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No date set for Harper government’s long-promised curbs on oilsands
TTAWA—Canada’s ability to control pollution from the oilsands will sway U.S. President Barack Obama’s high-stakes decision on building the Keystone XL pipeline. But Ottawa’s new regulations — due July 1—have been delayed again and federal officials won’t say when they’re expected. Late this year, Obama will give a yes-or-no ruling on the proposed $7.6-billion project to carry oilsands derived crude from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The decision has huge political implications for Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The planned Keystone XL pipeline is the most prominent of a number of current proposals to give Canada’s oil and gas industry better access to export markets, which is crucial to the Harper government’s energy policies and the development of the oilsands in Alberta.
But Keystone has run into fierce opposition from environmentalists who say it will open the way for a vast expansion in oilsands production, which the greens say will increase the greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.
In a recent interview, Obama appeared to thrust Ottawa’s environmental stance into the spotlight.
Speaking of the final decision he must make on the Keystone proposal, Obama told the New York Times : “I meant what I said; I’m going to evaluate this based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere.”
Then Obama added: “And there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release.”
The Harper government has been working on environmental regulations for the petroleum industry, including the oilsands, since 2011. An announcement was expected by the end of 2012, but the government has been engaged in lengthy consultations with the industry and the provinces.
In March, then minister Peter Kent told a Commons committee that drafting the rules has taken longer than expected. Still, he said the process was in the final stages. Kent said he hoped to have the regulations out by mid-year. But July 1 passed without action by Environment Canada and now the department has a new minister , Leona Aglukkaq.
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