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Fossil Lobby Demands Massive Deregulation in ‘Crass Attempt to Exploit Global Pandemic’

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The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) called on the federal government to suspend more than 30 environmental regulations, laws, and policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic, in a 13-page letter issued March 27 and released last week by Environmental Defence.

The missive to Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan and seven other cabinet ministers amounted to an “overreach” and a “crass attempt to exploit a global pandemic,” reflecting a “radical agenda” to deregulate fossil fuels, Environmental Defence National Program Manager Dale Marshall told The Mix in an interview Friday afternoon.

Items on the association’s wish list included “monitoring of impacts of job sites on migratory birds, the testing of pollution from stacks, or inspections of activities that could cause harm to fisheries in bodies of water,” Global News reports. CAPP also asked Ottawa to delay implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and government action on climate change, and to allow fossil lobbyists to postpone their own disclosures to the federal lobbying registry until the end of July.

“The openness to dialogue you and colleagues in cabinet have shown since the beginning of this crisis has been greatly appreciated,” wrote CAPP President Tim McMillan. 

“Just because we’re in one crisis right now doesn’t mean we can forget about the other one—the climate crisis that we are also facing as a world and as a country,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded during a media announcement Friday.

In a post summarizing a three-page analysis of the CAPP demands, Marshall called the letter “quite appalling,” adding that it “has nothing to do with COVID or the desperate global economics of oil and gas. This is a crass attempt by oil companies to exploit a global health crisis to ram through every demand they’ve ever made, and many they never would have tried if there wasn’t a global emergency.”

Marshall said he was particularly taken aback by CAPP’s bid to attach its demands to the guiding principle of medicine and public health: first do no harm, first attributed to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. 

“It’s clear Big Oil is only selfishly referring to any actions government might take that impacts the industry’s bottom line,” Marshall writes. “The measures they are demanding would put Canadians at risk, threaten birds, fish, and other wildlife, and obliterate any hope for Canada in meeting its international obligations to fight climate change.” 

It’s “particularly galling,” he adds, “that the oil and gas industry is essentially saying that protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples should take a back seat to its own narrow self-interests.”

Indigenous Climate Action (ICA) responded after asking other Indigenous organizations whether they’d been informed about the letter or CAPP’s lobbying activity. “We were taken aback to find out that they were not,” said Executive Director Erial Deranger. “It is alarming to know that we are the last to know about activities that could have dire consequences, not only to our health and safety, but the survival of our inherent and treaty rights. This isn’t new to us, and it’s time these deliberate strategies meant to undermine Indigenous Peoples’ land rights are called out.”

ICA’s release added that the UN declaration “serves as an important tool not only for Indigenous communities, but in the global challenge to find solutions to the current climate and economic crisis. Indigenous models of land stewardship, economics, and way of life provide critical blueprints for planetary survival and are informing new standards of environmental policies the world over.”

On Friday afternoon, Environmental Defence’s Marshall told The Mix there were a handful of reasonable requests buried in the CAPP letter, like allowing electronic signatures under transportation of dangerous good regulations. “What? They don’t do that already?” he asked.

“There are some things we don’t object to, like a couple of additional months for them to submit their greenhouse gas estimates for facilities,” he said. “They’re dealing with a lot, like everyone else, and their getting a break on reporting that’s not immediately an issue is fine.” But those requests amount to “a few reasonable ideas in a large package of things that are not only bad for Canadian citizens overall, but have nothing to do with COVID.”

Much of the letter was recycled from CAPP’s platform for the 2019 federal election, “and clearly they’ve failed in those demands, because two-thirds of Canadians voted for parties that weren’t in line with the CAPP agenda,” he added.

But CAPP’s latest goes well beyond that agenda. “I’ve not seen requests before around well safety or oil travelling by rail,” Marshall said. “After Lac Mégantic, they want to delay the timeline for bringing in safer rail cars. Think about that for a second. A number of ideas in there would just not fly under normal circumstances, and they’re using a global pandemic to push a radical agenda—let’s call it for what it is.”

And “couching it all in human health terms is despicable, because so many of these measures will make Canadians less safe and more unhealthy, with greater air pollution, less rail safety in communities, no monitoring for methane, no monitoring for other pollutants. So many of these things are going to end up doing harm if they’re followed by the government.”

While the CAPP demands won’t be adopted as a package, Marshall added, “there are items that may seem appealing to a government that’s trying to find some ‘balance’ between economic recovery and the demands of the oil and gas industry in Alberta, versus doing what’s actually best for the citizens of Canada.”

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