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Feds to exempt oilsands from new reviews unless Kenney lifts emissions cap


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Ottawa is warning the new government in Alberta not to scrap the province’s legal limit on greenhouse-gas emissions from the oilsands if it doesn’t want to lose jurisdiction to review the environmental impacts of new oilsands projects.

The warning is implicit in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s proposed list of projects that will be subjected to a controversial new environmental-impact review process and has energy advocates crying foul.

The list, released for public comment Wednesday, says new in-situ oilsands projects, ones where steam and drilling are used to extract bitumen from deep underground, won’t have to go through the federal review process as long the hard cap of 100 million tonnes of annual greenhouse-gas emissions imposed by former Premier Rachel Notley stays in place. About 80 per cent of Alberta’s oilsands are mined using in-situ production, rather than open-pit mining.

Currently oilsands developments are assessed by the Alberta Energy Regulator, not the federal government.

The emissions cap was part of a deal Ottawa made to get Alberta to sign on to the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and was a factor in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

New Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, sworn into office Tuesday after defeating Notley’s NDP in an election last month, said lifting the cap is not on his priority list. Kenney said he doesn’t like the cap and never has but that it will be many years before the emissions from the oilsands get anywhere close to 100 million tonnes.

The most recent statistics show the oilsands emitted 72 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2016, a total that’s increased two to five million tonnes a year for the last decade.

Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, accused the government of politicizing the project list by inserting the cap requirement.

“Our worst concerns have materialized,” said McMillan.

CAPP argued in-situ oilsands projects should be exempted from the federal assessment process because the Alberta Energy Regulator is far better equipped to examine them than the federal government is.

McMillan said the cap is irrelevant at the moment because the prospect of hitting it is so distant, but he said Ottawa’s decision to mention it in the project list indicates the federal Liberals have not been listening to the concerns his industry has about Bill C-69, the law that would impose the new assessment regime.

The bill is in the Senate at the moment, where major amendments are expected to be proposed. The federal government has indicated a willingness to agree to amendments but has not said what amendments it will accept.

Trudeau promised the new assessment during the last federal election campaign, to overcome the obstacles to building new energy projects. Many had become mired in court challenges under the existing system. Environment groups largely approve the proposed changes in Bill C-69 but industry experts fear it will drive a stake through the heart of new investments in Canada’s energy industry.

The project list has been a missing piece of the puzzle in determining what the new bill will do.

Other energy projects that will be subjected to the new assessment process include major new interprovincial pipelines, large hydro dams and offshore wind farms, interprovincial electricity grids, new oil refineries and large electricity generating stations that burn fossil fuels. Non-energy projects involved include new interprovincial highways that are more than 75 km long; new rail lines longer than 50 km; and new dams, dikes, or water diversions.

Federal officials who briefed reporters about the list Wednesday said the project list was designed to include major new projects that are within federal jurisdiction and have the greatest potential for environmental risk.

Projects not on the fedlist will still be subject to reviews by regulators such as the national nuclear-safety commission, as well as any applicable provincial assessments. The environment minister can also designate a project for review by the impact-assessment agency even if it isn’t on the project list, if she deems it to have a potential impact on matters within federal jurisdiction.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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Healthy Environment & Healthy Economy
We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.
On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.
The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:
1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste
2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community
3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back
4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage
5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities
In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.
This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.
This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.
Keep an eye out for the full report next week!
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Group of large oilsands operators commit to become net zero emitters by 2050

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CALGARY — A group of the largest producers in Canada’s oilsands have announced a joint strategy to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The companies include Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd, MEG Energy Corp., and Suncor Energy Inc.

A large part of the strategy includes building a carbon sequestration facility in Cold Lake, Alta. The group says the facility would be available for other industries to use as well.

The companies also plan to pilot emerging carbon reduction technologies around oilsands operations, such as direct air capture, which uses a mechanical system to extract carbon dioxide out of the air.

The companies say the project will need significant investments and was made possible because of support programs from the federal and Alberta governments.

The group compared their plan to the Longship project in Norway, a multi-billion dollar project that includes a cross-border carbon dioxide storage and transportation facility that will be open to multiple industries and is slated to open by 2024.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CNQ, TSX:CVE, TSX:SU, TSX:IMO, TSX:MEG)

The Canadian Press

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june, 2021

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