Atlantic premiers play on false fear in call for fuel rules delay: environmentalist

By The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — An environmentalist in New Brunswick says Atlantic premiers are using scaremongering tactics in their call for Ottawa to delay rules requiring refineries to reduce carbon in diesel and gasoline they produce.

Louise Comeau, director of climate change and energy solutions at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said in an interview Friday a release from the East Coast leaders was based on doubtful assumptions that refineries will pass on costs related to the Clean Fuel Regulations this summer.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey and Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King issued a statement Thursday saying the rules would have a “detrimental and disproportionate impact” on the region.

They noted they are expected to come into effect at the same time as carbon charges also scheduled for July 1. 

The regulations require producers or importers of gas and diesel to gradually reduce the carbon intensity of the fuels they sell, with the levels to fall 15 per cent below 2016 levels by 2030.

But Comeau said as of July 1 “there should be no price impact in fuel prices at all,” but rather the refineries should be pursuing — at their own expense — ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their product.

She said the fossil fuel industry is making large profits and can afford to innovate over the next few years, and argues the premiers should instead be focused on working with Ottawa to reduce carbon fuel use across the region.

Comeau called the joint statement a case of the premiers “taking advantage of peoples’ concerns and their day-to-day challenges with inflation.”

“They continue to make people afraid. And we can’t be making people afraid of actions that counter the worst effects of climate change,” she said.

“It’s unethical, from my point of view.”

The statement of the premiers concerned about the timing of the new regulations came after they met with federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, who issued a statement rejecting the premiers’ stance. 

Guilbeault said refineries in the Atlantic region will face small, incremental costs by 2030, and can cover those through profit margins, adding “there is simply no reason that they need to push costs onto consumers on July 1.”

Last week, a report by the parliamentary budget officer said the new fuel regulations, set to take full effect in 2030, would potentially cost lower-income Canadians more than wealthier citizens by the time they’re fully implemented.

However, Yves Giroux has also said in interviews with The Canadian Press that “doing nothing” to mitigate climate change would also have costs.

Bora Plumptre, director of research at Electric Mobility Canada — an advocacy group for electric transportation — said in an interview that refineries that reduce their carbon intensity will earn carbon credits that can be traded and reduce their costs.

“The premiers really overstated the impact of this policy and certainly as of July 1 there’s no reason to believe costs of fuel should go up because of this policy,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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