'Couple of hard lines': Alberta prepares Sovereignty Act motion to combat Ottawa's energy plan
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith isn't happy with the federal government's strategy for a net-zero transition and said she could use the Sovereignty Act to fight it.
She made the suggestion during a media availability on Thursday where the province launched a new campaign to encourage Canadians to call the federal government with their concerns about the Clean Electricity Regulations.
"We're preparing a Sovereignty Act motion," Smith said. "I'm hoping we don't have to use it – that's why we're at the table."
According to the Alberta government's website, the Sovereignty Act, which was passed last year, allows the province to fight federal laws and protects its constitutional freedoms.
"The act will be used to address federal legislation and policies that are unconstitutional, violate Albertans' charter rights or that affect or interfere with our provincial constitutional rights," the website reads.
While the draft regulations may seem like an opportunity to utilize the act, Smith said it isn't the first time she threatened to use it.
"I had a couple of hard lines," she said. "They had proposed an emissions cap that was unreasonable on fertilizer and they've dropped that because they realized that food production is at risk.
"They continue to talk about a 42 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 on oil and natural gas – that is not on. They are talking about 75 per cent plus reductions on methane by 2030."
Smith says her government has already "demonstrated good faith" by achieving emissions reductions of 44 per cent.
"These clean electricity regs, which would be a net-zero cap by 2035 are also not on," she said.
"If we can get aligned on 2050, then we won't need to build a fence to defend our constitution."
That 2050 target is a lot more achievable for Alberta, Smith said, suggesting that the federal government is "asking for perfection starting out of the gate."
"We know that we can use carbon capture utilization and storage but it's not perfect technology yet," she said.
"They want it to be 95 per cent effective starting in 2035 as if there isn't going to be incremental learning along the way."
Smith says other technologies, like nuclear power, will have to be researched before they can be brought online in Alberta.
"That's the kind of constructive and mutually beneficial conversation we want to have with Ottawa and if we do that, then I think we can come together on an agreement."
Earlier on Thursday, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) expressed its own concerns about Ottawa's net-zero target in 2035.
The agency said 72 per cent of Alberta's electricity in 2022 was produced by natural gas, with 12 per cent derived from coal.
The federal government's plan to shift to net-zero by 2035 would cost Alberta $118 billion, the AESO said.
While it could not provide a detailed analysis of its figures, it insisted the 2035 deadline would have a serious impact on the lives of everyday Albertans.
"Moving down this path is going to have a cost implication to each and every Albertan and every household," said AESO president and CEO Michael Law.
"The aspect that we are focusing on is the incremental cost of moving faster versus taking a slower, slightly more pragmatic approach to the transition."
CRITICS QUESTION CLAIMS
Multiple experts in the field told CTV News they don't entirely trust the data AESO revealed Thursday.
Dr. Sara Hastings-Simon, who is in the University of Calgary's Department of Earth, Energy and Environment, is one of those skeptics.
"Some of this discussion that's going on really does veer more into the political than the technical," she said.
"It's not a constructive way to address the challenges we need to address."
Hastings-Simon agrees that the federal proposal needs some tweaks, but she's optimistic it's still achievable by 2035.
She points to a shift away from coal -- something that was originally doubted.
"The technology we have available, and the cost of that technology, is progressing much faster than has been expected," she said.
"There are a lot of resources, technology and generation assets that we have the ability to take advantage of.
"We can go a lot further than is being suggested today."
Hastings-Simon said the province is correct in asking questions of the federal plan -- she just believes the conversations could be more constructive if approached in a different manner.
For now, she believes pushing grid goals back 15 years would be detrimental.
"Climate denialism has largely, in a lot of circles, been replaced by climate delay," she said.
"So the idea that we're going to push off targets to the future and slow down our action on climate is worrying."
The Alberta government is also looking outside its boundaries to drum up more support for its fight over the clean energy regulations.
The campaign, called TellTheFeds.ca, is appealing to all Canadians to contact Ottawa with their own concerns about a shift to net-zero by 2035.
It consists of radio, television and billboard advertisements.
The federal government is accepting public feedback on its CER until Nov. 2.
Feedback can be submitted through the government's Online Regulatory Online Consultation System.
(With files from Austin Lee and Timm Bruch)
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