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article imageWays to strengthen Canada's methane emissions rules

By Karen Graham     Jul 28, 2017 in Technology
The deadline has passed for public input into the methane emissions rules proposed by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). A number of organizations and investors have urged the ECCC to address critical weaknesses in the regulations.
The Environmental Defense Fund is but one of the many organizations that have expressed concern over some of the proposed regulations announced by Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna on May 26, 2017. At that time, the draft proposal was published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, giving the public 60 days to comment.
Besides the EDF, a consortium of investors, which together represent $89 billion under management with a significant interest in the long-term success of the Canadian natural gas industry, released a statement of support for the draft proposal, but also included four areas of concern that they perceived as weaknesses in the rules.
The need for regulation of methane emissions in Canada is something that has been needed for a long time. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is responsible for about 25 percent of global warming - and they mix with other pollutants, some of them quite toxic in producing smog.
Canada s first set of regulations to lower air pollution from the oil and gas industry have been del...
Canada's first set of regulations to lower air pollution from the oil and gas industry have been delivered for the public's perusal.
Environment Canada
"Peer-reviewed research shows Canada's methane emissions are as much as 250 per cent higher than reported by industry and government," said David Suzuki Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce. "The responsible course is to move urgently and enact strong regulations to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy."
The EDF, along with other interested parties is focused on Canada taking advantage of the low-cost solutions for methane reduction, noting that by doing so, there would be the added benefit of improving air quality, elimination of waste, stimulating innovation, and creating jobs. For this to happen, four recommendations have been submitted that will strengthen the rules.
1. Fix the implementation timeline
Before the draft regulations were published in May, oil and gas companies had already lobbied the government to have implementation of the rules delayed for three years. However, by doing so, this would add an additional 55 million tons of methane into the atmosphere as compared to the original guidelines.
It is the consensus of all the interested parties that a delay in implementation of the rules is inconsistent and unnecessary, and they call into question Canada's ability to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2030. The proposed timeline should be reset to begin in 2019 and not 2020.
North Dakota: Flaring of methane gas out of the Bakken Formation.
North Dakota: Flaring of methane gas out of the Bakken Formation.
Joshua Doubek
2. Require quarterly inspections
According to an unreleased study in 2016, about 10 percent of Alberta’s 1,500 abandoned oil and gas wells in urban areas are leaking methane, in some cases at levels that create the risk of health damage and explosions. Leaked methane is also a wasted product. In 2015, nearly $370 million worth of natural gas escaped from Canadian oil and gas fields, enough to supply every household in Edmonton and Calgary for a year.
The draft proposal calls for leak inspections only three times a year, despite the literature recommending quarterly inspections, like the monitoring programs in the U.S. The proposed regulations should require quarterly monitoring, following best practices that have been proven in U.S. states such as California and Colorado.
3. Lower the "potential to emit" threshold
Unlike leaks, venting is the intentional release of methane. The "potential to emit" threshold, or PTE, is a theoretical measurement of how much methane a facility potentially could emit. The ECCC has proposed rules that would significantly reduce methane emissions from venting, however, there are two loopholes that would allow some companies to continue to release methane into the air.
There are technologies available to prevent the venting of methane, and strengthening the draft proposed regulations, and eliminating the loopholes, will ensure that the intentional release of the potent greenhouse gas is stopped.
Using a process called hydraulic fracturing or  fracking   toxic chemicals and methane gas seep into...
Using a process called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," toxic chemicals and methane gas seep into our drinking water.
Link TV
4. Ensure "equivalent" means what it says
In Canada, the law allows the provincial governments to come up with their own regulations, as long as they are equivalent to the federal regulations. It is recommended that any equivalency agreement between the government and the provinces show that equal or greater reductions will be achieved across the lifetime of the rules.
Investors, or people thinking of investing in oil and gas companies need to know that the businesses are practicing sustainably in the long-term. And with climate change becoming a significant part of a company's disclosure statement, how methane gas emissions are handled becomes an increasingly major factor.
More about methane rules, Canada, Emissions, Greenhouse Gas, Investors
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