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Enviros should stop playing loose with the truth

Perusing this morning's Globe and Mail, I come across an oft-quoted environmentalist's assessment of greenhouse gas regulation south of the border:

"The EPA is now moving ahead even more aggressively to regulate industrial greenhouse-gas emissions," said Matthew Bramley, an analyst with the Calgary-based environmental group, Pembina Institute.

"So it is really time for the government of Canada to demonstrate whether its stated policy of harmonizing with the U.S. was purely rhetorical in order to delay, or whether it was meant seriously."

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Now, I understand that most environmental activists would have preferred a government led by Stephane Dion over one led by Stephen Harper. And that they aren't particularly high on the Conservative government's progress (along with Japan and Russia) in killing off the Kyoto agreement and replacing it with one that's more effective and also less damaging to Canada. I also appreciate their scepticism about the Alberta-based Conservatives' regulatory intentions at home.

But talk about pure rhetoric!

Contrary to Mr. Bramley's assessment, Ambassador Gary Doer and his staff at our embassy in Washington would be carefully monitoring the actual situation on the ground. These would be the very same officials, by the way, who advised the Harper government on harmonizing Canada's vehicle emission standards with the U.S., who witnessed first-hand the death of cap-and-trade south of the border and who will be advising on the success of President Obama's fall-back plan to achieve the emission reduction commitments undertaken in Copenhagen/Cancun.

And this is what these officials would have read only a few days ago in the New York Times about the state of play in Washington regarding the "even more aggressive" regulation of the Obama Administration:

For now, administration officials are treading lightly, fearful of inflaming an already charged atmosphere on the issue and mindful that its stated priorities are job creation and economic recovery. Officials are not seeking a major confrontation over carbon regulation, which offers formidable challenges even in a less stressed economic and political climate.

"If the administration gets it wrong, we're looking at years of litigation, legislation and public and business outcry," said a senior administration official who asked not to be identified so as not to provide an easy target for the incoming Republicans. "If we get it right, we're facing the same thing."

"Can we get it right?" this official continued. "Or is this just too big a challenge, too complex a legal, scientific, political and regulatory puzzle?"

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The immediate effect on utilities, refiners and major manufacturers will be small, with the new rules applying only to those planning to build large new facilities or make major modifications to existing plants. The environmental agency estimates that only 400 such facilities will be affected in each of the first few years of the program. Over the next decade, however, the agency plans to regulate virtually all sources of greenhouse gases, imposing efficiency and emissions requirements on nearly every industry and every region. …

Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the E.P.A., has promised to pursue a measured and moderate course. The agency announced last week that it would not even begin issuing standards for compliance until the middle of 2011, and when it did so the rules would not impose unreasonable costs on industry.

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