Big Oil Goes To Work Lobbying For Oil Sands
The Canadian corporate giants dominating Alberta oil sands
extraction and refining lobbied the federal government intensively this
summer, federal records show.
The campaign began shortly after Liberal Leader Stephane Dion
unveiled his plan for $15 billion worth of new taxes on carbon
emissions and continued through July.
Oil and gas lobbyists held several meetings with Industry Minister
Jim Prentice and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, one meeting with
Environment Minister John Baird, and a string of meetings with top
government officials including aides to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The Liberal tax plan, feared in Western Canada, was likely discussed, an industry source said.
But the lobbying also reflected industry concern over the
Conservative government’s plan to use the Criminal Code, under the
authority of environmental protection law, to enforce its own
greenhouse gas reduction plan, the source added.
Records show the companies that engaged in the lobbying were Shell
Canada, Petro-Canada, Suncor, Imperial Oil, Chevron Canada, Encana
Corp., ConocoPhillips and Nexen Inc.
Three major industry organizations - the Canadian Association of
Petroleum Producers, another group representing small producers and
explorers, and a third representing firms that market and distribute
petroleum products - also took part in the campaign.
During the same period, lobbyists for 14 other associations and
companies with a stake in the Liberal plan, as well as the regulatory
regime the Conservatives are planning, also met with ministers,
bureaucrats and political assistants. Among them were the Coal
Association of Canada, the Canadian Electricity Association,
Hydro-Quebec, Ontario Power Corp., Nova Scotia Power, the Canadian Gas
Association and the Canadian Nuclear Association.
The oil sands companies held a total of 36 meetings with ministers
and government officials. Four of the meetings reported by Chevron
Canada appeared to involve offshore oil development in the Atlantic. A
major technology supply firm for the oil sands, Amec Americas, also
reported one lobbying session.
Only seven environmental groups and associations reported lobbying
activity, primarily with ministerial assistants and senior bureaucrats.
Officials speaking on behalf of several of the oil companies and
petroleum organizations declined to disclose details of the talks. One
even objected to use of the word “lobbying” to describe the meetings.
The public reports require only one-word descriptions of the issues
being discussed. Most of the July reports listed both energy and
environment as the topics.
Pierre Alvarez, president of the oil and gas producers association,
said the meeting his organization reported with Prentice and Lunn was a
general overview of the industry, including supply forecasts, that took
place in the company of the U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins.
A spokeswoman for Suncor Energy Ltd., one of the oldest and largest
participants in the oil sands, said she was not given specific details
to release by company officials.
“When we’re speaking with the government, we’re speaking about
everything from environmental issue that affect our business to energy
supply within Canada and abroad, as well as capital and jobs and
economic impact,” said Shawn Davis, the media relations officer for
Suncor. “When you’re asking did we speak about the oil sands, I think
yes, we would definitely have been speaking about the oil sands and our
business,” she said.
All registered consultant lobbyists, as well as companies and
organizations that use in-house lobbyists to put their case to the
federal government, must file monthly reports of meetings with
designated public office holders. July was the first month the new
monitoring regime introduced by the Conservative government took effect.
A spokesman for Baird, who met a lobbyist with only one of the
firms, Shell Canada, confirmed there was discussion of proposed
regulations to enforce greenhouse gas emission limits under the
Conservatives’ so-called Turning the Corner plan.
“The agenda included domestic and international climate change
policy, low-carbon fuels and biofuels,” Chris Day, Baird’s press
secretary, said in an email. “The minister took their views into
consideration. The government is proceeding with its Turning the Corner
The Tory plan has been criticized by environmentalists and the
opposition parties, in part because its greenhouse gas reduction
targets are far short of the 1997 Kyoto Accord. As well, critics say
the industry will be able to avoid reductions by contributing to a
so-called Green Technology Fund.
But industry resistance is currently focused on the fact that
regulations limiting the emission of greenhouse gases will be enforced
through the Canadian Environmental Protection Act under the federal
government’s criminal-law power - a necessity because the environment
and natural resources are under constitutional jurisdiction of the
The C.D. Howe Institute, a conservative research and opinion group,
published a legal analysis last week by constitutional expert Peter
Hogg, an Osgoode Hall law professor in Toronto, predicting the Supreme
Court of Canada would likely uphold the regulations.
The previous Liberal government added six greenhouse gases,
including carbon dioxide, to a list of toxic substances in the
Environmental Protection Act, giving the federal government a measure
with which to enforce a national scheme to curb greenhouse gas
But the industry is concerned about using criminal sanctions to
enforce the complicated system of measuring and attributing emissions.