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Study finds federal methane regulation more stringent than Alberta's

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 3/20/2020 3:08:00 PM

An independent study of competing methane regulations federally and in Alberta has found that the federal regulation is the more stringent of the two. The findings are important as the two jurisdictions haggle over which regulation should take precedence. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 allows a federal regulation to defer to a provincial regulation if the two are found to have an equivalent effect.

The federal methane regulation is the Reduction in the Release of Methane and Certain Volatile Organic Compounds (Upstream Oil and Gas Sector) Regulations (SOR/2018-66). The Alberta methane regulation is the Methane Emission Reduction Regulation (Alta. Reg. 244/2018).

Alberta has been pressing Ottawa to defer to the provincial regulation, but the federal government has resisted on the ground that the provincial regulation was not sufficiently robust. Ottawa has deferred to the provincial regulation while negotiations on equivalency are ongoing, but only because the early compliance obligation of both regulations requires registration only.

Both regulations took effect January 1, 2020.

The research was done by Carleton University Engineering Professor Matthew R. Johnson and David R. Tyner, a research associate at Carleton’s Energy and Emissions Research Laboratory. The findings are published in the scientific journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene.

The researchers made detailed site-level calculations of regulatory impacts on a monthly basis in Alberta in 2018, based on an inventory they compiled from a pneumatic device count data and current production and activity data. The calculations showed that the federal regulation achieved approximately 26% more methane mitigation at full implementation than its Alberta counterpart.

The federal regulation did impact slightly fewer sites by exempting small sites that handle limited volumes, but it still resulted in greater methane emission reductions. The key differences, according to the authors, were limits on pneumatic pump emissions and vented emissions, and fewer fugitive emissions as a result of more demanding federal leak detection and repair survey requirements.

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