CALGARY - The Alberta government is cutting royalty rates for the oil and natural gas industry starting next year in a bid to win back investment in the province.

The province said Thursday the maximum royalty rates for conventional oil will be cut from 50 per cent to 40 per cent, while the top rate for natural gas will be 36 per cent, down from 50 per cent.

A transitional five per cent royalty rate for new wells introduced last year will also become a permanent feature.

"They will help us use innovation to unlock our energy resources, create opportunities and jobs in communities large and small across our province and strengthen Alberta's economic recovery," Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said of the cuts.

The government said the net result of the cuts will be a $363-million reduction in revenue in 2012 and 2013.

The province also said it wanted to streamline its regulatory regime by avoiding duplication with various departments involved in the approval process.

"If we can move towards code of practice in some areas as opposed to very prescriptive kinds of approvals," Environment Minister Rob Renner said.

"That will probably evolve over time."

Alberta will also look at what other provinces have done to speed up regulatory approvals, said the minister.

"I don't think we have to re-invent the wheel," he told reporters on his way into the legislature Thursday. "If someone's got a great idea, then I'm not ashamed to steal it."

"But the bottom line at the end of the day is we have to ensure that we're protecting the environment," said Renner. "So nothing that we would propose to bring into place would in any way jeopardize or compromise our ability to do that."



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