According to the Pembina Institute, the Alberta government fails to demonstrate how carbon price and methane regulations will achieve the GHG reductions needed to match federal rules. EDF.org photo.

AB methane regulations weaker than federal methane rules

This is a joint media release by the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada, Pembina Institute, Clean Air Task Force, Environmental Defense Fund.

Based on new comprehensive modelling, Alberta’s methane regulations will allow oil and gas companies to release far greater volumes of harmful methane pollution than if they followed the federal methane regulations enacted earlier this year by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

In Alberta, the ECCC rules would reduce methane pollution in 2025 by almost 35 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) while the Alberta rules released today will reduce only 22 million tonnes of CO2e.

This equals a reduction of 36 per cent, clearly failing to achieve Alberta’s own 45 per cent methane reduction commitment, squandering one of the highest-value, lowest-cost opportunities to deliver significant progress towards Alberta’s and Canada’s climate goals.

Regrettably, recent research shows Alberta’s proposed carbon pricing regime offers no rescue for this missed opportunity because the carbon price does not cover, nor apply to the majority of methane emissions.

If allowed to follow the province’s weak methane rules rather than ECCC’s standards, Alberta oil and gas operators would waste 252 million cubic metres of natural gas per year – a valuable natural resource worth C$18 million even at today’s low prices.  This wasted gas could supply half the residences in Manitoba that are heated by natural gas.

“It makes no sense that the Alberta Energy Regulator isn’t more ambitious in its efforts to reduce this senseless and environmentally harmful waste,” said Dale Marshall, National Program Manager, Environmental Defence Canada.

“Leaks from oil and gas sites can significantly impact people’s health and warm the climate.  Failing to meet the federal methane standard is wasteful and irresponsible.”

Oil and gas methane emissions are one of Alberta’s and Canada’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.  An extremely potent greenhouse gas, methane results in eighty times more warming in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.  Preventing these emissions is one of the most effective and affordable ways to achieve climate benefits.

“Significant work is needed for Alberta to clarify how the carbon pricing rules will apply to methane to instil any confidence that the committed methane reductions will be achieved,” said Duncan Kenyon, Alberta Regional Director, Pembina Institute.

“Alberta’s regulations and carbon pricing will deliver far fewer methane reductions than the federal rules and cannot be deemed equivalent.”

Multiple peer-reviewed studies (here and here) show that methane pollution is actually much worse than government and industry report, making the case for more effective and comprehensive regulations than those released by Alberta.

“We did the math using ECCC’s model, and the result is clear: the Alberta regulation would not come close to reducing as much methane pollution as the federal standards,” said Jonathan Banks, Senior Climate Policy Advisor at the Clean Air Task Force.

“Strong methane reduction regulations exist in several U.S. states, and Mexico recently bolstered its position as a global climate leader by finalizing world-class methane regulations, whilst Alberta’s regulatory proposal falls well short of both industry best practices for methane reduction and its own commitments,” said Shareen Yawanarajah, Ph.D. International Policy Manager, Environmental Defense Fund.

“A Comparative Assessment of Alberta’s Oil and Gas Methane Emissions Under the ECCC rules and AER’S Draft Directive 060” analyzes methane reductions expected as a result of Alberta’s last draft methane regulations, which were not updated substantially in their final version, compared with those expected to result from the application of ECCC rules in Alberta.

The models are used by ECCC to project future year emission levels and to evaluate the effectiveness of different regulatory options as well as whether Canada is on track to achieve its emission reductions goals.  These models will be used in determining whether provincial methane regulations are deemed equivalent with ECCC regulations.

Policy Briefing:  Achieving Methane Reductions Through Carbon Pricing in Alberta” analyzes how Alberta’s carbon pricing proposal would affect methane emission reductions.

Climate change is a global challenge requiring partnerships, sharing of solutions and new approaches to find the much-needed and immediate means to reduce pollution.  In that spirit, the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence Canada, the Pembina Institute, Clean Air Task Force and Environment Defense Fund are working together to find innovative solutions for reducing oil and gas methane emissions in Canada, the United States and Mexico.