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This article was published 9/9/2011 (3135 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent is serving notice that he won't tolerate companies trying to sneak around pending regulations to clamp down on greenhouse-gas emissions.
Regulations for coal-fired electricity plants are not yet final, Kent said Friday, and he could still change the rules -- especially if corporate interests are trying to skirt them.
"Until the final regs are written, they're not written," he said. He emphasized that he has changed regulations at the last minute before -- for biofuels -- and he wouldn't hesitate to do it again if necessary.
Calgary-based Maxim Power Corp. is rushing to build a coal-fired plant in western Alberta that would emit far more greenhouse gas than proposed federal regulations would allow. However, under the new regulations, a company already operating by July 2015 could take 45 years to comply.
Maxim officials have told the Alberta Utilities Commission the company had assurances from Environment Canada that its plant would fall under existing rules as long as it is up and running by that time.
Environment Canada has never backed up that claim, environmentalists pointed out.
Kent said in the interview the aim of that grace period was to make sure there was no "stranded" capital -- long-term investments made under the old regime that would be rendered worthless if the new rules were to apply right away.
Kent said he never intended to create a loophole that would prompt companies to build rule-breaking plants quickly.
He suggested he will close that loophole, if necessary.
One option could include changing the date when the stricter standards apply to new plants. The clock would not start ticking for older plants until July 2015, but new plants would face an earlier compliance date.
Such a change would be easy to make, have no side-effects on the other regulations and effectively block Maxim and any other company from rushing development in order to duck tougher standards, said Chris Severson-Baker, a Calgary spokesman for the Pembina Institute.
Officials from Maxim did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Maxim won provincial approval in June to build its $1.7-billion, 500-megawatt plant near Grande Cache, Alta.
-- The Canadian Press