The federal government wants to delay the implementation of its much-touted new methane regulations by up to three years.
Documents obtained by CBC News show the initial federal plan was to phase in tough rules to control methane from the oil and gas industry starting in 2018, with all of the new regulations in place by 2020.
But a revised federal timeline shows the regulations would be phased in starting in 2020 and wouldn’t be fully implemented until 2023.
The delay is in sharp contrast to the announcement made only a year ago by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who stood on the White House lawn with U.S. President Barack Obama and declared they would jointly tackle methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and reduce them by up to 45 per cent by 2025.
The documents referring to the revised timeline came out of discussions between the government and stakeholders. The new timeline will be incorporated into the proposed methane regulations that are expected to be announced at the end of April.
‘The low-hanging fruit of emission reductions’
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that has 25 times the climate warming effects of carbon dioxide.
Most of it comes from oil and gas operations. It leaks from equipment like compressors, pumps and pipelines or is vented from oil and gas wells and petroleum storage tanks.
For that reason, it’s considered to be relatively easy to capture the emissions by improving equipment and changing industry practices.
Reducing methane is the only of part of Canada’s national climate plan that deals directly with emissions from the oil and gas industry.
“It is what is called the low-hanging fruit of emission reductions in Canada,” said Tim Gray, executive director of the environmental non-profit group Environmental Defence.
Gray says for that reason, there is no justification to delay new rules that will make companies reduce methane emissions that result from their operations.
“You can’t stand on a stage and say, ‘We are going to move ahead on our commitments,’ and then the implementation mechanisms all get watered down,” said Gray.
The documents show the federal government wants to “adjust” its timing to give provinces more time to bring in their own equivalent rules and also to give industry more time to spread out the costs of retrofitting facilities.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says her government intends to meet the 2025 methane reduction target. But pointed out they have to listen to concerns of key players.
“There is a regulatory process. We need to listen to industry,” said McKenna in a conference call Thursday from San Francisco, Calif., where she was promoting clean technology and trade with the state.
“Our goal is to take serious action on climate change to…