Sorry in advance for giving the noble weasel a bad name by comparing it to the oil and gas industry…
The federal government is working on a list of large-scale energy and industrial projects that will require a review under its improved environmental laws. It’s part of the legislation making its way through the Senate.
But guess who doesn’t want to play by the new rules?
You guessed it. Canada’s biggest source of climate pollution—the oil and gas industry.
Don’t let the oil and gas industry weasel out of federal environmental reviews. Tell the government all high-carbon projects must get a federal impact assessment.
Bill C-69 and the Project List
The federal government is reforming the environmental laws that protect Canada’s land, air, water and climate and guide the review process for energy and industrial projects. Bill C-69 passed the House of Commons in June and is now being debated in the Senate.
As part of the new legislation, the government is updating a list of projects that will require a federal environmental impact assessment. The current list includes everything from mines to refineries to airports to pipelines.
Including a project on this list will ensure that experts assess things like risks to drinking water and air quality, effects on local health and outdoor recreation spots, impacts on natural habitats and endangered species, and alignment with Canada’s climate commitments. It will also assess whether the project respects Indigenous rights and culture – a small but concrete step toward genuine reconciliation.
Sounds like a pretty reasonable move to include projects from Canada’s most polluting industry on that list, right?
Exemptions for oil and gas projects?
Not according to the army of lobbyists the oil and gas industry is using to swarm Parliament Hill and Canadian media outlets. We’ve been hearing for months that the industry is working government back rooms to keep its environmentally destructive projects from being reviewed.
The potential for federal exemptions for industry has the busy hands of lobbyists all over it. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Canadian Energy Pipeline Association have held at least 139 lobby meetings with government officials since the government began consulting on the Project List in April. That’s more than a meeting every workday!
Canada’s biggest oil lobby group wants to keep oil sands and offshore drilling projects off the list. The pipeline industry wants to exempt all oil and gas pipelines under 500 km long. Fracking projects aren’t even on the list right now!
This doesn’t make any sense, of course. Oil and gas companies are responsible for more than a quarter of Canada’s climate pollution. They’re also responsible for contaminating Canada’s land, water and air. Despite their self-congratulation about reclamation efforts, it was recently revealed that Albertans are on the hook for $260 billion in cleanup costs from the pollution and destruction created by the oil and gas industry.
Do the provinces have it covered?
The industry claims that oil and gas projects are already covered by provincial environmental assessments. But the federal government shares responsibility for environmental protection with the provinces and is ultimately responsible for ensuring Canada
And provincial review systems are often weak and filled with loopholes and exemptions themselves. In British Columbia, three massive gas plants were exempted from provincial environmental assessment after fracking companies poured money into elections and lobbied government decision-makers.
Don’t believe us? Just ask the Indigenous communities in the heart of the tar sands. The Athabasca Region First Nations, a coalition of Indigenous groups in the Fort McMurray region, recently expressed their strong support for Bill C-69. They say Alberta’s environmental assessment is woefully inadequate and often exempts in situ tar sands projects altogether. Passing Bill C-69 and ensuring all tar sands projects undergo federal assessment will help honour Indigenous rights and protect their land and water.
Exempting oil and gas projects from environmental review is like saying you’re going to study the environmental impacts of road vehicles and then giving a free pass to SUVs and transport trucks.
It’s time for the federal government to take a stand against this nonsense and make sure federal reviews are required for all high-carbon projects.