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Canada Sets Methane Reduction Plans: Alberta Has Its Own

Updated: Sep 4, 2018

Sparked by the Paris Climate Accord, the Canadian government has pledged to cut down Canada's emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, between 40-45% by 2025. This is a good step towards stopping climate change, but one state in Canada has its own plans.

Alberta tar sands projects and their powerful climate pollutants

As mentioned earlier, a Canadian state has its own regulations that do not abide with the federal ones. In fact, this state is Alberta. Canada has large tar sands projects that, when burned, releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas.

Alberta's Plan

Alberta has one of the largest tar sands projects in the world. They get a large amount of income from these projects. They do not want to lose their ability to do new and continue large-scale tar sands projects. Therefore, their plan omits the tar sands and also asks companies to report their own emissions instead of the government, leaving room for lying and increased greenhouse gas emissions going in to the air. They are more concerned with their own profit than saving the planet.

Methane is short-lived as a climate pollutant, but does extensive damage on the planet while it is in the atmosphere. However, it still stays for 12 years, which is still a long time that the Earth would be warming. The main greenhouse gas that tar sands release is methane.

Methane is not just released from tar sands in this industry. It is also released from oil spills. This is important because Alberta averages more than 1 spill per day! With that as Alberta's average, imagine how much methane is put into the atmosphere.

There are many different problems with Alberta's plan other than the tar sands being omitted.

The Alberta plan asks companies to report their own emissions instead of it being checked by the government. This is exactly the same as it was before, and this is not good. A 2017 study found that Alberta's oil and gas industry emitted 25 to 50 percent more methane than what was being reported. The study, written by authors from Carleton University, NOAA and the Environmental Defense Fund, compared the industry's reporting with airborne measurements. This leaves a gaping hole in Alberta's plan, and it also gives more fuel to climate change.

While the Canadian government requires equipment to be surveyed three times a year, the Alberta plan only requires equipment to be surveyed once a year. These inspections are far from thorough or accurate. "They allow for leak detection to be conducted by something known as AVO: Audio, Visual, Olfactory," said Jonathan Banks, a senior climate advisor with the Clean Air Task Force. "If you don't see, smell or hear a leak, you're good. It's absolutely insane. Methane is a colorless, invisible gas and you're talking about it at a well site—it doesn't smell."

While the Alberta government says that their regulations lines up perfectly with that of the federal government, the federal government still has to agree. There will most likely be a debate with the state and federal governments on if the Alberta regulations are as good as the federal ones.

How does the Canada Reduction Plans Compare to American Reduction Plans?

The US, Canada, and Mexico had an effort to make methane reduction plans. However, once the Trump Administration started rolling back climate policies, this effort became nonexistent in the US. The Obama Administration made two methane reduction regulations that only targeted new oil and gas projects. However, if Canada's government is able to achieve what it is targeting, it will have gone a step farther than American regulations due to the fact that it also targets existing projects.

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