Canada will save more natural gas than Saskatchewan homes consume in a year, and 26 oil and gas facilities will have to control their emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), under regulations unveiled in Calgary yesterday by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna.
The methane regulations take full effect in 2023—three years later than originally planned—but will still “catch up on the action already taken by states such as California, Colorado, and North Dakota,” the department said in a release. Canada has committed to reducing its methane emissions 40 to 45% by 2025.
“These regulations will help producers save over C$1.5 billion worth of natural gas between 2018 and 2035. By better detecting and patching leaks, companies will be able to save and sell that natural gas and do their part to fight climate change,” McKenna said in the release. “And this will support more modern technology and good new jobs in the oil and gas sector.”
“Our government sees the long-term value in developing Canadian oil and gas resources in cleaner, more sustainable ways,” added Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr. “This will attract investment and allow the industry to be more competitive as the world makes the transition to a low-carbon future.”
Pembina Institute Policy Director Duncan Kenyon welcomed the announcement, noting that methane rules “don’t put the Canadian oil and gas sector at risk: in fact, they are essential to its long-term carbon competitiveness.” With a 60-day consultation period about to open, he added that “governments, industry, and other stakeholders need to keep their eye on the prize: reducing methane emissions to achieve our climate goals as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible.”
But at Environmental Defence, National Program Manager Dale Marshall called it “disappointing that the oil and gas industry’s lobbying for weaker methane provisions appears to be successful.” He warned that the three-year delay “means the unnecessary release of an additional 55 million tonnes of carbon emissions between now and when the regulations reach their final target.”
Moreover, “reducing inspections and maintenance of oil and gas facilities from four to three times per year means methane leaks will go undetected for longer, spew more greenhouse gases, and pose a greater risk to public health.”
“Because of concessions that have already been made to appease industry, Canada now has ground to make up to retain its ability to deliver on its climate goals,” agreed Drew Nelson of the U.S. Environmental Defense Fund (unaffiliated with Toronto-based Environmental Defence). EDF urged the Canadian government to reset the implementation timeline for the methane regulations, require quarterly leak inspections, extend the regulation to cover high-emitting oil facilities, and demand “real equivalency” in the methane regulations that several provinces are expected to develop.
“These reductions are one of the most effective and affordable ways for Canada to deliver on its climate commitments,” Nelson wrote. But “for these promising regulations to make a meaningful impact, Canada’s leaders will have to resist the oil and gas lobby, and strengthen the rules before they’re adopted.”