The Alberta government has passed a piece of legislation all Albertans should be concerned about: the Carbon Capture and Storage Statutes Amendment Act, which came into force on Dec. 2.
While on the surface the Act may seem like a step in the right direction, it actually contains several deficiencies that put Albertans and the ecosystem at risk:
1) The Act fails to outline specific measures to ensure proper regulation of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
The Act grants broad regulation-making powers to government, which removes any certainty as to if, when, and how crucial issues, such as the injection of carbon dioxide into the ground and the monitoring of CCS operations, will be addressed.
Will the necessary regulations be put into place before CCS facilities become common place? Will regulations be put in place at all? The Act leaves these questions unanswered.
Albertans need a guarantee that these issues will be legislated in a quick and satisfactory manner. The Act should outline specific and comprehensive legislative requirements instead of leaving these issues to be addressed by hypothetical regulations.
2) The Act fails to take into account environmental and health protection
Shockingly, the Act makes no mention of protections for human health, ground water, or the surrounding ecosystem. The only protection contemplated is found in the new s. 39 (1.1) of the Oil and Gas Conservation Act, which is designed to protect the recovery and conservation of oil and gas and its storage.
The Act recognizes the need to protect oil and gas interest, but shouldn’t the protection of our health, our ground water, and our ecosystem be a priority at least on par with that of oil and gas interests? Other jurisdictions are instituting such protections, and there is no reason why Alberta should not be doing the same.
3) The Act fails to track greenhouse gas emissions
The Act contains no provisions for tracking the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by CCS operations. Since the Alberta government is intent on investing billions of dollars into CCS operations, measures should be put in place to ensure that those operations are, in fact, reducing greenhouse gas emissions as intended.
Without putting monitoring and reporting requirements in place, there will be no way to know whether CCS operations are being effective.
4) The Act fails to ensure proper storage of carbon dioxide before government assumes liability
Once a closure certificate is issued to a CCS operator, the Crown becomes the owner of the captured carbon dioxide and assumes all obligations and legal liability for damages attributable to the CCS operation. However, the Act lacks specific legislative requirements to ensure the carbon dioxide is properly stored before Alberta assumes those obligations and liabilities.
If Alberta is intent upon assuming liability, the Act must contain clear and stringent conditions CCS operators must meet to demonstrate that the carbon dioxide is properly stored before receiving a closure certificate. These conditions should not be relegated to some-day regulations, as they currently are, given the potentially huge liability the government assumes once a closure certificate is issued.
In short, this legislation is lacking and actually creates new regulatory hurdles for ensuring that captured carbon is adequately stored.
Albertans should be concerned about the risks the government is taking with their health and the ecosystem and must call on government to amend this legislation before it is implemented.