Alberta's Energy Minister Ken Hughes announced this week that a new arms-length regulatory body, the Alberta Energy Regulator, would be formed as part of the province's ongoing efforts to improve the regulatory approval process for energy projects.

Bill 2, the Responsible Energy Development Act, would form the Alberta Energy Regulator and would bring under one roof the regulatory authority currently held by the Energy Resources Conservation Board, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, and Alberta Environment in respect of the development of oil, gas, oil sands and coal.

The one-window approach to regulatory approvals is being cited by the government and by industry as a positive step towards a clearer process for the entire regulatory process from development to reclamation.

The change comes about as a result of a consultation and engagement process undertaken by the government over the last several years.  The formation of a single regulator was the primary recommendation of the Regulatory Enhancement Task Force.

Other changes being implemented at the same time will include the ability of the new regulator to levy increased fines for non-compliance, enhanced rights for landowners (including the creation of a voluntary register for surface rights agreements), and the formation of a Policy Management Office to coordinate the formation of government energy policy.

The new regulator is expected to be up and running by June, 2013.