If you care about climate change, you should care about oil and gas methane. If you care about human health, you should care about methane. If you care about jobs and economic benefits, you should care about methane.
Reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, as laid out in the new federal regulations, will bring net benefits worth $9 billion. That’s because methane is a potent greenhouse gas, associated with other toxic air pollutants. It’s also a resource—methane is the main component in natural gas, and capturing that gas means jobs and economic activity.
But it appears Alberta is willing to let some of those benefits slip away. Its draft regulations are much weaker than federal ones. If Alberta’s regulations apply rather than federal ones, less methane will be captured and used, fewer jobs will be created, and more people will be put at risk from toxic air pollution.
Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, provincial regulations can only supersede federal ones if the environmental benefit produced will be the same or better.
Yet there are a number of ways that the Alberta regulations are clearly weaker, including:
- Inspections for methane leaks happen three times more often under federal rules.
- The volume of methane allowed to be vented at Alberta sites is 12 times higher.
- The Alberta regulations allow oil and gas companies to police themselves,
- Maximum penalties for infractions are much lower in Alberta.
(We have a detailed comparison of the differences in our new report.)
Something will have to give. Either Alberta will have to change its weak approach or the federal government will have to apply its rules in the province. The federal government should tell Alberta right away that its regulations don’t measure up.