New oil and gas regulations in their final stages, Kent says

The rules would seek to cut the sector's overall emissions by 17% by 2020.

March 6, 2013   by The Canadian Press

OTTAWA—Less than a month after US President Barack Obama put Canada on notice about climate change, environmental regulations for the oil and gas sector are in their final stages, Environment Minister Peter Kent says.

The long-promised rules would seek to curb the sector’s greenhouse-gas emissions to help Canada meet a 2020 target for a 17% cut in overall emissions from 2005 levels.

Rules have recently been put in place to regulate emissions for the transportation and coal-fired electricity industries, but estimates suggest they get Canada only halfway to that goal. Kent says he expects the new regulations to help close the gap.

A promise to regulate the oil and gas sector’s emission levels was first announced by the Tories in 2008 with new rules promised to take effect in 2010, but the plan never materialized. Word that the regulations are now nearing completion follows the US essentially putting Canada on notice that it wants to see more aggressive action on curbing climate change.

The Conservatives have announced a flurry of climate-change-related initiatives in the last few weeks, in response partly to Obama’s State of the Union address, which warned Congress to agree to market-based solutions to climate change or face executive orders from the Oval Office.

The message was widely viewed north of the border as being meant as much for Canadian interests as it was for those in the US.

Indeed, what happens in the US is taken into account in crafting policy north of the border, deputy environment minister Bob Hamilton told the committee.

Canada, he added, has aligned its greenhouse-gas reduction targets with the US, and worked with Washington on regulations for the transportation sector.

“What the US does or thinks about climate change is obviously something important we have to consider within our policy structure and framework.”

Kent says the current set of regulations for the oil and gas sector have been in development since fall 2011, but they are taking longer than expected.

“They haven’t been delayed, it’s just been the capacity of the department,” he said following his testimony. “We spent more time than originally intended on the coal-fired electricity generation sector, but we’re in the final stages now, and that’s always the toughest area in terms of setting stringency.”

It took more than two years to introduce regulations on coal-fired power plants, and opposition from industry and provincial governments helped delay them until last fall.

Meanwhile, most of the benefits may have little impact on overall 2020 targets as they apply mainly to new operations.

Kent says he’s trying to avoid a repeat of the process that bogged down the coal regulations by consulting widely ahead of time.

As home to the oil and gas industry, Alberta opened an office in Ottawa this year to ensure its voice is heard in the process, and the province has been central in the talks to create the new rules.

It’s expected the regulations will contain a provision to allow provincial governments to administer the regulations themselves, as long as they meet or exceed federal standards.

©The Canadian Press

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