The industrial conglomerate that basically runs New Brunswick is pushing back on Premier Brian Gallant’s Throne Speech commitment this week to institute a provincial carbon price.
“Irving Oil says any New Brunswick carbon plan needs to allow the province’s businesses to remain competitive,” cautioning that 80% of its production “goes to the U.S., where its competitors face no carbon tax,” The Canadian Press reports.
That was after Gallant said his government would “establish a carbon price that minimizes the impact on consumers, calls on large industry to reduce emissions or pay its fair share, and establishes a climate fund with dedicated investments to combat the effects of climate change.”
He told reporters Tuesday that “we’re going to ensure we take the time necessary and we make the decision based on all of the evidence before us and all of the other different models and approaches that have been used, to come up with a system that will work here in New Brunswick to combat climate change, all the while making sure economic growth is at the forefront of our efforts.”
Provincial Green Party Leader David Coon “said it should be easy to regulate carbon emissions because there are only two large industries that emit carbon in any amount—power plants owned by NB Power, and an Irving Oil refinery,” CP notes. But Coon added that New Brunswick should foster a public discussion about its carbon pricing plan, rather than presenting citizens with a fait accompli.
“We should have had a public debate about it by now because there are so many ways to do carbon pricing wrong that hurt people and business, and other ways to do it right,” he said. “They’re not willing to engage in that public discussion. That’s frustrating and dangerous.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs argued for fixed emission limits, with hefty fines for violators, in lieu of a carbon price. That was in spite of the floor price on carbon that was a centerpiece of the pan-Canadian climate plan adopted by the federal government and 10 out of 12 provinces and territories almost a year ago.
Just over a year ago, Coon said carbon pricing would bring New Brunswick “the kind of revenue that is needed to provide incentives, grants, financing to homeowners and businesses to invest in reducing emissions, cutting their energy costs, and overall reducing their carbon footprint.” At the time, Environment and Local Government Minister Serge Rousselle said the province was committed to offsetting all revenue it collected with the tax.
“It will always be neutral revenue,” he said. “That was clear right from the start.”
In news related to Irving Oil, though not to the provincial carbon tax, a provincial court judge in St. John, NB fined the company C$4 million for offences stemming from the July, 2013 oil train disaster that levelled downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people, CP reports. The offences occurred over eight months and involved 14,000 rail cars carrying crude oil.
Following the derailment, “an investigation by Transport Canada and the RCMP revealed that Irving Oil had not complied with all applicable safety requirements by not classifying the crude oil being carried by train as a dangerous good,” logging incorrect shipping documents, and providing inadequate safety training to employees, the news service states. Irving was ordered to pay fines totalling $400,320 and contribute nearly $3.6 million for research on safety standards under the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.