.

"The process announced today is going to extend the timelines, massively expands the consultation process, allows anybody, including any activist, anywhere in Canada, to get intervener status at the agency, which could mean endless process and delays," Kenney said.

The Alberta government offered little reaction to the moves announced by federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and  Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

Alberta will consult with stakeholders

Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said in a written statement that Alberta wants to first consult with "key stakeholders" on the new bill.

"Our priority is to ensure the federal regulatory changes are implemented in a way that makes sense for working people and provides greater certainty for investors," she said.

"It's important to acknowledge the federal government's intent to reduce overall regulatory timelines and improve Indigenous consultation at the front end.

"To achieve that, it will be critical for Canada to ensure the proposed timelines are achievable within the new, broader impact assessment criteria released today."

The new agency will have set timelines for the review of projects — a maximum of 300 days for smaller projects and 600 days for larger projects that require a panel review.

The current timeline is two years.

The changes come after years of criticism that the National Energy Board, the regulator that weighs approval for construction of projects such as pipelines, was ill-suited to conduct environmental assessments or the Crown's duty to consult with Indigenous peoples.

With files from the CBC's John Paul Tasker