En­ergy sec­tor seeks freeze on car­bon tax

Op­po­nents say the oil­patch is us­ing COVID-19 to put off new reg­u­la­tions

Edmonton Journal - - CITY -

OT­TAWA Canada’s oil and gas pro­duc­ers have asked the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to freeze the car­bon tax and de­lay new cli­mate change reg­u­la­tions while the in­dus­try weath­ers the storm of COVID-19.

In a let­ter to Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Sea­mus O’re­gan sent March 27, Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Petroleum Pro­duc­ers CEO Tim Mcmil­lan said Canada’s en­ergy sec­tor is fac­ing an un­prece­dented fis­cal as­sault from a global col­lapse in oil prices.

The com­bi­na­tion of plum­met­ing de­mand and a pro­duc­tion war be­tween Saudi Ara­bia and Rus­sia pushed prices down all over the world. In West­ern Canada, heavy crude prices fell below $5 a bar­rel again this week, less than a tenth of what it traded for a year ago.

The crisis has led to an all-hand­son-deck lob­by­ing ef­fort, with CAPP record­ing at least 29 meet­ings with fed­eral of­fi­cials and cabi­net min­is­ters be­tween March 12 and March 29.

Moira Kelly, a spokesper­son for

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Jonathan Wilkin­son, replied to ques­tions about the re­quests with a list of all the mea­sures the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has taken to help busi­nesses and Cana­di­ans in gen­eral, from a mas­sive wage-sub­sidy pro­gram for em­ploy­ers whose rev­enues have plunged to a ben­e­fit pro­gram for un­em­ployed work­ers.

“By pro­vid­ing im­me­di­ate help to busi­nesses, and to Cana­di­ans in need, we have put in place one of the most gen­er­ous re­sponse plans in the world,” she said by email.

“When re­cov­ery be­gins, Canada will re­cover stronger and more re­silient by in­vest­ing in a greener fu­ture. To that end, we will con­tinue to move for­ward with our pol­icy com­mit­ments. Just like sci­ence is guid­ing us in our re­sponse to COVID-19, it will con­tinue to guide us in our fight against cli­mate change.”

En­vi­ron­ment crit­ics see the list of de­mands as the in­dus­try’s at­tempt to use the COVID -19 crisis as cover to curb health and safety poli­cies, and put off reg­u­la­tions that will help the en­vi­ron­ment.

“It’s a crass at­tempt to take ad­van­tage of a global health crisis,” said Dale Mar­shall, na­tional cli­mate pro­gram man­ager with En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fence.

He said many of the re­quests are about things CAPP has re­peat­edly lob­bied against with­out suc­cess up to now, in­clud­ing the car­bon price, clean fuel stan­dards, and re­stric­tions on meth­ane emis­sions from oil pro­duc­tion.

In an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press, Mcmil­lan said the root of the re­quests comes from the in­dus­try’s need to main­tain safe and es­sen­tial op­er­a­tions as it fol­lows health guide­lines. That in­cludes lim­it­ing em­ploy­ees on work sites and main­tain­ing phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing for those who need to be there.

The in­dus­try also wants to en­sure no new laws or reg­u­la­tions are im­ple­mented un­til proper con­sul­ta­tions can be com­pleted, and that the in­dus­try is given time to re­cover from this price shock.

Mcmil­lan told O’re­gan the fos­sil fuel sec­tor wants to both sur­vive the crisis and be part of Canada’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery when it has been re­solved.

“We en­cour­age them to have a tools-down ap­proach un­til we have a res­o­lu­tion of the crisis,” he said Thurs­day.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau ad­dressed that in a news con­fer­ence on Fri­day, as he an­nounced fund­ing to clean up or­phaned oil wells and a $750-mil­lion fund to cut emis­sions of meth­ane, a ma­jor green­house gas.

“Just be­cause we’re in one crisis, doesn’t mean we can for­get about the other crisis, the cli­mate crisis, that we’re fac­ing as a world and as a coun­try,” he said.

Among CAPP’S re­quests are de­lays to re­port­ing re­quire­ments for green­house gas emis­sions, de­fer­ring the 2020 re­quire­ments for a num­ber of re­ports on com­pli­ance with en­vi­ron­men­tal and safety rec­om­men­da­tions, and ex­tend­ing dead­lines on things like air and wa­ter pol­lu­tion.

The in­dus­try also wants promised changes to the Cana­dian En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Act to be put off be­cause the needed con­sul­ta­tions can’t hap­pen while pub­lic gath­er­ings and travel are not al­lowed.

The law, which gov­erns toxic sub­stances, has been un­der re­view since 2016 and the House of Com­mons en­vi­ron­ment com­mit­tee rec­om­mended more than 80 changes to it in 2017. The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment held off on im­ple­ment­ing any of them un­til after the 2019 elec­tion.

Fi­nally, CAPP wants the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment to de­lay some ma­jor poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions to al­low the in­dus­try to re­cover from the eco­nomic shock.

That in­cludes freez­ing the car­bon price at $30 a tonne for the fore­see­able fu­ture, putting off plans to im­ple­ment a clean fuel stan­dard from 2022 to 2025, and do­ing noth­ing more to cut green­house gas emis­sions, in­clud­ing bring­ing in its promised leg­is­la­tion to set five-year, legally bind­ing tar­gets on its way to net-zero emis­sions by 2050.

Mar­shall said the in­dus­try is say­ing it isn’t safe to send in peo­ple to do the re­quired mon­i­tor­ing and test­ing to meet en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, but is con­tin­u­ing to have hun­dreds of peo­ple on oil­sands work sites. There was a COVID -19 out­break at one of those sites this week.

Mar­shall said the in­dus­try says this is about health and safety, but much of what it wants de­layed or sus­pended puts hu­man health at risk from more air or wa­ter pol­lu­tion.

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