Nova Scotia issues energy policy reforms, development blueprint

Nova Scotia's government issued an energy development blueprint Wednesday that would create a Department of Energy, facilitate offshore oil and gas projects, and gradually introduce electric industry competition.

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Dec. 12 -- Nova Scotia's government issued an energy development blueprint Wednesday that would create a Department of Energy, facilitate offshore oil and gas projects, and gradually introduce electric industry competition.

The province said the strategy is intended to help Nova Scotia reap the economic, employment, and environmental benefits of a growing energy industry.

The government plans to tighten its regulatory environment to prepare for increased oil and gas development. The first priority will be legislation and regulations to protect the health and safety of offshore workers.

The Department of Energy will be created by the 2002-03 fiscal year. It and Economic Development officials will develop energy-specific promotional tools and bundle existing tax programs and incentives into a Nova Scotia Energy Industry Growth Program.

To protect its marine environment and fishing industry, Nova Scotia intends to establish corridors for offshore pipelines and cables. The government will consult with fisheries groups annually.

The province also intends to sign Offshore Strategic Energy Agreements with developers of offshore projects to help the province to reach its energy sector objectives. Those agreements would emphasize both market conditions and the capability of Nova Scotians to provide goods, services, and workers for each project.

Nova Scotia plans to establish an Offshore Heritage Trust that will receive and manage royalties from offshore petroleum projects.

To encourage a viable natural gas distribution system, the province promised a sensible approach toward pipeline siting. It said, "Pipelines will now be built where and when it makes sense to do so." It outlined a number of other measures to establish a gas delivery system in the province.

The government intends to reduce air pollutant emissions, including a 25% reduction in sulfur dioxide levels by 2005.

Electricity rates will remain regulated and subject to public input through the Utility and Review Board (UARB) hearings, said Ernst Fage, minister of natural resources. But Nova Scotia Power Inc., the utility unit of Emera Inc., would no longer have a monopoly over electric generation. The UARB will call for competitive bids when it determines more generation capacity is needed.

The six provincial municipal utilities will be free to buy electricity from other generators.

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