NDP MP fires back at Suncor CEO after committee appearance on Parliament Hill

NDP MP Charlie Angus says he wasn’t impressed with what Suncor’s CEO Rich Kruger had to say before a Parliamentary committee Monday on his company’s commitment to reduce environmental harms.

“The message that we got from Suncor is very clear, they have no intention of taking responsibility for the damage they are doing to the planet and no intention of changing course, even when our planet is on fire,” Angus said at a news conference Tuesday.

Kruger was at the House of Commons natural resources committee to explain comments he made to shareholders in August about reducing his company’s emphasis on transitionIng to lower-emitting energy sources.

He said his comments were misinterpreted as Suncor ending its commitment to curbing its carbon footprint when the focus is really on ensuring the company is making profits now to be able to afford the required investments in decarbonization.

At the committee, Kruger said Suncor remained committed to eliminating its carbon footprint in less than three decades.

But he was accused by some MPs of greenwashing his industry’s efforts to address climate change, including after he said he hadn’t read the fine print on new federal regulations to cut emissions from gasoline and diesel.

The regulations took effect July 1, requiring gasoline and diesel producers and importers to offset their emissions through various investments, such as replacing power sources at oil extraction sites with renewable or lower-emitting energy, investing in the production of biofuels like ethanol, or investing in electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.

Bloc Québécois MP Mario Simard tried to have Kruger explain the cost the new clean fuel regulations will have on his company, whether those costs will be passed on to consumers and how they compare to Suncor’s main climate investment of installing a carbon capture and storage system.

“I’ve not studied the regulation in my six months in the job here,” said Kruger.

He said last year the company invested $540 million in decarbonization efforts.

Suncor is part of the Pathways Alliance, a consortium of oilsands companies joining together to invest in carbon capture. The technology has been in limited use to date but is a critical part of Canada’s emissions targets.

On Tuesday, Angus was joined by John Vaillant, author of “Fire Weather” – a true story based on the impact of the Fort McMurray wildfire. Vaillant also went before the committee.

He said listening to Kruger’s statements was like taking a step back.

“I really felt like I was in the 1980s in terms of the evolution of the message and the kind of business they still imagine themselves entitled to,” said Vaillant, “and the concessions they were making were, well, ‘We’ll burn some ethanol, we’ll do some carbon capture.’ They’re all tiny little micro maneuverings, in the face of a crisis.”

Vaillant said in a country as rich as Canada, there should be every opportunity to excel and profit from green energy transition.

Angus said it’s insane to be talking about fossil fuel developments when the climate is in crisis.

He called for clarity from the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, following a Supreme Court of Canada decision last week that struck down how Ottawa assesses the environmental impact of major infrastructure projects like pipelines.

“This government still has the power to move on the emissions cap, but I’ve seen no steps to actually make that happen,” Angus said in Ottawa.

“We’re calling on minister Guilbeault to tell us, what are you actually going to do right now, to respond to the Supreme Court and also to respond to the message we heard very clearly, that big oil is doubling down.”

Guilbeault said on Tuesday the government remains committed to the cap, and it shouldn’t be affected by last week’s court opinion labelling parts of the federal environmental assessment legislation as unconstitutional.

That decision said the Impact Assessment Act, which outlines how major projects like pipelines must be reviewed for environmental impacts, strayed into provincial jurisdiction at times by allowing Ottawa to make decisions about whether projects solely under provincial authority could proceed.

“I mean, obviously, we’re looking very carefully at what the Supreme Court did,” Guilbeault added. “But people shouldn’t forget that there was another Supreme Court decision, which was not an opinion, last year on carbon tax, which made it very clear that the federal government can act when it comes to climate change. And we can put a price on pollution, and that as a federal government we have jurisdiction to fight climate change.”

With files from the Canadian Press.

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