Council delivers recommendations for Canada’s energy transition, including “cleaner oil and gas”

Generation energy council reportThe federal government established a  Generation Energy consultation process in 2017, to inform an energy policy for a low-carbon future.  That process concluded when the appointed Generation Energy Council presented its Report  to Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources on June 28.  The report, titled Canada’s Energy Transition: Getting to our Energy Future, Together, identifies “four pathways that collectively will lead to the affordable, sustainable energy future”: waste less energy, switch to clean power, use more renewable fuels, and produce cleaner oil and gas.  The report outlines concrete actions, milestones for each of these pathways – most problemmatic of which is the pathway cleaner oil and gas.  Each pathway also includes a general statement re the “tools” required, giving passing mention to  “Skill and Talent Attraction and Development”.

The priorities for the “cleaner oil and gas” pathway include: “reducing emissions per unit of oil or natural gas produced; • improving the cost competitiveness of Canadian oil and gas; and • expanding the scope of value-added oil and gas products and services for both domestic and export markets.”  The report lauds the potential of Carbon Capture Use and Storage (CCUS), as well as the economic value of the petrochemical industry. Amongst  the milestones in this pathway: “By 2025, reduce methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels, with ongoing improvements thereafter.. …By 2030, reduce life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions for oil sands extraction to levels lower than competing crudes in global markets…Develop a trusted and effective regulatory system, including a life-cycle approach to greenhouse gas emissions, as measured by objective third party assessment of key attributes relative to competing jurisdictions…  By 2030, a more diversified mix of oil and gas products, services and solutions to domestic and global markets has a measurably significant impact on industry and government revenues.”

The Council was co-chaired by Merran Smith (Clean Energy Canada and Simon Fraser University)  and Linda Coady (Enbridge Canada); members are listed here . The Council heard from over 380,000 Canadians in an online discussion forum and in person. An impressive archive of submissions and commissioned studies, some previously published and some unique, is available here . Authors include government departments, academics, business and industry associations, and think tanks.

Methane regulations: a path to lower emissions and more jobs for Alberta

Dont Delay BlueGreen 2017 coverA July 2017  report by Blue Green Canada,   argues that the Alberta government should implement methane regulations immediately, rather than wait for the proposed federal regulations to take effect in 2023.    Speeding up regulations “could reduce air pollution, achieve our climate targets more cost-effectively, and create thousands of high-paying jobs in a single step”, according to Don’t Delay: Methane Emission Restrictions mean Immediate jobs in Alberta .  Blue Green estimates that Alberta’s oil and gas operations release $67.6 million worth of methane annually, and recovering it for energy use could create more than 1,500 new jobs in the province – well paid jobs,  including work in engineering, manufacturing, surveying, and administration.

Environmental organizations, labour groups and technology companies sent a joint Open Letter to Premier Rachel Notley in August, urging her to view the proposed federal methane regulations   as a floor, not a ceiling, and reiterating the argument for economic opportunity: “There are a number of innovative companies in Alberta ready to supply methane capture and detection technologies and services and a large majority of these companies report being poised for strong growth given the right regulatory signals.” The letter, from Blue Green Canada, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Iron and Earth, Keepers of the Athabasca, Pembina Institute, Peace River Environmental Society, Progress Alberta, Questor Technology, Unifor, and United Steelworkers is here.

Accelerating the target date for regulations is not the only concern.  “Five Ways Alberta Can Raise the Bar on Methane Regulations” at DeSmog Blog, (August 1) makes recommendations for tighter rules for venting and flaring, improved monitoring, and expanded scope. Also in August, the Environmental Law Centre of Alberta released Methane Reduction under the Climate Change Leadership Plan , the latest paper in its Climate Change Legal Roadmap series, which makes recommendations for improvements to both the provincial and federal regulations.  The task of developing methane regulations in Alberta falls to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), which has said that it is currently reviewing the feedback from its draft regulations, and will release a document for public comment in Fall 2017.

Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan in 2015 called for 45 per cent reduction in methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by 2025. The Pan-Canadian Framework included a commitment to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 per cent from 2012 levels by 2025, and in May 2017, the federal government released draft regulations beginning in 2020, with a second phase beginning in 2023.

Earlier, related reports:  In April, Environmental Defence released  Canada’s Methane Gas Problem: Why strong regulations can reduce pollution, protect health and save money , which demonstrated that methane emissions are higher than reported by industry: 60% higher in Alberta. Research funded by the David Suzuki Foundation and released in April, found that methane emissions in B.C. are 250% higher than reported.  The Cost of Managing Methane Emissions,  a June blog from the Pembina Institute, sheds light on the GHG savings to be had by instituting regulations.

In Alberta: A Call for Renewable energy legislation ; Government funds directed to methane emission reduction

On October 24, several renewable energy companies, industry associations and think-tanks released an Open Letter   to the Alberta government, urging it to establish in law  its commitment for renewables to supply at least 30 per cent of the province’s electricity by 2030.  Amongst several arguments in the Letter is one related to job creation:  “the fraction of construction jobs as well as head office jobs based in Alberta would be much higher and more stable under the larger market assured by a legislated target. Without the clarity of a legislated multiyear commitment, there is a risk that companies would keep Alberta operations to a minimum and with many of the jobs created in other jurisdictions.”    The arguments are supported by other documents at Pembina Institute, including Cheaper renewables spur companies to buy clean energy directly from producers .

This may be of interest to the Energy Diversification Committee announced  on October  13  , which is tasked to consult with Albertans and make recommendations in the fall of 2017 on how to increase the value of energy resources, create jobs and attract new investment. The press release gives examples of “value-added ideas” such  as partial upgrading, refining, petrochemicals and chemicals manufacturing.  Nothing about renewables.  The Committee website  names two Co-Chairs:  Gil McGowan, president of the  Alberta Federation of Labour , along with Jeanette Patell, government affairs and policy leader at  GE Canada   . Warren Fraleigh, Executive director of the Building Trades of Alberta is a member, along with business and First Nations representatives.

On October 21, the government of Alberta announced  that it will redirect  $33 million to  support medium- and long-term technologies  that reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas, agriculture and landfill sectors, as well as projects to improve methane detection and quantification. This initiative springs from  the commitment in the Climate Leadership Plan to  reduce methane emissions  by 45 per cent by 2025.  The augmented funding , which will total $40 million, will be administered by Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA),  which is the new name being given to the industry-sponsored Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation  .

 

 

U.S. EPA sets new rules for Methane Emissions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken what the  New York Times calls “A Much Needed Step on Methane Emissions” on May 13, to significantly reduce methane emissions from new oil and gas facilities as well as those undergoing modifications (although existing sites remain unregulated) . Read Inside Climate News  for a thorough report, which reminds us  that Prime Minister Trudeau and President Obama committed in March 2016 to jointly pursue regulation of methane emissions at existing oil and gas facilities.

Canada- U.S. Climate Agreement to regulate Methane Emissions

trudeau obama announcementOn March 10, 2016,  following star-powered meetings between President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau in Washington, the   U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership   (in French here ) was released.  Again, there were optimistic and positive reactions,  mainly centred on the provisions to work collaboratively on federal measures to reduce methane emissions.  Environment and Climate Change Canada has pledged “to publish an initial phase of proposed regulations by early 2017.”   Summaries of the agreement appear in “Trudeau vows to Clamp Down on Methane Emissions”   in the Globe and Mail (March 10) and “Obama and Canada’s Justin Trudeau Promote Ties and Climate Plan” in New York Times (March 10).  For reaction, read “How big a deal is Trudeau and Obama’s methane pact?” from the UVic PICS Newsletter ; “Why Closer Canadian-American collaboration on clean energy is a good thing”  at the Institute for Research in Public Policy ; and “Celebrating Crucial climate progress in Canada’s oil and gas sector”    , from the Pembina Institute. For a U.S. point of view, read “Sea Change: U.S. and Canada Announce Common Goals on Climate, Energy and the Arctic” from Inside Climate News, which summarizes the recent activity of the EPA regarding methane emissions.    The Natural  Resources Defense Council  calls for a commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies in From Dialogue to Results: Blueprint for Joint Climate Action and Clean Energy Deployment between Canada and the United States  , which the joint agreement did not do.