Canada: New Oil and Gas Sector Regulations for Methane Emissions

On 26 April 2018, Canada's minister of environment and climate change, Catherine McKenna, announced new regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, to reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector by almost half. The purpose of the regulations are to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector in order to meet Canada's climate reduction targets.

As part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, the federal government indicated its commitment to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45% from 2012 levels by 2025. Methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG) that makes up approximately 15% of Canada's total GHG emissions. Methane is considered toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. When oil and gas are extracted and processed, methane can leak accidentally, or alternatively be released intentionally into the environment.

The methane regulations

  • Create new clean-technology jobs in the oil-and-gas industry
  • Result in a reduction of carbon pollution by approximately 20 million tonnes annually
  • Produce better air quality for Canadians who live and work in close proximity to oil and gas facilities

These federal regulations come into force in 2020 and are phased in over a period of 3 years until 2023. The goal in drafting the regulations was to limit effects on smaller facilities by focusing on larger facilities producing the majority of the emissions.

The federal methane regulations provide a backstop for the reduction of methane emissions. Under the equivalency provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, each province and territory can choose to develop their own regulations. These regulations can replace federal measures provided that they can clearly demonstrate equivalent emission reductions.

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