Alberta, we need to talk. We have an invisible, odorless, and valuable gas that we are just allowing to escape into the atmosphere, where it traps heat at an alarming rate, 84 times more heat than carbon dioxide. Fortunately for us, methane is valuable and easy to collect. Most of the methane that turns into pollution in Alberta comes from leaks at oil and gas sites.  If we plug those leaks, we can capture this gas and use it to heat our homes. Fixing these leaks also has health benefits as the volatile organic compounds the accompany methane are hazardous to us.

 

Infrared cameras (right) show methane emissions that can’t otherwise be seen.

 

In its Climate Leadership Plan, the Alberta government made a commitment to reduce the amount of methane that the oil industry allows to leak by 45 per cent. In order to reach this goal, we need to inspect existing facilities several times per year and repair and replace broken equipment. There are currently thousands of unemployed Albertans who are already trained and ready to find and plug these leaks. Plugging the leaks would increase royalty payments, tax revenue AND contribute to our efforts to prevent climate change. We are allowing approximately $18 million in methane to be turned into pollution through inaction.

 

Sadly, the rules that the Alberta government released will only achieve a 36 per cent reduction, only 80 per cent of what we should be aiming for. This failure by our government will mean that fewer people will be employed to find and fix methane leaks. It also means that other industries will have to make emission cuts to make up for these weak rules, if we are to fulfill our international commitments. When we have a skilled workforce sitting idly by, can save money and lower negative health impacts associated with this pollution, shouldn’t we be aiming for more?

 

Well the federal government thinks so. They have released a national methane reduction plan that would get Alberta to 47 per cent.  To be clear, the difference between Alberta’s weak regulations and the federal government’s slightly stronger ones is equivalent to removing almost 2.7 million cars from our road ways. Considering there are only 3.5 million cars registered in Alberta, stronger methane regulations would remove as much pollution as 77 per cent of the vehicles on Alberta roads!

 

 

Pollution has consequences.

 

Pollution from oil and gas facilities is extremely harmful to residents who have to breathe in the polluted air, driving up hospital room visits and taxing our already overburdened health care system. It significantly increases the amount of heat trapped in the atmosphere, leading to climate change, which has already been driving extreme weather events in Alberta and causing longer droughts than the province is used to.

 

The federal government has run the numbers and estimated that the net benefits for Canada of strong methane rules would be almost $9 billion by 2030. By enacting the modest regulations that the federal government is proposing, Alberta will benefit the most, as we have the largest methane pollution in the country.

 

With stronger methane regulations we can save money, put people back to work and help prevent climate change. With the weaker regulation Alberta has released, more methane emissions will pollute our air, lower health outcomes for Albertans and causing lasting damage to our environment. Alberta, we can and should do better. Tell the Prime Minister that Alberta’s regulations aren’t enough.

 

 

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