No methane equivalency agreement for Alberta as new regulations take effect
As two sets of methane emissions standards take effect in Alberta on New Year’s Day, the provincial and federal governments have yet to reach an agreement that would give the oil and gas industry one set of rules to follow. As two sets of methane emissions standards take effect in Alberta on New Year’s Day, the provincial and federal governments have yet to reach an agreement that would give the oil and gas industry one set of rules to follow.
On Monday, the Alberta government announced that oil and gas operations need only register with the Alberta Energy Regulator for the purpose of reporting their methane emissions. Upstream oil and gas facilities must be registered to report emissions to Environment and Climate Change Canada by April 30, 2020.
In January, Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon aims to meet with his federal counterpart, Jonathan Wilkinson, in hopes of reaching an equivalency agreement that would allow Alberta alone to regulate methane emissions within the province. The federal rules are more prescriptive about how the industry should reduce emissions.
“There’s an urgency to resolve this issue,” Nixon and Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a joint statement on Monday. “Alberta maintains its jurisdiction on energy policy and is ready to provide industry a regulatory framework balancing both the environment and economy.”
In 2015, the former NDP government’s Climate Leadership Plan set a goal of reducing Alberta’s methane emissions by 45 per cent from 2014 levels by the year 2025. The United Conservative Party government has kept that goal.
Natural gas, which consists primarily of methane, can escape at all levels of oil production, from wells, pipelines, tanks, or from remote control sites that vent it to reduce pressure. Methane is 70 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere over a 20-year period, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s website said.
Differing takes on regulations
Earlier this month, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and a delegation of cabinet ministers and senior civil servants went on a $95,000 trip to Ottawa, toting a wish list of policy and program changes they said would improve Alberta’s economy. Among Kenney’s top-five wishes on the trip was a methane equivalency agreement.
Kenney has touted a study that apparently concludes Alberta’s methane rules are stronger and cheaper than the federal rules. Postmedia requested a reference or copy of that study in early December, but government representatives have not provided information to date.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has estimated the federal regulations will cost the industry three times as much to meet as the Alberta rules.
“While industry is committed to achieving reduction targets, CAPP encourages a flexible, results-oriented and streamlined approach to reducing methane emissions that also stimulates technology and innovation and ensures Alberta remains competitive,” Patrick McDonald, director of climate at CAPP, said in a Tuesday statement.
A December 2018 analysis by the Pembina Institute and other environmental groups found the federal rules would reduce Alberta’s methane emissions by the equivalent of 35 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2025 compared to Alberta regulations, which would reduce the equivalent of 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Alberta’s rules would set the province up for failure to meet its 45 per cent reduction target, the groups said.
Federal regulations will prevent fracking operations from venting natural gas, and would limit venting from other operations starting in 2023. Provincial regulations do not limit intentional releases of gas.
p class=”p1″>“We are confident that Alberta has a strong regulatory framework to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector that will meet incoming federal standards,” said the Monday statement from the ministers. “Having our made-in-Alberta regulation recognized by the federal government is crucial to maintaining our reputation as one of the world’s most environmentally responsible energy-developing jurisdictions.”
The Alberta Energy Regulator says oil and gas operations were responsible for 70 per cent of the province’s methane emissions in 2014. Nationally, the oil and gas industry releases 44 per cent of Canada’s methane emissions.