The Canadian Press reports, “Canada is going to put off for three years its plan to regulate cuts to methane emissions in the oil and gas sector.”
The CBC explains, “Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that has 25 times the climate warming effects of carbon dioxide. Most of it comes from oil and gas operations. It leaks from equipment like compressors, pumps and pipelines or is vented from oil and gas wells and petroleum storage tanks. For that reason, it’s considered to be relatively easy to capture the emissions by improving equipment and changing industry practices.”
Canada was to have implemented methane reduction regulations between 2018 and 2020, but now they won’t be fully in place until 2023.
Why did this happen?
The Canadian Press notes, “In January 2015, then-U.S. President Barack Obama announced a plan to slash methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas sector between 40 and 45 per cent over 2012 levels by 2025. Canada agreed to match that in March 2016, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a state visit to Washington. …[But] in early March, the Environmental Protection Agency eliminated those new reporting requirements. Weeks later, [US President Donald] Trump signed an executive order requiring that the methane emissions standards be re-evaluated.”
The CBC adds, “Energy companies are worried about their ability to compete with their U.S. counterparts now that the Trump administration has scrapped Obama’s plans to control methane emissions. Vicki Ballance, director of climate and innovation with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, says that’s why the industry pushed hard to get more time to adjust to the new methane rules.”
But this National Observer article notes that CAPP was opposing the regulations in March 2016, almost eight months before Trump won the US presidency.
In justifying the decision for the regulatory delay, Environment minister Catherine McKenna says, “We need to listen to industry.”
The Trudeau government maintains that despite the delay it still promises to meet its target to cut methane emissions by 40-45 per cent by 2025.
Andrew Read at the Pembina Institute says, “We’re still aiming for the same target, but our chances of getting to that target if we’re delaying our action is at jeopardy. This was the only strategy to deal with the oil and gas (emissions) footprint, so if we’re seeing a lack of ambition there, we’re going to have a real hard time meeting our reduction goals.”
Read estimates the delay will mean up to 55 million tonnes of methane will be released that otherwise would have been stopped.
And Keith Stewart at Greenpeace Canada says, “If they cave on methane regulations, then it’s a signal to everyone else that they can probably get them to back down on other measures as well. [By delaying the regulations until after the October 2019 federal election, the Liberals are] promising that the next government will do something about that, which is not something that any government can really promise.”
Just last month, the Toronto Star reported this caution, “Environment Canada is projecting that, based on policies in place last November, the country was on pace to miss its reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, pumping out at least 30 per cent more than promised that year.”
The Council of Canadians calls on the Trudeau government to act responsibly by stopping its approvals of major carbon-emitting projects, ending fossil fuel subsidies, setting meaningful and scientifically-based emission reduction targets, and committing to a 100 per cent clean energy economy for 2050.