Good morning, Madam Chair, and members of the committee. Thank you for inviting me to join you today to share our industry's views during your review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
My name is Sherry Sian, and I am manager of environment at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. CAPP represents companies, both large and small, that explore for, develop, and produce crude oil throughout Canada. Our member companies produce about 85% of Canada's oil and gas resources, while associate members provide services in support of their efforts.
CAPP's vision is to enhance Canada's prosperity by the responsible growth of Canada's upstream oil and gas industry. Socially responsible development and sound environmental performance are prerequisites for acceptance of this development.
While developing our oil and gas resources for the benefit of Canadians, our industry also releases, produces, and uses substances that are subject to CEPA and other provincial and territorial regulations that manage associated risks to the environment and to human health. In short, upstream oil and gas is heavily regulated at multiple levels. Nevertheless, we are committed to responsible development, which requires us to understand the risks of these substances; identify the stages in upstream activity where these risks exist; implement systems to detect, assess, manage, and monitor those risks; and show, through transparent reporting, the effectiveness of our management efforts.
CEPA supports the responsible development of Canada's oil and gas resources by providing tools for the prevention of pollution and for the protection of the environment and human health. To that end, CAPP participates in many multi-stakeholder processes dedicated to the implementation of CEPA. Our industry is active in federal consultative processes, such as the NPRI multi-stakeholder work group. We also engage in provincial and territorial multi-stakeholder processes—such as, but not limited to, Alberta's Clean Air Strategic Alliance—that play a supportive role in achieving CEPA outcomes.
We believe CEPA is a critical element in Canada's global leadership in environmental performance and can provide a valuable bridge between federal, provincial, and territorial initiatives.
Today our comments will focus on modernizing CEPA through targeted refinements to improve more coordinated and collaborative achievement of outcomes under the act.
I'd like to start off with a bit of a discussion about some key definitions and what we view as their implications in terms of CEPA implementation.
CAPP does agree with Environment and Climate Change Canada's view that the meaning of the term “toxic” under CEPA departs from commonplace understanding. The implication of this difference is that the risk is assessed on the basis of both the intrinsic hazard of a substance and the potential exposure of Canadians and the environment. This approach poses challenges to risk-ranking and hinders the effective and efficient prioritization of management actions.
The broad definition of “substance” in CEPA is equally problematic. While the definition clearly enables flexibility, the scope also captures naturally occurring substances, and these substances may be released, not created, by human activity. In this case, CEPA cannot fully meet its objectives, because naturally occurring substances cannot be fully eliminated. Any management emphasis on the production, import, and use of substances is potentially rendered less relevant.
The more salient issue is the properties of these substances and how best to manage them, given their interaction with their receiving environment. A place-based approach, such as that enabled under instruments like Alberta's land use framework—and we're starting to see other infrastructure built around cumulative effects assessment and management in B.C.—is well suited to consider natural variability, the resilience of the receiving environment, and factors affecting bioavailability. There is a great opportunity for CEPA to play a role in terms of evidence-based decision-making. As we all know, fiscal, technical, and administrative resources for environmental management are finite.
Wherever possible, modernization should improve data standardization, make data collection more efficient, automate data integration among federal, provincial, and territorial platforms, help to prioritize pollutants and emission sources, provide a focus on cost-effective opportunities for emissions reduction, and offer a robust picture on status and trends.
We believe that CEPA has some fundamental elements that support evidence-based decision-making through the chemicals management plan and the National Pollutant Release Inventory. The data collected through these tools support evidence-based decisions. Currently our industry also provides data through a multitude of other avenues, such as project assessments and the monitoring and reporting obligations embedded within our regulatory approvals. We believe there are many opportunities for process improvement to collect data better, faster, and cheaper, and to improve the return on investment through the design of more focused policies and programs.
Many positive outcomes could be realized through a more balanced apportionment of resources between assessment functions and management aspects of CEPA, which would help to accelerate reduction and/or elimination efforts, minimize health risks, promote the development of cleaner technologies, use energy and materials and resources more efficiently, minimize the need for costly enforcement, limit future liability, and avoid costly cleanup in the future.
We believe that these outcomes are good for the government and good for industry. By focusing on those tools that support cost-effective efforts, we can realize greater public acceptance for the responsible development of natural resources in Canada.
To that end, we also think that some targeted refinements would be quite helpful in terms of supporting coordination under CEPA.
CEPA includes provisions that allow the federal government to enter into equivalency agreements with provincial, territorial, and aboriginal governments. These arrangements help to enable tailored, place-based responses to address constraints. As a case in point, that could be infrastructure for tie-ins that might be important to facilitate emissions management and capitalize on strengths where you may have regional networks, such as for the purpose of monitoring, as in joint oil sands monitoring. Together, these types of approaches can support the effective and efficient delivery of CEPA outcomes.
We see an appetite for pursuing these equivalency agreements. However, the process is a lengthy one, which cannot begin until all regulatory instruments have been completed. Ideally, CEPA could offer more general guidance on key elements of pollution prevention and management programs to safeguard human health and the environment. This approach could then inform the provinces and territories in their regulatory design efforts in order to expedite process to affirm equivalency; avoid regulatory duplication; allow federal, provincial, and territorial regulators to focus on areas of strength; and provide assurance that outcomes of CEPA are being met.
Additionally, we also see CEPA playing a very important role in terms of driving performance improvement, including for our industry. Our industry continues to make improvements to better use publicly available data to inform our understanding and perception of our own performance. We are increasingly using this information and third party research on management gaps and risks to set priorities for research and innovation.
We undertake this work in conjunction with several different organizations, including the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada, the BC Oil and Gas Research Innovation Society, and Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. These organizations draw upon the knowledge and expertise of leading scientists to fill knowledge gaps and help to prioritize the most meaningful opportunities for clean technology, deployment, and practice innovation.
In summary, CEPA provides a solid foundation for evidence-based decision-making through an appropriate balance of assessment and management of risks to environment and human health while driving innovation to improve environmental performance. The issue is not only whether improvements can be made to CEPA but also whether CEPA can be used more effectively to improve coordination and collaboration among the various jurisdictions.
To that end, CAPP believes that CEPA should surgically augment existing tools to prevent pollution and protect the environment and human health while providing a coherent picture of Canada's progress in fulfilling its international obligations.
Thank you very much.