Cooperation on Climate a Threat To Canadian Sovereignty, Says TransCanada

TransCanada has made itself a defender of Canadian sovereignty in the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline this week as it fired back at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s recent letter to the State Department encouraging the US to work with its northern neighbour to address climate change in the tar sands.

“We commend the Department of State's efforts to estimate the life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with oil sands development and the proposed Project, to analyze the effect of the Project on Canadian oil sands production and to consider measures to reduce GHG emissions,” the EPA wrote.

They recommended the Final EIS "complement this discussion with an exploration of specific ways that the U.S. might work with Canada to promote further efforts to reduce GHG emissions associated with the production of oil sands crude, including a joint focus on carbon capture and storage projects and research, as well as ways to improve energy efficiency associated with extraction technologies.”

TransCanada’s reply expressed surprise at the “scope and tone of the EPA’s comments,” given that they had seen the agency as largely cooperative thus far.  

“The EPA’s recommendation that the State Department explore ways for the US to involve itself in ways to reduce GHG emissions from the Canadian oil sands ignores the fundamental sovereignty of the Canadian government, as well as the significant steps that Canada and Alberta have already taken in this direction. Respectfully, this goes far beyond the mandate of the EPA and legislators and others would not appreciate other countries interfering in issues of American federal or state sovereignty.”

But where did TransCanada get the idea that international cooperation on climate change might constitute a threat to Canadian sovereignty?

As Inside Climate News pointed out, there is nothing “unusual about the State Department working with other countries on ways to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. On a recent trip to Asia, Secretary of State John Kerry worked out a significant agreement with China promising to do just that.”

In the past, the conservative government has been more than eager to have the US take the lead on climate change, especially when American targets were behind Canadian targets. This was true both in the Harper government’s decision to pull out of the Kyoto Accord and its strategy at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

"Given the integration of our two economies it is essential our targets remain in line—not more, not less," then Environment Minister Jim Prentice said in 2009 about their decision to marry the two country’s climate policies.

Indeed, conservative legislators have always been committed to international cooperation when it came to strategies to lower trade barriers. This was true of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1987 and is true of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Partnership and Protection Agreement (FIPA) today. And it is certainly true of the Keystone XL Pipeline itself. Why should they be averse to partnering on climate change as well?

TransCanada’s willingness to speak on behalf of the Canadian government seems especially odd, given that Premier Alison Redford went to such lengths to distance herself from the company after her speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington.

There she told reporters, that it’s "a private company that has a commercial interest, that is going through a process where they are addressing the issues that need to be addressed by decision-makers in the United States."

So who designated TransCanada defender of Canadian sovereignty? It certainly wasn’t the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which plans to fight tar sands expansion tooth and nail for its encroachment on its sovereignty.

Perhaps TransCanada is simply taking its cue from Cenovus, whose advertising campaign last year unabashedly equated Canadian pride with tar sands development?

Image Credit: palindrome6996 via Flickr

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