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Alberta working to make Hat-Lethbridge ‘industrial zone’

Posted on December 14, 2023 by Taber Times

Southern Alberta Newspapers

A process to certify the region between Medicine Hat and Lethbridge as a “designated industrial zone” could begin “very soon,” according to Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz.

She told the legislature on Nov. 22 that the concept was in late-stage development and implementation at the “Industrial Heartland” cluster of petrochemical production facilities in areas around Edmonton.

Once a program on emissions evaluation is completed by her ministry for area where multiple municipalities have worked for more than a decade to align other permitting processes, it could be exported elsewhere in short order.

“The trial underway in the Industrial Heartland has the potential to help attract billions of dollars in capital investment and support thousands of direct and indirect jobs,” Schulz stated during question period on Nov. 22. “We know many regions are watching closely, and we’re aware of the strong interest from southern Alberta. My department is reviewing the possibility of establishing future designated industrial zones in other parts of the province.”

That came in response to a question from Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter, the parliamentary secretary handling the government’s move to create “economic corridors” within the transportation ministry.

The idea of pre-certifying areas as suitable for industrial development has been United Conservative policy since the 2019 election, and new leader Danielle Smith has often outlined her support for the idea.

This fall, Hunter led a push to bring municipalities along the Highway 3 region together to discuss water rights and water-use requirements to determine availability for potential ag processing and food production facilities.

“One of the reasons why this province has gotten back the Alberta advantage is this government’s push for more streamlined regulations,” he said.

Schulz said the goal is to streamline regulatory approvals while, “of course, maintaining our high environmental standards.”

“We’re watching the (Heartland) pilot closely and learning from its success,” said Schulz. “Based on that success, I know we’d look at other similar designated industrial zones across the province.”

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