Ottawa considers approval of B.C. methane rules called ‘weak’ in report

Under B.C.’s proposals, a leaking well could emit more than twice the amount of methane than Ottawa will allow

The federal government has proposed accepting British Columbia’s rules to cut methane emissions that cause climate change despite an independent report that says the regulations would be weaker than Ottawa’s.

Some environmental groups fear the same could happen in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which they say would make it harder for Canada to meet its greenhouse gas commitments.

“It’s a weak first step,” said Jan Gorski of the Pembina Institute, a clean energy think-tank. ”If they’re willing to approve regulations that are subpar in B.C., then it really puts the opportunity to meet the climate goals at risk.”

Methane is a greenhouse gas between 30 and 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Almost half of Canada’s methane emissions leak from oil and gas facilities and the governing Liberals have announced targets to reduce them by 45 per cent.

On the weekend, the federal government announced the start of a consultation period for accepting B.C.’s proposed regulations instead of those developed in Ottawa.

“(The B.C. proposal) will result in methane emission reductions that meet the expected impact,” says a government document.

But in February, an independent scientific review of fracking commissioned by the B.C. government concluded the province’s proposed rules weren’t as stringent as the federal ones.

Under B.C.’s proposals, a leaking well could emit more than twice the amount of methane than Ottawa will allow when its rules come into effect next year.

“Potentially, a leaking well can exceed the federal limit,” the review says.

READ MORE: Methane-snacking crabs adaptive to climate change, UVic researchers say

The review also points out that the province would reduce the amount of inspection and leak detection that federal rules require.

Federal rules will require inspections at least three times a year. British Columbia would require them once yearly.

The energy industry supports methane reduction goals. But it has said the best way to achieve them is to let producers focus on an overall target instead of requiring standard testing for all facilities.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers argues that focusing on the largest emitters instead of imposing across-the-board inspections would give the biggest bang for the buck.

“The incremental volume of leaks detected and repaired with a survey frequency of three times per year … has not been high and,

consequently, may result in much higher abatement costs,” the association said in a letter to B.C.’s regulator.

The problem, said Gorksi, is that it’s tough to measure how much methane escapes from large emitters.

“What they’re proposing is an outcome-based regulation. For that kind of regulation to work, you need really good data.”

Alberta and Saskatchewan have proposed similar outcome-based approaches for methane reduction. Gorski said rules drafted by both provinces would fall short of Ottawa’s reduction costs.

Previous studies using aerial measurement suggest industry estimates of methane emissions from oil and gas fields — especially heavy oil fields — are far low of the mark. The B.C.-commissioned review quotes similar evidence.

“Leakage incident rates are strongly influenced by reporting standards rather than actual well failure rate,” it says.

An Environment Canada spokeswoman said the government has published an analysis of why it thinks the B.C. proposal would reduce methane by the same amount as the federal rules.

“We think B.C.’s regulations could deliver equivalent reductions,” Sabrina Kim said in an email.

The federal analysis relies on the same estimates that aerial measurements have questioned.

Gorski said requiring producers to use best practices everywhere is the surest way to meet the reduction targets.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Easter visit!

Easter Bunny makes a visit to Points West Living

Scenes from the Stettler & District Music Festival

Don’t forget to check out the Grand Concert on April 28th

Happy Easter everyone!

Youngsters are excited for the holiday

UCP candidate Nate Horner triumphs in Drumheller-Stettler riding

Horner looking forward to moving ahead with UCP policies in the coming months

Kenney talks pipelines with Trudeau after election win, calls it cordial

Almost a year ago Kenney dismissed Trudeau as a dilettante and a lightweight

Avalanche hot at the right time, cruise past Flames into second round

Avalanche onto second round with a 5-1 win over the Calgary Flames in Game 5

Parents say Austrian climber missing in Banff National Park ‘lived his dream’

David Lama, Hansjorg Auer and American climber Jess Roskelley have been missing since Wednesday

Six months after legalization, high prices and supply issues boost illicit pot market

It has been six months since Canada became the first industrialized country to legalize recreational cannabis

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

Undercover cops don’t need warrant to email, text suspected child lurers: court

High court decision came Thursday in the case of Sean Patrick Mills of Newfoundland

Most Read