Weak Federal Coal Regulations Set Dangerous Precedent

Weak Federal Coal Regulations Set Dangerous Precedent
Failure to present meaningful coal regulations a reminder that government puts polluters ahead of people


(Ottawa) Today the federal government announced the final version of their long-awaited coal regulations and in doing so confirmed that they have no intention of seriously addressing the climate crisis through meaningful regulation of coal-fired power generation.

The regulations presented today have been dramatically weakened in comparison to last summer’s draft regulations – which were heavily criticized by civil society for their lack of ambition. The new regulations would give coal plants a license to pollute freely for up to 50 years. These regulations will have a negligible impact on the Harper government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas pollution over the coming 8 years (by 2020) and represent a missed opportunity to improve local air quality and public health by addressing pollution from the dirtiest form of electricity generation.”

“Coal is the easiest source of greenhouse gases to deal with because cleaner alternatives are already cost-competitive,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada. “If the federal government is prepared to gut its proposed coal regulations this way, then the oil lobby must be smiling while they sharpen their knives.”

The federal coal regulations are the first in the government’s efforts to meet their un-ambitious greenhouse gas emissions goals by using a sector-by-sector approach to regulating industrial polluters. This approach has raised concerns over its ability to effectively reduce emissions, and this first attempt at regulating the coal sector indicates any concerns are justified.

“If there is a Canadian left who is on the fence as to whether this government cares about the environment, this should push them over the edge,” says Patrick Bonin of AQLPA. “These regulations are another blow in a year that is going to go down in history as the year when the Harper government sold our shared environment and safe future for last-century’s outdated dirty energy.”

“The bar could not be set much lower for this government when it comes to action on climate and energy policy,” says Christian Holz, the Executive Director of Climate Action Network Canada. “These regulations were their opportunity to prove that they are serious about their approach to tackling climate change and they blew it – instead coming up with something that managed to be 50% less effective than the already weak regulations we thought we were dealing with. These regulations will not even cover all current coal plants until 2062, giving polluters decades of unregulated activity and thus missing the mark so phenomenally that it is hard to believe.”

Civil society was given the opportunity to comment on draft regulations in 2011 with Canadians responding in an unprecedented level of public engagement by making over 5,000 submissions to the consultation process calling on the government to strengthen the proposed regulations. Many submissions pointed to the ambitious Ontario provincial model for the complete phase-out of coal-fired power. Coal is one of the highest polluting fossil fuels and at present 11.5% of Canadian emissions come from the burning of coal.



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Christian Holz