Alberta’s carbon emissions cap regulations won’t be in place before next election

By Catherine Griwkowsky December 18, 2018

Alberta’s Oil Sands Emissions Limit Act has been law for two years, but regulations to enact the legislation won’t be in place by the time Albertans head to the polls.

The 100-megatonne cap on carbon emissions is part of the NDP government’s Climate Leadership Strategy, which includes the phaseout of coal-generated electricity by 2030, developing more renewable energy, and reducing methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2025.

The Globe and Mail reported on the regulation delay Tuesday, but the province contends no specific timeline for rolling out the emissions cap was ever in place.

“There was no timeline. We have always said that we would take the time necessary to work with industry to get the regulations right,” government spokesman Matt Dykstra said in a statement to AB Today.

“When it comes to the regulations, we continue to engage with oil sands companies and other organizations as the corresponding regulations are developed,” Dykstra continued. “We need to get this right and as such, this work will continue over the coming year.”

The province’s emissions are not projected to hit the proposed annual 100-megatonne cap until around 2030. Dykstra says this gives the government time to make sure regulations reflect the newest in clean technologies and extraction procedures.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struggles to unite environmental protectionism with the need to support the country’s energy sector, Alberta’s emissions cap — and its carbon tax — were frequently used by Ottawa as justification for pro-oil policy decisions, such as purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline and exempting oil projects from federal impact assessments.

In his statement to AB Today, Dykstra backed up Alberta’s success on this front: “The emissions cap is a cornerstone of our Climate Leadership Plan, which was responsible for federal pipeline approvals including the original approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project.”

Notley has often touted the emissions cap as Alberta’s answer to offsetting the environmental impact of oil production and pipelines. “Putting a cap on emissions from the oil sands means that a pipeline doesn’t increase emissions. It does mean we can get full value for our resources so we can keep building Alberta and investing in making life better,” the premier tweeted on November 28.

The emissions plan was crafted by the Oil Sands Advisory Group. Created in 2016, the group was composed of industry representatives, Indigenous leaders, environmental advocates and labour groups that provided the government with “consensus advice to implement the oil sands emissions limit.”

UCP caucus spokesperson Christine Myatt called the NDP-imposed emissions cap “arbitrary” and characterized it as another failure of negotiations between the province and the Trudeau government.

“The NDP imposed an arbitrary emissions cap on Alberta — a cap on potential growth and opportunity — and has little to show from it from the Trudeau Liberals,” Myatt said. “A federal exemption for Alberta in-situ projects means little if Alberta cannot get pipelines built to move new product to market. What’s more, despite the Alberta NDP’s surrender to Ottawa, the federal government does not have constitutional jurisdiction over Alberta in-situ projects.”

Myatt said the UCP’s platform will be released in due course.

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel said all Albertans have to do is wait 10 minutes and then the NDP will change its policy.

“They go from pillar to post trying to garner some support from somebody — they’re just reaching for straws,” Mandel said. “The pièce de résistance was the pipeline, which they ranted and raved was going to start last summer and that didn’t work out. They’ve been trying ever since to come up with some sort of solution in the energy business. It’s almost childish now.”