EDMONTON - Changes to energy royalties in Alberta are to be announced Thursday with the release of a report on the industry's competitiveness.

Investment has plummeted in Alberta in the last couple of years since the province restructured royalties to boost government revenues. Premier Ed Stelmach's Tory government has signalled for months that it was preparing to reduce some royalties to help restore energy investment in Alberta.

Energy Minister Ron Liepert will make the announcement in Calgary, where most of the province's energy firms are based.

A government source told The Canadian Press that the government's response covers three areas: fiscal, regulatory and innovation technology.

The government plans to brief reporters at a lockup in Calgary similar to when the royalty changes were first announced and the embargo won't be lifted until after Canadian stock markets have closed for the day.

Liepert cancelled an interview Tuesday to discuss the changes, fearing he would leak details ahead of the planned announcement.

The minister was also cryptic in the legislature Tuesday when the opposition parties questioned why the competitiveness review is now months later than first expected.

"I believe it will be very well received by industry," Liepert told the assembly.

He also brushed aside questions about how many billions of dollars in energy investment have been moved to other provinces after royalties were increased last year.

"How could anyone stand here and estimate how much investment has taken place outside of Alberta and the entire world?" said Liepert.

Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith held a news conference Tuesday to release her party's energy competitiveness strategy.

The royalty changes have been a costly disaster that have dried up energy investment and jobs in Alberta, said Smith.

Wildrose has put forward a strategy calling for lower royalties, especially for natural gas, and faster environmental approvals for drilling projects.

"If a project is going to be denied because it doesn't meet worker safety or environmental requirements, you can decide that just as quickly in two months as you can in two years," she said.

Lower royalties will help lure back energy investment and increase total royalties, which have plunged dramatically in the last couple of years, said Smith.

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