Alberta Premier Alison Redford is sowing some confusion about the prospects of stronger climate regulations for the oil sands as she prepares for another visit to Washington to lobby for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Alberta Premier will visit the U.S. State Department to brief officials on the province's environmental record in the oil industry during a visit that begins next Monday.
The Obama administration is keen to see greater Canadian efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil sands if it is to approve TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline, which American environmentalists adamantly oppose.
Ms. Redford and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have pledged to introduce new emission regulations that would – as she said in a USA Today article earlier this year – "push the bar higher" on greenhouse gas reductions.
The federal government had promised to introduce draft regulations by July 1 but after missing that deadline, is now expected to release them early in the new year. Federal and Alberta officials are looking to reach a "equivalency agreement" under which the province would meet Ottawa's overall targets for the sector, but with its own rules.
But Ms. Redford suggested in a weekend interview on CBC Radio that the province is unwilling to increase the cost of emissions for its industry without a similar move by the United States. The federal Conservatives have also said they would like to see Canada and the United States move together on emission rules in the oil industry, but President Barack Obama is now engaged in a tough fight over his proposed rules for the coal-fired power sector – which accounts for 40 per cent of U.S. emissions – and has no plans to take on the oil and gas sector.
"We believe in Alberta that if there is going to be any change in the price of carbon, it has to be done in a way that ensures that industry in the United States and Canada can be competitive," Ms. Redford told the CBC. "So in Alberta, we're not looking to try to increase the price of carbon if we're not going to see any movement in the United States. There has to be a quid pro quo."
On Monday, provincial Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Cal Dallas sought to clarify her comments, saying the province wants Canada to harmonize its climate approach with the U.S., but will pursue its own efforts and work with Ottawa on new rules at the same time.
"We're on exactly the same page that we were," he said in an interview from Edmonton. "We're prepared to raise the bar … But it's not an Alberta approach, it's not a Canadian approach, it's not an American approach, but it is really a holistic approach that we need to take to this."