Those who live in Alberta  — a province with a large oil and gas industry — agree that regulating pollutants like methane is better than expecting oil and gas companies to reduce them voluntarily…and that regulations should meet the strictest North American standards. That’s the conclusion from a recent poll commissioned in Alberta by Environmental Defence.

Albertans favour mandatory regulations over a voluntary approach.

 

We aren’t at all surprised by these polling results. There are really good reasons for strong methane regulations, and those with the industry in their backyard understand that well.

First, the oil and gas sector is the highest and fastest growing source of greenhouse gases in Canada. For both Alberta and the federal government, these regulations would be the first climate change measure focused on the oil and gas sector.

Activities that reduce methane emissions also represent some of the cheapest solutions for reducing heat-trapping gases that contribute to climate change. Partly, this is because methane is a potent greenhouse gas—84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. But also, cost-effective solutions are readily available now in the form of off the shelf technologies and easy-to-implement practices, such as undertaking regular monitoring for methane leaks.

And for a province that has been hurt by low oil prices, it makes sense that Albertans welcome strong regulations that will create jobs. That’s another up side of catching up with U.S. states with strong methane regulations.

So what methane regulations do Albertans support?

Two-thirds – 66 per cent – of those polled think the regulations should be mandatory; only 28 per cent favour a voluntary approach. Also, 71 per cent support Alberta’s regulations being at least as strong as U.S. states like Colorado, Wyoming and Pennsylvania. An even greater proportion — 84 per cent — support more frequent monitoring for methane leaks, in line with those U.S. states. Finally, 63 per cent don’t want Alberta to allow the intentional venting of methane (again, in line with most U.S. states); only 21 per cent think that companies should be allowed to continue venting methane.

You know who disagrees that strong methane regulations should be implemented quickly? The oil and gas industry. Secret documents reveal that the public relations arm of Canada’s oil and gas sector has been lobbying hard, urging provinces and the federal government to weaken methane standards, make some of them voluntary, and delay their implementation. Even worse, the industry wants to benefit from the delay by allowing oil and gas companies to sell methane reductions into a carbon market. That’s right, the polluters want a pay-the-polluter approach to the methane problem.

Let’s hope that Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, her cabinet, and the Alberta Energy Regulator look at these poll results and take appropriate action. They need to say no to oil and gas lobbyists, and do what is in the public interest and what the vast majority of Albertans support. Passing strong methane regulations will mean that Alberta and the rest of Canada can fully seize the many advantages of those regulations, and catch up to major competitors in the U.S.

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