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Federal government finalizes regulations to reduce methane emissions

Last Updated Apr 26, 2018 at 1:40 pm PST

In this Feb. 25, 2015, file photo, a gas flare is seen at a natural gas processing facility near Williston, N.D. The federal government says it has finalized regulations that should reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by close to half. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matthew Brown

CALGARY – The federal government said Thursday it has finalized regulations that should reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by close to half.

The regulations include flexibilities to reduce costs, while ensuring industry meets the target of reducing methane emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2012 levels by 2025, it said.

Announced by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, the regulations are expected to cut carbon pollution by about 20 million tonnes a year, the equivalent to taking about five million vehicles off the road per year.

Several environmental groups including Environmental Defence and the David Suzuki Foundation welcomed the regulations as the first country-level commitment to reducing methane from both new and existing oil and gas facilities nationwide.

In a joint statement, the groups said the test now will be whether the federal government will ensure any provincial regulations achieve at least the same level of reduction. The groups are particularly concerned about draft regulations released by Alberta earlier this week that they say is a “much weaker” regulatory approach.

Patrick McDonald, director of climate and innovation at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, says that while industry supports the reduction target, the regulations as finalized are too prescriptive and will make industry less competitive.

“The regulations very much are not reflective of CAPP’s proposal that was issued in October,” said McDonald.

The industry is concerned about details including the frequency of monitoring and site specific limits as opposed to more flexible approaches, he said.

“This new regulation is going to be a significant cost to the industry and as such will have additional impacts on our competitiveness when we’re looking at the global market.”

He said Alberta’s draft plan does look to have more flexibility in how to best reduce methane emissions.

Methane is a focus of climate efforts because it is a potent greenhouse gas that is considered to have 70 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.