Canadian Senate committee passes amendments to controversial energy bill

Environment

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – A Canadian Senate committee has passed 187 amendments to a controversial energy bill proposed by the Liberal government that would change how the environmental impact of major projects like oil export pipelines is assessed.

FILE PHOTO: Jason Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Party (UCP), meets as Alberta premier-designate with the media in front of the Legislature Building in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Candace Elliott

The amendments, approved late on Thursday, were welcomed by the premier of Canada’s main crude-producing province Alberta, but environmental groups warned they represent a step backwards in Canada’s commitment to tackling climate change.

Bill C-69 will now go back to the Senate, which will vote on the amendments, and then to the House of Commons for final approval, where the government can accept, reject or further amend the legislation.

“The oil and gas industry has won a huge victory with these amendments,” said Joshua Ginsberg, a lawyer for environmental group Ecojustice, who said the number of amendments to the bill were “unprecedented”.

Bill C-69 proposes sweeping changes to the way major projects are assessed in Canada, building on an election pledge from Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to restore trust in the environmental approval process.

But energy industry critics said it will deter investment in the oil industry by creating uncertainty and giving too much power to the federal government by allowing ministers to veto projects.

The amendments to Bill C-69 address many of those concerns and come a day after another Senate committee recommended the federal government scrap a proposed bill that would ban oil tankers from docking along British Columbia’s northern coast.

Canada’s oil and gas industry has painted both bills as an attack on the energy sector and campaigned fiercely to have them amended or pulled altogether.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney said on Thursday that the battles against the two pieces of legislation had not yet been won and there was still more work to do.

“We will continue to fight for Albertans and fight against these pieces of proposed legislation,” he told reporters.

Canada’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Nia Williams, additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Susan Thomas

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