Oil and Gas and Canada’s Energy Policy

Two other reports were released in advance of the Premiers meetings in Quebec City. Crafting an Effective Canadian Energy Strategy: How Energy East and the Oil Sands Affect Climate and Energy Objectives by the Pembina Institute reviews Canadian experience with carbon pricing, emissions levels, and states that any energy strategy will only be effective if it takes into account the emissions footprint of new infrastructure projects, including the proposed Energy East pipeline project. The report also recommends that the Council of the Federation create an advisory committee modelled on the disbanded National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. The report is also available in French.

 Another study, released by Environmental Defence and Greenpeace, makes similar arguments and asserts that “continuing to expand tar sands production makes it virtually impossible for Canada to meet even weak carbon reduction targets or show climate leadership”. Read Digging a Big Hole: How tar sands expansion undermines a Canadian energy strategy that shows climate leadership.

 In April, Environment Canada released the UNFCC-mandated report, National Inventory Report 1990-2013: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. The report states that the Energy industry was responsible for 81% of Canada’s emissions in 2013. 

Alberta Regulations Re Water Management and Tailings Management

On March 13, the Alberta government announced two new policies meant to provide environmental protections in the Athabasca Oil Sands area. The Tailings Management Framework for Mineable Oilsands limits the amount of tailings allowed to accumulate and  requires that sites be remediated to a ready-to-reclaim state within 10 years of the end-of-mine-life of a project. Companies are encouraged to invest in new technology, and are required by the Conservation and Reclamation Regulation to post additional financial security to deal with potential remediation issues. Read the Pembina Institute reaction, Tailings Management Framework: A new Chapter in the Alberta Oil Sands Story? (March 16). Regarding water policy, The Surface Water Quantity Management Framework establishes limits for water use during low-flow periods and requires maintenance of an adequate quantity of water for Aboriginal river navigation and pursuit of traditional activities. It does not establish Ecosystem Base Flow (EBF) system, as recommended by scientists. The Council of Canadians reacted by pointing out that the Framework restrictions are voluntary, and provide exemptions to Suncor and Syncrude, even if water levels are low. The explanation? Under NAFTA Chapter 11, the government of Canada could be sued if Alberta were to limit the current water access of the oil sands companies.  SumOfUs.org, Keepers of the Athabasca, Environmental Defence Canada and the Natural Resources Defence Council issued a joint press release condemning the new regulations as an “oil industry wish list”. See also the NRDC blog, New Tar Sands Water Policy from Alberta favors Industry (March 13).

Economic Impact of Alberta Greenhouse Gas Emissions Funds

On February 27, the Conference Board of Canada released Investing in GHG Emissions-Reduction Technology: Assessing the Economic Impact (free with registration). The study quantifies the economic impact of investments in greenhouse gas emission-reducing technologies that are funded in whole or in part by Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC), and concludes that the total economic impact of CCEMC and related investments from 2011 to 2016 will be over $2.4 billion and an additional 15,017 person-years of full-time-equivalent (FTE) employment. The Pembina Institute reaction (March 5) was to point out that despite any economic gains, the problem remains that there are no significant reductions to greenhouse gas emissions.


Reaction to the Harper Government Northern Gateway Decision

Neither the Prime Minister nor any cabinet ministers were available for comments or questions about the expected cabinet approval, released at the last possible moment via a brief press release on June 17. “After carefully reviewing the report, the Government accepts the independent Panel’s recommendation to impose 209 conditions on Northern Gateway Pipelines’ proposal.” …” Moving forward, the proponent must demonstrate to the independent regulator, the NEB, how it will meet the 209 conditions. It will also have to apply for regulatory permits and authorizations from federal and provincial governments. In addition, consultations with Aboriginal communities are required under many of the 209 conditions that have been established and as part of the process for regulatory authorizations and permits.” See the press release at http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?mthd=tp&crtr.page=2&nid=858469&crtr.tp1D=1 and the government’s summary statement of the 209 conditions is at http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?mthd=tp&crtr.page=1&nid=858489&crtr.tp1D=930 .

The province of British Columbia has conditions of its own, which Environment Minister Polak reiterated in the official B.C. reaction to the decision on June 17 at http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/06/northern-gateway-pipeline-more-work-needed-to-meet-bcs-five-conditions.html. Most notably, the First Nations of B.C. have condemned the decision: see the Coastal First Nations website at http://www.coastalfirstnations.ca/ , where Art Sterritt, Executive Director of the Coastal First Nations says: “The government’s announcement giving its approval to Enbridge is meaningless. ‘It’s an approval in name only. This project is dead. ’…… The project can’t proceed with these conditions. We’ve been clear there is no technology to clean up an oil spill and the dispersant that is used causes more damage than the oil itself.” (http://www.coastalfirstnations.ca/news-release/june-17-2014-215pm ).

Another press release from the Coastal First Nations, on June 16th, states: “With many First Nations gearing up for court battles to protect their territories from this risky proposal, representatives of Coastal First Nations, Dogwood Initiative, Unifor, West Coast Environmental Law, Douglas Channel Watch and One Cowichan promised to work together to defeat Northern Gateway, regardless of any approvals issued by the federal cabinet.”

The internet is alive with opposition campaigns: Within B.C., the Dogwood Initiative is calling for a referendum at Let B.C. Vote at http://www.letbcvote.ca/ , (includes a compilation of news reports). Stand Strong Christy, co-ordinated by ForestEthics Advocacy, at http://standstrongchristy.ca/ has an online petition urging B.C. Premier Christy Clark to hold firm to her earlier stated 5 conditions for Northern Gateway approvals in B.C.

Leadnow.ca and ForestEthics Advocacy host another petition at http://www.enbridge21.ca/ naming the Enbridge 21 (the 21 federal Conservative cabinet ministers from B.C.) and providing an online email form to contact them, and “hold them accountable” by pledging to vote for whoever opposes Enbridge in the 2015 election.

David Suzuki posted an open Letter and has an online petition to Stephen Harper , and the leaders of all federal parties at http://action2.davidsuzuki.org/no-enbridge-pipeline?utm_campaign=enbridgeEmail&utm_source=EM1&utm_medium=email&utm_content=link&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRolu6XLZKXonjHpfsX66u8kXK%2B3lMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4CSsFiI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFS7jNMbZkz7gOXRE%3D .

The federal Green Party also has its own petition at http://www.greenparty.ca/media-release/2014-06-17/predictable-cabinet-decision-enbridge-project-launches-fight-stop-pipelines . Environmental Defense has an online email form to send a protest message to the political leaders at http://environmentaldefence.ca/stop-tar-sands-expansion?utm_source=Environmental+Defence+Campaign+Email+List&utm_campaign=06cf692bda-Lighten+Up+FINAL&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_df56834cfa-06cf692bda-27545293.

For reaction from environmental groups, see EcoJustice at http://www.ecojustice.ca/media-centre/press-releases/federal-approval-doesnt-guarantee-enbridge-northern-gateway-will-be-built ; Pembina Institute at http://www.pembina.org/reacts-fed-decision-gateway, Greenpeace Canada at http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/harper-just-picked-a-fight-he-cant-win/blog/49666/ , Environmental Defence Canada at http://environmentaldefence.ca/articles/statement-environmental-defence%E2%80%99s-tim-gray-in-response-federal-cabinet%E2%80%99s-irresponsible-deci and Natural Resources Defence Council (U.S.) at http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/eshope/canada_approves_northern_gatew.html .

Low-Carbon Solutions to the GTA Gridlock – What Do They Mean for Workers?

A new report from the Pembina Institute and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund presents policy options, innovative ideas, and examples from other countries of strategies that would reduce emissions, chiefly by greening delivery fleets and optimizing trip planning through sophisticated information sharing. Directed at government and business, this report also has implications for workers, particularly those in the transportation and delivery sectors, as well as the warehousing, manufacturing, retail and food services industries.

See Greening the Goods: Opportunities for Low-Carbon Goods Movement in Toronto at: http://www.pembina.org/pub/2536.