Ottawa considers approval of B.C. methane rules called ‘weak’ in report

Under B.C.’s proposals, a leaking well could emit more than twice the amount of methane than Ottawa will allow

The federal government has proposed accepting British Columbia’s rules to cut methane emissions that cause climate change despite an independent report that says the regulations would be weaker than Ottawa’s.

Some environmental groups fear the same could happen in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which they say would make it harder for Canada to meet its greenhouse gas commitments.

“It’s a weak first step,” said Jan Gorski of the Pembina Institute, a clean energy think-tank. ”If they’re willing to approve regulations that are subpar in B.C., then it really puts the opportunity to meet the climate goals at risk.”

Methane is a greenhouse gas between 30 and 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Almost half of Canada’s methane emissions leak from oil and gas facilities and the governing Liberals have announced targets to reduce them by 45 per cent.

On the weekend, the federal government announced the start of a consultation period for accepting B.C.’s proposed regulations instead of those developed in Ottawa.

“(The B.C. proposal) will result in methane emission reductions that meet the expected impact,” says a government document.

But in February, an independent scientific review of fracking commissioned by the B.C. government concluded the province’s proposed rules weren’t as stringent as the federal ones.

Under B.C.’s proposals, a leaking well could emit more than twice the amount of methane than Ottawa will allow when its rules come into effect next year.

“Potentially, a leaking well can exceed the federal limit,” the review says.

READ MORE: Methane-snacking crabs adaptive to climate change, UVic researchers say

The review also points out that the province would reduce the amount of inspection and leak detection that federal rules require.

Federal rules will require inspections at least three times a year. British Columbia would require them once yearly.

The energy industry supports methane reduction goals. But it has said the best way to achieve them is to let producers focus on an overall target instead of requiring standard testing for all facilities.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers argues that focusing on the largest emitters instead of imposing across-the-board inspections would give the biggest bang for the buck.

“The incremental volume of leaks detected and repaired with a survey frequency of three times per year … has not been high and,

consequently, may result in much higher abatement costs,” the association said in a letter to B.C.’s regulator.

The problem, said Gorksi, is that it’s tough to measure how much methane escapes from large emitters.

“What they’re proposing is an outcome-based regulation. For that kind of regulation to work, you need really good data.”

Alberta and Saskatchewan have proposed similar outcome-based approaches for methane reduction. Gorski said rules drafted by both provinces would fall short of Ottawa’s reduction costs.

Previous studies using aerial measurement suggest industry estimates of methane emissions from oil and gas fields — especially heavy oil fields — are far low of the mark. The B.C.-commissioned review quotes similar evidence.

“Leakage incident rates are strongly influenced by reporting standards rather than actual well failure rate,” it says.

An Environment Canada spokeswoman said the government has published an analysis of why it thinks the B.C. proposal would reduce methane by the same amount as the federal rules.

“We think B.C.’s regulations could deliver equivalent reductions,” Sabrina Kim said in an email.

The federal analysis relies on the same estimates that aerial measurements have questioned.

Gorski said requiring producers to use best practices everywhere is the surest way to meet the reduction targets.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

WATCH: Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock pedals into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Volunteer LeMoine doesn’t get locks shaved but still finds a way to raise funds

Oceanside Folk/Roots Club to hold first show Oct. 2 in Qualicum Beach

Community hall to serve as venue for performances

Committee endorses $4.5M Qualicum Beach all-season turf project

Letter of support sought from regional district for grant application

B.C. Greens hurrying to get candidates in place for provincial election

No candidates announced yet in Nanaimo, Nanaimo-North Cowichan or Parksville-Qualicum

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Most Read