Alberta government only invites industry to consultation on new emissions regulations

First the province scrapped its carbon tax. Now clean energy advocates say they’re being shut out of talks about the province’s proposed new plan to deal with heavy polluters

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Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon (middle), Minister of Energy Sonya Savage and Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen announce summer engagement on a new proposed emissions reduction system that would replace the carbon tax. Photo: Government of Alberta via Flickr

The Government of Alberta announced Tuesday it is beginning consultation on the emissions reduction system it hopes will replace the province’s existing carbon pricing for large emitters — but The Narwhal has learned no organizations working on environment or climate change issues have been included on the government’s list of stakeholders

Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon said at a news conference that the government is now “seeking feedback on an improved way to manage emissions” — the province’s proposed Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) system, which focuses on heavy emitters.

Nixon told reporters that government representatives will meet with approximately 150 stakeholders this week in Calgary, including representatives of the oil and gas, agriculture, chemicals, mining, forestry and electricity industries.

list of the stakeholders obtained by The Narwhal does not include any public interest groups.

The Pembina Institute, a clean energy think tank started in Drayton Valley, Alta., in the 1980s, told The Narwhal it was not invited to participate in the consultations.

“It’s highly unusual,” Simon Dyer, executive director of the Pembina Institute, said in an interview.

Dyer said he heard first about the consultation in a news story following the government’s announcement.

“It’s a worrying signal about how this government is going to collect input from stakeholders,” he said.

Jess Sinclair, press secretary for Alberta Environment and Parks, told The Narwhal by email that “because the [emissions reduction] framework is designed with heavy industry in mind, we are beginning the consultation process focusing on affected industries.”

“That said, we are happy to engage with other interested parties in the spirit of collaboration, should they approach us and have relevant information to share.”

Sinclair provided The Narwhal with a list of “companies we’re currently consulting.” They include the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and other industry associations, the so-called ‘Big Five’ oil giants and dozens of other companies. (The University of Alberta and the University of Calgary are both also included, as a result of their roles as producers of their own electricity).

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CAPP seeks to limit public involvement in Alberta energy projects: lobbying records

Documents obtained by The Narwhal reveal numerous recommendations from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to ‘streamline’ the process that allows Albertans to file concerns about proposed energy projects — a move experts say would come ‘at the expense of everyday Albertans’

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Daryl Bennett, who was born and raised in Taber, Alta., is frustrated with orphan oil and gas infrastructure in his community. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is seeking to limit or eliminate the ability for people to voice objections to energy projects that may affect them and their land. Photo: Theresa Tayler / The Narwhal

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), the self-described voice of the oil and gas industry, has laid out its vision for a “streamlined” public-involvement process in extensive lobbying records obtained by The Narwhal in a freedom of information request.

The lobbying records — obtained after readers of The Narwhal bellied up $643.95 to access them — span more than a year, and show CAPP’s input into key decisions made by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

The documents reveal that CAPP’s vision is one that would “expedite” aspects of public consultation — potentially reducing the opportunities for Albertans to voice objections to energy projects that affect them — and reduce the scope of projects that companies need to seek public input on.

Landowners and affected Albertans receive notice of new oil and gas developments that may directly and adversely affect them — whether it’s an oil or gas well, a pipeline, an oilsands development or another energy project. They can then file what’s known as a statement of concern if they are worried that the project will affect them or the local environment.

The lobbying records make it clear that industry is seeking to speed up or eliminate that process for some projects.

In one document, CAPP and other industry representatives denounced the statement of concern process as the “Achilles heel” of energy project approvals.

In another, CAPP laments that, when it comes to brownfield oilsands projects, “several [regulator] procedures that involve giving notice to the public regarding industry activities are leading to delays, as well as criticism of the industry.” (“Brownfield” refers to land where other industrial activities have previously taken place.)

And so CAPP is lobbying the regulator to “streamline” the process and reduce or eliminate the opportunity for the public to be involved in some cases — that could include shortening the 30-day period that stakeholders can file a statement of concern for some types of projects, or increasing the regulator’s use of discretion in posting public notice at all. MORE

‘Exhaustive’ oil lobby threatens to derail promised tanker ban on B.C.’s north coast

BC First Nations Call on Senate to Pass Oil Tanker Moratorium Act

Time is running out for Parliament to pass Bill C-48, which Coastal First Nations say is essential to protecting their economy

The bill, which would effectively ban large oil tanker traffic along B.C.’s north coast from the tip of northern Vancouver Island to Alaska, was recently rejected by the Senate’s transport committee after passing third reading in Parliament, where it was supported by MPs from four out of five political parties.

Ann Haglund emailed all 105 senators on May 22 urging them to back the bill, which formalizes a voluntary oil tanker moratorium that has existed for more than 30 years. The Senate can vote to pass the bill despite the transport committee’s 6-6 deadlock vote that meant the committee did not recommend the bill for passage into law.

‘Extremely problematic’ for unelected Senate to veto majority will

The loaded comments from the independent senator come as Bill C-48 risks derailment in the wake of intense lobbying of senators by the oil industry and as the unelected Senate tests the limits of its power following reforms introduced by the Trudeau government.

If the oil tanker ban  — promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the last federal election campaign — is rejected or stalled by the Senate without going to Parliament for royal assent before the current legislative session ends June 21, it will die on the order paper.

“It strikes me as being extremely problematic that an unelected body is trying to veto the will of a majority government that was elected on a promise to ban oil tankers on the north coast of B.C.,” George Hoberg, a political scientist in environment and natural resource policy at UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, told The Narwhal.

“I think the Senate has been able to maintain some legitimacy by not overstepping its role historically.”

MP Nathan Cullen, whose riding of Skeena- Bulkley Valley includes the north coast, said senators have been lobbied in an “an exhaustive effort” by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), individual oil companies and groups with special interests.

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Oil spill cleanup near Gale Creek, in Heiltsuk territory on October 29, 2016. Photo: Tavish Campbell / Heiltsuk Tribal Council

“It’s affecting bills from different parties,” Cullen said in an interview. “Yet there’s a common theme where the Senate has been lobbied heavily and maybe feels like it has the authority to reject bills that the Canadian people democratically voted for.” MORE

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15-minute approvals: Alberta plans to automate licences for new oil and gas drilling

“We’ve seen the announcements about fast-tracking [licences] and saving money, but where are the systems that incorporate the science and data into these automated decisions, which they’ve promised for years?” — Nikki Way, a senior analyst with the Pembina Institute

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Under a new system, the Alberta Energy Regulator will approve the vast majority of applications to drill for oil and gas within minutes via an automated process, according to documents obtained by The Narwhal. Photo: Shutterstock

Lobbying records obtained by The Narwhal show that as Alberta’s new government has pledged a ‘rapid acceleration of approvals,’ the province’s energy regulator has been moving ahead with plans that mean the vast majority of new wells will be approved by a computer in a matter of minutes

The Alberta Energy Regulator confirmed to The Narwhal by e-mail that it expects to begin implementing automated approval for routine well licences later this year, though lobbying records indicate the system could be rolled out as early as next month.

With the change, staff will no longer review most applications from companies seeking to drill a new oil or gas well.

In lobbying records obtained by The Narwhal through a freedom of information request, Richard Wong, manager of operations with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), said the association anticipates 90 per cent of routine well applications could soon be automatically approved by OneStop, the online tool used to submit requests for permits and licences to the Alberta Energy Regulator.

The Narwhal was charged $643.95 by the Alberta Energy Regulator — an industry-funded corporation in charge of overseeing Alberta’s energy industry — to access the documents. The fee was paid by readers who donated specifically to cover these costs.

When asked for details, CAPP told The Narwhal by email that these approvals refer to applications that are “anticipated to be low-risk and, as such, the approval of each of those applications would be expedited.”

Over the past year, concerns have been raised about industry’s ability to pay for the cleanup of the hundreds of thousands of wells already drilled in the province, with internal estimates pegging the bill at $100 billion. MORE

 

Oilsands lobby speechless as government scientists point to higher pollution

“Air samples collected above four oilsands operations in 2013 show GHG emissions much higher than the companies operating them are require to report. The findings could derail Canada’s 2030 reduction targets.”

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Pollution from oilsands facilities near Fort McMurray waft into the skyline on Feb. 11, 2012. Photo by Kris Krug on Flickr

A major oilpatch lobby group appears to be speechless after government scientists published new research showing that major oilsands facilities appear to be producing far more pollution than what they have reported publicly.

“Thank you for your request, but we won’t be providing a comment,” said Elisabeth Besson, a spokeswoman from the lobby group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), in a brief email to National Observer.

In their research, scientists collected data showing that four major oilsands facilities in northern Alberta emitted far more pollution than what they actually reported.

Besson’s response follows months of public criticism from CAPP about the federal government’s efforts to toughen Canada’s environmental laws. The oilpatch lobby group has also been running an aggressive online marketing and public relations campaign that claims the country’s environmental laws are already among the toughest in the world.

But the new research suggests that there are some holes in what Canada is telling the rest of the world about the climate-warming impacts of its vast reserves of crude oil. MORE

Trudeau’s oilsands supply outlook reflects a future that doesn’t exist


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at a news conference in Ottawa on June 20, 2018. File photo by Alex Tétreault

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is relying on an aggressive and outdated Western Canadian crude oil supply outlook to re-approve Trans Mountain’s expansion. Trudeau’s outlook seriously contradicts the supply forecast oilsands producers support as commercially viable.

The outlook Trudeau is clinging to was prepared in early 2015 when Stephen Harper was still prime minister. It predicts that by 2035 there will be an increase in oilsands supply of more than two million barrels a day from its current level of three million barrels a day, taking total oilsands supply to five million barrels a day. Trudeau expects an increase in oilsands supply of almost 70 per cent in little more than 15 years. This is a future that no longer exists.

Ottawa seems not to have noticed that major multinationals have pulled out of the oilsands selling to mainly Canadian-based producers whose debt loads are too high to satisfy investors that it’s financially prudent for them to expand. Overpaying for reserves that are threatened to become stranded assets makes sophisticated investors skittish. MORE