Thursday, January 28, 2016

Canada Just Announced a Major Pipeline Reform

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Davos (Credit: AP Photo/Michel Euler) Click to Enlarge.
Oil and gas pipelines now have a new hurdle to clear before they’re approved in Canada.

Pipelines and natural gas export terminals proposed in the country will now be subject to a climate test, which will seek to determine how the project will impact greenhouse gas emissions, Canadian officials announced Wednesday. That test will take into account the “upstream” impacts of a project — meaning the emissions from the extraction of the oil or gas that the pipeline would carry or the gas the terminal would store — as well as the emissions created from building and maintaining the project.

“The federal role is to put into place a process by which TransCanada and any other companies could demonstrate that their projects are in the public interest and could have public support,” Trudeau said Tuesday, ahead of the government’s official announcement.  “What we are going to roll out very soon, as we promised in our election campaign, is to establish a clear process which will consider all the greenhouse gas emissions tied to a project, which will build on the work already done.”

The announcement, which covers projects already proposed in Canada, is good news for environmentalists and others who are concerned about increased fossil fuel production

“We were very, very excited to see this announcement,” said Lena Moffitt director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign.  “It’s exactly the kind of analysis that should be conducted in reviewing any major energy project, and it’s exactly the kind of thing we’d like to see the Obama administration institute.”

In the United States, the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) has guidance on when agencies should consider climate change impacts in environmental reviews of energy projects.  For major projects like Keystone XL, this guidance was followed:  though its draft Environmental Impact Statements were criticized as being too conservative, the State Department did look into the climate impacts of Keystone — and ultimately decided it wasn’t in the country’s best interest.

It’s exactly the kind of analysis that should be conducted in reviewing any major energy project

But not all pipeline and export terminal projects in the United States are treated that way, Moffitt said.  CEQ’s guidance, she said, “has been very inconsistently applied.”  In many cases agencies haven’t included upstream emissions in their analysis of a project’s climate impacts.

“We don’t have instances where FERC has ever adequately reviewed upstream impacts of gas pipeline,” she said.

If Obama — or the country’s next president — implemented a climate test for these projects, those problems would be solved, Moffitt said.  At least one candidate has expressed openness to such an idea:  in an October campaign event in New Hampshire, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said that FERC should be working in sync with the country’s climate goals.

“If we’re going to have a national commitment to do something about climate change, FERC needs to be part of that national commitment,” she said.

Read more at Canada Just Announced a Major Pipeline Reform

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