EDMONTON - The Alberta government should listen to the large majority that is calling for strong action on climate change — not just the intense closed-door lobbying effort by oil industry.
A new poll by Ipsos-Reid shows that 76 per cent of Albertans want to see tough action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas industry, says Simon Dyer. Only six per cent were opposed.
“It’s clear Albertans think we can have strong climate legislation and a robust energy industry,” said Dyer.
“The government has a strong mandate to act.”
Instead, thanks to oil-industry lobbying in the past 12 months, the government has watered down its proposals to replace the current levy on excess greenhouse gases, said Dyer.
The levy — $15-a-tonne on emissions that exceed a required 12-per-cent reduction per barrel — expires in September. Talks are underway for new regulations expected this fall.
Under the latest proposal, the levy would double to $30 on emissions that exceed a required 24-per-cent reduction per barrel — dubbed the “double-double” plan.
That’s weaker than proposals made last year for a $40-a-tonne levy and 40-per- cent reduction in emissions per barrel, said Dyer.
The “double-double” proposal is low cost to industry — an estimated five to eight cents a barrel — according to recent analysis, Dyer noted.
“There is wide support for this, there’s no economic downside, so let’s get it done,” said Dyer, adding he’d like to see an escalator in the plan.
Environment Minister Robin Campbell said the province must improve its environmental performance in the oilsands to meet international expectations.
“We know that everyone watches what we do in Alberta,” said Campbell at the official startup of the province’s new arm’s-length monitoring agency that will track pollution levels in air, water and on land.
The new agency “will look at the oilsands but also the refineries east of Edmonton that people have lots of questions about,” said Campbell, adding that its $50-million budget is not necessarily a hard cap.
The Alberta Monitoring, Evaluating and Reporting Agency, headed by former environment minister Lorne Taylor, will provide scientific data on pollution levels across the province. It will make no recommendations for action; that’s up to Alberta Environment.
Greg Stringham, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the new monitoring agency is a critical step to improve environmental performance in oilsands by providing “credible, transparent data” on pollution levels that will lead to action.
“Absolutely it is. That’s how this works,” said Stringham.
“We want to know what the trends are, then you can react, find out what’s causing it and what needs to be done (to reduce the pollution),” he said.
Stringham said it’s not yet decided whether the provincial agency will replace the Joint Oilsands Monitoring (JOSM) agency set up by the federal government three years ago.
CAPP would like to see the federal government continue to have a role in environmental monitoring, he said.
“We want it to be transparent and we want both governments involved, federal and provincial,” said Stringham.
Also unclear is the fate of several longtime local monitoring agencies, such as the Wood Buffalo Environment Agency.
Taylor said his board will be having talks with all smaller groups to see if there is duplication.
Alberta wants strong action on climate change