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Outcomes of premiers, governors meeting in Washington

Seven Canadian premiers met with the National Governors Association this past weekend in Washington, DC. They discussed the tar sands, climate change, trade, country of origin labelling, and hydro exports.

The Canwest News Service reports that, “Minnesota (Governor) Tim Pawlenty, stressed the importance of Canadian crude oil to his state’s economy. Pawlenty, touted as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said it would be ‘very ill-advised’ for the U.S. to impose any sort of barriers to Canadian oil.”

“That was music to the ears of western premiers who worry U.S. state and federal lawmakers will pursue environmental and trade measures to curb Canadian petroleum exports.”

“’I’ve heard Gov. (Brian) Schweitzer (of Montana) actually take to task some of those who refer to our energy exports as ‘dirty Canadian oil’ on this side of the border,” (Saskatchewan premier Brad) Wall said. ‘It’s been a U.S. governor who’s done that, because he has a great understanding of the fact that we’re working hard to reduce the environmental footprint around our oil production, and we are a safe, reliable source of energy for (the) economy of the U.S.’”

“The meeting ‘was a huge step forward,’ said New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham, whose province supplies about 60 per cent of refined petroleum products into the Northeastern U.S. states. ‘Security of supply of energy is critical for the U.S. economy to recover.’”

“Of particular concern to Wall are potential moves by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that could prompt punishing trade barriers on Canadian exports of oil, and other carbon-rich products. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson appeared to understand that concern, Wall said, and, he was heartened to hear governors say how important Canadian oil imports are to them — particularly in states like Utah, Montana and Minnesota, where jobs rely on refining Canadian oil.”

“Wall may have also convinced Jackson to follow several U.S. senators’ footsteps and visit the carbon capture and sequestration project near Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from a coal-gasification plant in North Dakota have now been captured and stored underground.”

“As Manitoba premier, (Ambassador Gary) Doer negotiated the Western Climate Initiative with several states that set regional greenhouse gas emissions goals. Deals struck between some provinces and states on tailpipe emissions are now being used as a model for national standards planned by Ottawa and Washington.”

“The premiers’ meeting with the governors followed two high-level meetings on Friday with senior White House officials, including Larry Summers, economic czar, and Jackson. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he pressed U.S. leaders about the depth of protectionist sentiment caused by the recent recession. ‘I have been reassured that, while it always has some seductive appeal, there is a new awareness…that we have to guard against protectionism and keep our trade linkages strong.'”

“Premiers now hope Canada will get a permanent exemption from future Buy American measures. ‘I think there is a good possibility they (will) recognize the need for a preferential treatment for Canada,’ said Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger. ‘I don’t think any of what they have tried to do…was intended to side-swipe Canada. But now we have to be there so they think about us when they make these kinds of decisions.’”

“The premiers also met Sunday with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to raise ongoing complaints over country-of-origin labelling rules that Canada says unfairly damage exports of meat and food products to the United States. The law has sharply reduced Canadian hog and cattle exports to the U.S. Some Canadian producers feel the rules are a result of effective lobbying by select U.S. producers attempting to protect their own livelihood, rather than concerns about the meat’s safety. According to Wall, Vilsack remains committed to enforcing the rules but expressed openness to ways of mitigating its impact on Canada.”

The Globe and Mail adds that, “(Governor Pawlenty’s) endorsement of Canadian hydro power underscored Minnesota’s dependence on access to electricity generated by large dams in Manitoba. But it served to buttress the main message that Quebec Premier Jean Charest strived to get across at the meeting. Mr. Charest wants federal and state authorities to officially recognize Hydro-Québec’s power as ‘renewable’ energy, putting it on equal footing with electricity from wind, solar or micro-scale hydro projects. That recognition would make it easier for Quebec to negotiate lucrative pricing on long-term sales contracts with U.S. utilities, which must in many states include an increasing proportion of renewables in the electricity they sell to consumers. For many U.S. environmentalists, energy from large-scale dams that divert rivers and flood vast territories is no more ecologically sound than the stuff that comes from hydrocarbons. And competitors in the burgeoning wind and solar industries would love nothing more than to keep Hydro-Québec out of their market.”

The CBC reports, “Quebec Premier Jean Charest promoted his province’s green hydro power. ‘I’m chief salesman for Quebec and Quebec is hydro,’ Charest told CBC News.”

The Telegraph-Journal reported that, “Both (New Brunswick premier Shawn) Graham and Quebec Premier Jean Charest touched on the pending sale of the bulk of NB Power’s generating assets to Hydro-Québec during the high-level meeting, which received the endorsement of Maine Gov. John Baldacci earlier that day.”

The Canwest News Service report is at http://news.globaltv.com/world/story.html?id=2593895.

Previous campaign blogs on this meeting are at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=2926 and http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=2918.