"What the oil industry wants, the Harper government gives," charges Greenpeace Canada, which leaked documents it obtained through access to information laws last week showing the oil and gas industry had originally suggested the changes made to environmental regulations in 2012.
In a letter dated Dec. 12, 2011, four energy lobby groups – the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and Canadian Gas Association – asked Environment Minister Peter Kent and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver to address regulatory reform opportunities to enable economic growth.
“In the coming months, the government has the opportunity to achieve these objectives with adjustments to several pieces of legislation, along with a cohesive approach to overall regulatory and policy changes,” the four organizations, under the group name “Energy Framework Initiative” (EFI), wrote.
The letter goes on to criticize current laws as “outdated” and overly focused on preventing environmental damage.
“At the heart of most existing legislation is a philosophy of prohibiting harm; ‘environmental’ legislation is almost entirely focused on preventing bad things from happening rather than enabling responsible outcomes,” the letter states.
The letter explicitly names the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), National Energy Board Act, Fisheries Act and Navigable Waters Protection Act, all of which were amended in the Harper government’s two omnibus budget bills – Bills C-38 and C-45 – last year.
The letter also requests a “one project, one review” system of regulation – an expression that became the federal government’s mantra for making changes to the CEAA following the announcement of last year’s budget – along with demands for time limits for environmental assessments, also implemented through Bill C-38.
As a result of the amendments, nearly 3,000 environmental assessments were cancelled based on the new rules, and protection for water and fish were narrowed.
But industry representatives say the attempt to present the letter as a covert tactic ignores what oil and gas lobby groups have been doing, publicly, for years.
“For Greenpeace to insinuate that one letter signed by the oil and gas value chain causes legislative changes is absolutely ridiculous,” Travis Davies, spokesperson for CAPP, told The Journal.
“This is a process that we’ve been involved with for years, as have many stakeholders, including environmental activist organizations. Our position has been clearly on the public record many times…and our points have been consistent and completely transparent. Clearly we believe that there were changes that should and could be made to the regulatory regime to make it more efficient,” David said.