Collusion between Clark govt, Alberta oil/gas industry not proved by think tank’s documents

Collusion evidence is weak: couple of meeting agendas, list of attendees, and a PowerPoint

Did the oil and gas industry write the 2016 British Columbia Climate Leadership Plan? That’s the accusation made by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which Monday released documents it obtained under a Freedom Of Information request that the left-leaning think tank says demonstrates collusion between lobbyists and the Christy Clark government.

“The documents we obtained reveal that the government spent three months working hand-in-hand with the oil and gas industry to revise and rewrite the Climate Leadership Team recommendations,” said Shannon Daub, CCPA-BC’s associate director and lead author of the analysis released through the Corporate Mapping Project.

The Clark Liberals were a pro-business party and every voter in the province knew that the Premier was desperate for one or two LNG projects to launch before the May 2017 election. She had promised the moon during the 2013 campaign, with little to show four years later as global LNG prices collapses and companies delayed their final investment decisions.

Would any of those BC voters be surprised Clark sought input from the energy industry (upstream oil and gas producers, midstream pipeline operators, and downstream LNG representatives) on new climate policy and regulations?

But input is not what Daub is alleging.

“This was much more than a consultation process. “It’s a stunning abuse of the public trust,says Daub. 

“The BC government carried out secret meetings in another province with an industry that is a top contributor to the BC Liberal Party in order to shape policy to regulate that very industry’s activities.”

Then Daub went even further, suggesting the relationship between the energy industry and BC Liberals amounted to institutional corruption’.

“Clearly they set out to make policy together behind closed doors while what can only be characterized as a pretend consultation process was acted out publicly, she said.

According to the FOI documents, over “two dozen representatives from at least 16 oil and gas corporations and industry groups” attended meetings at the Calgary boardroom of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the most powerful energy trade group in Canada.

The documents include the names and contact information of everyone who attended the meetings, agendas that show the detail of the discussions that were had, and a slide deck with language that the CCPA objects strenuously to.

Here are some examples:

Working Group 1: Carbon Tax

  • Competitive analysis
  • Explore EI-TE [energy-intensive, trade-exposed sectors] approaches
  • Ensure consistency with other jurisdictions
  • Determine the “art of the possible” (how much and how fast)

I fail to see skullduggery in that slide.

My interviews with energy economists about Alberta climate policy suggests that policy makers pay particular attention to achieving greenhouse gas emission reduction objectives while not penalizing export-oriented industries.

And why wouldn’t BC want to be consistent with other provinces? Keep in mind that around this time the Canadian government had announced its intention to introduce a national carbon tax, but details weren’t available yet. Wouldn’t a prudent provincial government wait for the national plan before committing to increases in the BC carbon tax?

As for the “art of the possible,” if the oil and gas industry produces 18 per cent of BC GHG emissions and will be asked to significantly reduce them in just five years, doesn’t it make sense to ask companies what new technologies or approaches are available to reach the regulator’s goal?

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The next slide in the presentation, this one about fugitive methane emissions, is considered particularly damning because it includes the bulleted points”Refine language in CLT [Climate Leadership Team] recommendation” and “Add detail and process direction (timing/voluntary vs. regulatory tools)” that suggest industry basically wrote the regulations, in the opinion of the CCPA.

Sorry, that’s not my reading of that slide. Especially since the third point on it is is, “Make tangible commitments,” which I understand as the government pressuring industry to sign on to a firm reduction goal, which in this case turned out to be 45 per cent by 2025.

Alberta and federal targets? Also 45 per cent by 2025. And let’s not forget that the Obama Administration’s targets were very similar.

CAPP says it works with governments of all political stripes across Canada, according to spokesperson Chelsie Klassen.

“CAPP was not invited to participate on the Climate Leadership Team, but later presented to the team and the British Columbia government.

“The number of meetings held reflects the complexity of the regulatory environment and the important role industry plays in BC CAPP provided recommendations for meaningful emissions reductions such as managing methane emissions, protecting from trade exposure and finding economically-viable approaches to promote electrification – all while growing BC’s economy.”

If the Clark government did, in fact, allow industry to write provincial climate policy and regulations, that is a serious allegation and it bears follow up by journalists, maybe even the RCMP given the corruption angle.

But the documents released by CCPA are ambiguous at best and don’t support Daub’s argument.

Where is the smoking gun? A letter spelling out Climate Leadership Plan language, for instance?

What we have here is a couple of meeting agendas, a list of attendees, and a slide deck.

Based on the evidence in front of us, CAPP’s explanation is the more plausible.

Now, if you’re an anti-industry, pipeline and LNG opponent, the fact some of the meetings took place in Calgary is by itself probably enough to make your head explode.

Add in the other accusations and it’s fair to say that anti-pipeline LNG campaigners are lighting their hair on fire across Vancouver.

Perhaps that was the point.

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