Feds discuss common emissions standards with U.S. for oil and gas sector

OTTAWA – Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says Canada wants to collaborate with the United States on common emissions targets for oil-sands extraction, fracking and other unconventional sources of oil and gas.

Co-ordinated North American emissions standards have long been the stated policy goal of the Harper government, but Oliver — speaking in Washington after a meeting with the U.S. energy secretary — says it’s time to take that collaboration to a “higher level.”

The backdrop to Oliver’s Washington visit Monday was a leaked report that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has written directly to U.S. President Barack Obama on the issue.

Regulations for Canada’s oil and gas sector have been under negotiation for years between Ottawa, the Alberta government and industry representatives without producing a policy.

It is not clear how adding the White House to the mix could affect those negotiations, but one Alberta source familiar with the talks said it may be designed to “set the cat among the pigeons.”

Oliver says he repeated his pitch for the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Alberta bitumen south, but he did not draw a direct link between oil and gas sector regulations and U.S. approval of the controversial pipeline — which has become a rallying point for environmentalists concerned about climate change.