(Bloomberg) -- The western province that produces the bulk of Canada’s oil and gas is promising to defy new federal methane regulations, saying the “costly, dangerous and unconstitutional” measures may put lives at risk and force thousands of job losses.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said the rules, which target a 75% cut in emissions from the fossil fuel sector by 2030, will cost tens of billions in infrastructure upgrades. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is setting unrealistic targets and timelines, she said.
“Given the unconstitutional nature of this latest federal intrusion into our provincial jurisdiction, our government will use every tool at our disposal to ensure these absurd federal regulations are never implemented in our province,” she said in a joint statement with Rebecca Schulz, Alberta’s environment minister.
The dispute is the latest flare-up between the conservative leader and Trudeau’s Liberal government over climate policy. Last week, Smith vowed to never implement federal regulations that aim to create a clean-electricity grid by 2035, and the two sides may be headed for another showdown later this week when Canada is expected to announce an overall cap on emissions from the oil and gas sector.
Smith rejected the methane regulations shortly after Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault announced them alongside US Climate Envoy John Kerry and other allies in a show of global solidarity at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai. The US introduced similar measures on Saturday amid intensifying efforts to slash emissions of the especially potent greenhouse gas.
Fifty oil companies representing about 40% of global production also pledged over the weekend to stem releases of methane to near-zero by 2030 and stop routine flaring of natural gas. Signatories include Shell Plc and BP Plc, which both have operations in Canada.
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Canada’s amended rules seek to eliminate venting or routine flaring, which can release large amounts of methane into the atmosphere. The rules also create new performance standards for leak detection and repair and seek to address problems such as blowdowns and other potentially large methane releases.
Guilbeault also pledged C$30 million ($22 million) for a research center to properly track emissions, following through on a promise his government first made in 2021.
“The accuracy and understanding of how much and where methane is emitted — and that is reported properly — is critical to achieving methane targets,” he said.
Because methane stays in the atmosphere for only a couple decades, compared with thousands of years for carbon dioxide, reducing methane emissions can have a relatively swift impact on warming. The rules will cut emissions by 217 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from 2027 to 2040, Guilbeault said, and avoid C$12.4 billion in global damages.
“By tackling methane emissions, we’re activating one of the most powerful levers we have against climate change,” he said. “This is one of the biggest opportunities we have to act quickly on climate.”
Canada was already on track to surpass its original goal of a 40% to 45% reduction in methane emissions from fossil fuel production from 2012 levels by 2025, Guilbeault said. The amended rules will update that target to 75%.
Smith and Schulz said in their statement that Alberta has already reduced methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 45%, hitting the target early, using a province-led approach. The new measures illegally attempt to regulate Alberta’s industries and impede work that’s already underway, they said.
“Infrastructure can only be updated as quickly as technology allows. For example, Alberta will not accept nor impose a total ban on flaring at this time, as it is a critical health and safety practice during production,” they said. “Any regulation that completely prohibits this is putting lives at risk. A total ban would also be costly, resulting in shut-ins and loss of production.”
They also criticized the Trudeau government for providing virtually no financial support for industry to meet the targets.
Canada’s upstream oil and natural gas producers recognize the need to continue to lower methane emissions and will undertake a detailed review of the draft regulations, Lisa Baiton, chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said in a statement.
“An overly complex and prescriptive regulatory framework can add delays and higher costs, making it more difficult to rapidly implement technologies and processes that drive emissions lower.”
Canada’s government says methane makes up about 13% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions and that the oil and gas industry accounts for 40% of methane emissions. The country is also working to reduce methane emissions from agriculture and developing regulations to reduce emissions at landfills by 50% from 2019 levels by 2030, Guilbeault said.
--With assistance from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.
(Adds reaction from industry group CEO near the end of the story.)
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