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Alberta strikes panel for recommendations on oil refining, upgrading

FILE - This Aug. 18, 2016 file photo shows what remains of an oil-extraction operation in Banning Ranch, on what is believed to be the biggest piece of privately-owned vacant land on Southern California's coast in Newport Beach. The California Coastal Commission will hold a hearing in Newport Beach on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, on the plan to build 895 homes, a 75-room hotel and retail complex on the 401-acre site long used for oil drilling. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

The Alberta government has struck a panel to advise it on the best way to upgrade its energy industry.

Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd says the seven-member panel will do research, talk to stakeholders and the public and report back in a year on initiatives such as upgrading and refining.

Its co-chairs are Jeanette Patell with General Electric, and Gil McGowan, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

The panel has a budget of $150,000 and it’s not clear yet what its public engagement process will look like.

Adding to and upgrading value for Alberta’s oil and gas resources has been a cornerstone policy of Premier Rachel Notley’s government.

Wildrose energy critic Leela Sharon Aheer says attracting investors should be at the top of the panel’s agenda, but that goes against current NDP policy like the carbon tax, which she says is discouraging investment.