Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has put Alberta on notice that its rising greenhouse gas emissions will be a factor in the federal cabinet’s impending decision on the proposed Teck Frontier tar sands/oil sands mine.
In a letter Wednesday to his provincial counterpart, Jason Nixon, Wilkinson said there is a “significant risk” the province will exceed its emissions cap of 100 million tonnes per year by 2030, the Globe and Mail reports.
“If the Frontier mine is approved and constructed, it would emit 4.1 megatonnes of greenhouse gases annually,” the Globe explains. [Environmental groups put the total at 6.0 megatonnes—Ed.] “Those emissions would fall under a provincially legislated cap on oil sands emissions, which Mr. Wilkinson said is already closing in on its limit, before factoring in several other approved but not yet built oil sands projects.”
If all of those projects were built, the Globe adds, the province’s emissions would exceed 130 megatonnes. “In a brief statement, Jess Sinclair, a spokeswoman for Mr. Nixon, said the province takes ‘issue with some of the assertions’, particularly around how close Alberta is to hitting its cap.”
While Alberta claims its oilpatch emissions stood at 67.7 Mt in 2018, Ottawa says the total will hit 86.5 Mt this year.
“In his own public letter sent on February 12, Nixon accused Wilkinson of ‘changing the goalposts’ by bringing forward the cap at the last minute as a potential condition related to the Teck project and attempting to negotiate through the media rather than directly with the Alberta government,” CBC writes.
“During our discussions, at no time did you communicate to me that the 100 megaton[ne] cap on sector greenhouse gas emissions needed to be in regulation,” Nixon wrote. “In fact, when I directly asked you whether you thought the cap needed to be formally brought into regulations, you told me it was fine as it was. Similar assurances were provided at the officials’ level.”
Wilkinson replied the federal government has always wanted Alberta to bring the cap into force, after it was legislated but not implemented by the province’s previous NDP government.
“We continue to encourage Alberta to follow through and fully implement its legislation to limit emissions to 100 million tonnes from the oilsands,” he wrote. “Alberta is the largest emitting jurisdiction in Canada, in both real and per capita terms,” he added, and “we need to work together” to meet and exceed the country’s 2030 emission reduction target and hit net-zero emissions by 2050.