Drilling, digging, shipping and piping of Canadian resources will get faster and smoother, the federal government promises.
And the new rules will apply to the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline in British Columbia, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says.
That could shorten the hearing process that's now looking at the pipeline plan.
The federal panel conducting the review says it will report in the fall of 2013 on the proposed pipeline, which would cross B.C. to carry crude from Alberta's oilsands to tankers on the West Coast.
The new rules will keep projects from having to navigate multiple regulatory hearings.
"The one project, one review plan applies to all major projects, including Northern Gateway," Flaherty said.
It's not entirely clear how that will work in practice.
The project filed its application in the spring of 2010, with the report due in the fall of 2013, 31/2 years later.
The new rules would limit panel reviews to two years, which would mean a decision this spring.
But federal officials said that for projects part way through the review process, transitional procedures will be applied. Those aren't yet drawn up, leaving a final deadline unknown.
The budget document serves up harsh criticism of current rules governing big projects such as oilsands extraction, mining and pipelines.
They often clear one regulatory hurdle only to get mired in a second review process, it says.
Often, it's unclear which federal department or agency should take the lead in reviewing and approving projects. And provincial involvement makes the process even more complex.
The new rules, which will be announced in detail in the coming weeks, will set out time limits for different levels of reviews: 12 months for an environmental assessment; 18 months for a National Energy Board hearing, and 24 months for a panel review, such as Northern Gateway's.
And while the government promises to "enhance" consultation with aboriginal people, it's not clear how that fits into a streamlined process.
Against the promises of smoothing and speeding project reviews, the government pledges that it will also toughen up safety measures.
That means increasing the number of pipeline inspections by 50 per cent, it says.
Monitoring projects after they've been approved will also be strengthened.
And the budget promises more effective measures for oil tanker safety. That's a big concern on the West Coast, which is likely to see the number of tankers sharply increase if plans for the Gateway pipeline and for a new liquid natural gas terminal both materialize.
The budget promises more stringent tanker inspections and better navigational aids for mariners.
There is also vague language about "appropriate legislative and regulatory frameworks related to oil spills and emergency preparedness." No actual spending is mentioned.
Jayson Myers, chief executive of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said it's crucial to keep the resource sector moving.
"There are only two sectors of the economy that will drive economic growth. One is private sector investment, and the other is exports," he said. "When it comes to energy and resource projects, that's where both of those come together."
But the budget drew scathing criticism from environmentalists.
Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, characterized it as a "tough-on-nature budget, but it's full speed ahead on oil and gas. The entire focus of the budget is to grease the wheels for fossil-fuel development in the oilsands and expanding pipelines and tanker routes and offshore drilling," she said.
Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence was also dismayed. "Truncating and cutting off democratic debate on this project flies in the face of what these laws were put in place to do in the beginning, which was to make sure we had a thorough and thoughtful process."
Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair of the NDP was also critical.
"They've already loaded the dice on these things, and we're quite concerned about that, because long-term it means some things won't be looked at properly."