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Ottawa, Alberta poised for conflict over new methane regulations

By Karen Graham     Apr 26, 2018 in Politics
Ottawa - In May 2017, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, announced proposed regulations to reduce methane emissions and air pollution from Canada's oil and gas industry. Today, those rules were published, yet not everyone is happy.
The new methane regulations were finalized last night and published on Thursday. The rules are intended to regulate the country's largest methane polluter, the oil and gas industry.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced the regulations on Thursday morning, stating in a press release that they are “smart and practical measures that support clean technology and good new jobs in the oil-and-gas sector.”
The rules are very comprehensive, putting Canada on track to meeting its 40 to 45 percent methane reduction goal, delivering on a critical element of the Canadian climate plan. Finalizing the methane rules also helps to show Canada's leadership in the international community in implementing policies to help in achieving the Paris Climate Agreement.
In 2016  humanity emitted the equivalent of 52 billion tonnes -- or gigatonnes -- of CO2 (52GtCO2e) ...
In 2016, humanity emitted the equivalent of 52 billion tonnes -- or gigatonnes -- of CO2 (52GtCO2e), including other gases such as methane
Alberta is not pleased with the new rules
The regulations primarily target methane leaks in the drilling process, leaks from equipment, the venting of unused gas at wells and other places. The new rules will require oil companies to inspect almost all their field equipment for methane leaks three times a year, repair all leaks and dramatically reduce their ability to vent the gas into the atmosphere.
The oil and gas industry thinks of the regulations as being too constraining, and being cost-prohibitive. The petroleum industry cites the fact that they are just getting over the long slump in oil prices and the discounts paid to Canadian oil producers based on international pricing owing to the lack of pipeline capacity.
However, in a draft resolution unveiled on Tuesday, the Alberta government would require once a year inspections and would allow companies to manage their emissions by focusing on the most likely problem areas, and would set easier standards for venting.
All the proposed provincial rules are far below the standards set by the government's regulations, and Ottawa has argued its regulations will prevail unless "a province can demonstrate that its policies will achieve equivalent emission reductions to the federal ones."
Methane monitoring pilot at Shell Canada s shale gas sites near Rocky Mountain House in Alberta  Can...
Methane monitoring pilot at Shell Canada's shale gas sites near Rocky Mountain House in Alberta, Canada.
Shell Canada
And one reading of the published regulations will tell you Alberta doesn't even come close. Drew Nelson, an expert with the U.S-based Environmental Defense Fund, has consulted with the provincial and national governments as they wrote their regulations.
During an interview on Wednesday, Nelson said, “Alberta’s proposal is not credible and is nowhere close to equivalent to federal regulations because there is no way to confirm operators’ claims of compliance with site-level regulations."
“Alberta’s regulatory proposal is like a get-out-of-jail card for the industry. Federal action will be undermined if they give this false equivalency.”
A spokesman for Alberta Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd said the provincial regulations will accomplish the same goals as the federal rules and should be treated as the same. “We’re confident our efforts will achieve equivalency with the federal government’s requirements but with lower cost and more flexibility for industry,” Michael McKinnon said late Wednesday.
The full set of new methane regulations were published in the Canada Gazette on Thursday, April 26, 2018.
More about new methane reules, Canada, Alberta, oil and gas industry, Canadian climate plan