OTTAWA, July 17 (Reuters) - Canada’s provinces reached a long-sought deal on Friday over an energy plan for the country, agreeing broadly to curb greenhouse gas emissions while also promoting the use of pipelines.
The oil-producing province of Alberta originally conceived the strategy as a way to ensure that it could move its fuel to market. The plan was changed at the insistence of some of the provinces to reflect their desire to fight climate change.
Alberta and Saskatchewan have limited markets for their land-locked oil, with environmentalists opposing pipelines that have to go through other provinces to reach the Pacific or Atlantic oceans.
These include the Energy East pipeline proposed by TransCanada Corp, which is also trying to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline through the United States.
Canada’s provinces agreed to ensure that regional, Canadian and international infrastructure exists for sending energy products to domestic and international markets.
The agreement was announced following the premiers’ annual summer conference, which was held this year in St. John‘s, Newfoundland.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said he was more comfortable with the stronger language in Friday’s document on ensuring there is infrastructure in place to get energy to market.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, whose government has said Energy East must meet seven conditions before being allowed through the province, sounded conciliatory and mindful of the Lac-Megantic oil-by-rail disaster in his province in 2013.
“The bottom (line) is, oil will have to move,” he told reporters. “If it’s not moving by pipeline, it’s moving by rail. Is it really better by rail or safer by rail? I can tell you that in Quebec we have a different perspective on this.”
The energy plan includes goals and efforts for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but did not lay out specifics.
Ontario already plans to join a cap-and-trade market system set up by Quebec and California to reduce carbon emissions, while British Columbia has a carbon tax.
The Environmental Defence group said Friday’s plan marked “a big step backwards” by lending support to pipelines and weakening language on climate change. (Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Lisa Von Ahn)