Federal regulations often play a major role in business operations. For Alberta oil sands and pipelines, environmental regulations are a constant business law concern. However, the federal government has recently announced that it plans to not require Alberta energy businesses to pass a tough proposed environmental assessment as long as they fit under the province's existing regulatory plan.
Currently, Alberta business law enforces a 100-megatonne emissions cap. Federal bodies say that this cap is consistent with national efforts to hit climate-change targets. As a result, energy project developers will only have provincial regulations to contend with.
No decisions are final, but strong signals have been sent from the federal government to business interests in Alberta. The government is also reviewing whether some energy projects should be excluded from a list of those which must be reviewed by federal bodies. It is possible that in situ projects could be exempted as they are covered by provincial regulations.
While the federal government is currently not on track to meet its 2030 targets, the federal environment minister remains optimistic about plans to meet targets while balancing Alberta's business interests. While some Canadian environmental groups oppose exceptions being made for certain projects, Alberta business interests are largely positive about the news that the province will work with the federal government to review individual projects and align legislation. It is important that those involved in the energy sectors stay abreast of business law changes which may result from changing environmental policies. Those facing legal challenges related to this issue should work with a lawyer to resolve these concerns or conflicts.
Source: The Globe and Mail, "Federal climate plan to yield to Alberta on oil sands, pipelines", Shawn McCarthy, April 3, 2018