Premier Scott Moe, in announcing Saskatchewan’s electricity emissions plan, on May 16. Photo by Brian Zinchuk

REGINA – An irresistible force – federal greenhouse gas reduction initiatives – is meeting an immovable object – the Saskatchewan government under Premier Scott Moe.

The growing dust-up had the federal environment minister threaten Criminal Code sanctions for the continued burning of coal past 2030. If someone’s going to jail, Moe said, “Come get me.”

On Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe reiterated Saskatchewan will continue to burn coal and natural gas to generate power in this province until those facilities reach their expected ends of life. “In Saskatchewan, we will not attempt the impossible when it comes to power production in our province. We will not risk plunging our homes, our schools, our hospitals, our special care homes, our businesses into the into the cold and darkness because of the ideological whims of others. We will not increase power costs for our businesses and our families to the point where they become completely unaffordable.”

This is in reaction to the proposed federal Clean Electricity Standard, which would require all fossil fuel power generation in Canada to cease by 2035. Previous regulations ban coal-fired power (without carbon capture) past 2030. Natural gas-fired power generation would only be allowed in exceptional circumstances. Saskatchewan’s plan would aim for next zero greenhouse gas emissions from power by 2050, largely by the adoption of nuclear power.

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This past winter, on several occasions up to 84 per cent of Saskatchewan’s power came from natural gas and coal, especially on days when wind power generation utterly collapsed and the temperatures were frigid.

Federal minister suggests criminal implications

On Wednesday, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault said that the coal regulations exist within the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and violating them would be illegal.

“We’ve regulated the ban on coal through CEPA, which is a criminal tool that the federal government has,” he said. “So not complying with this regulation would be a violation of Canada’s Criminal Code.”

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault announcing the new social cost. Twitter/Steven Guilbeault

 

Come get me

On Thursday, Moe responded defiantly. “First and foremost, I would say, you know, if where we’ve come to in this country is when, you know, individuals in this province, or any other provinces, flick their lights on or their furnace kicks in, that’s deemed illegal and cause for someone to someone to, to go to jail, come get me.

“We’re standing up for an affordable, reliable power supply here in Saskatchewan. None of those are provided by the federal plan, that net-zero plan by 2035.

“We need to have access to power in this province. It needs to be affordable for the folks that live here, and it needs to be reliable for the people that live here.

“Why would we spend $20 billion extra for a less reliable power system in Saskatchewan, one that at least will double in cost and quite likely could triple or quadruple.

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Moe continued, “In addition to Saskatchewan families and ensuring that their power supply is there when they turn the lights on, and that it’s affordable, that they can actually afford the power that’s being provided. We have industries that use large amounts of power, here in the province, industries that employ people in community after community from corner to corner to corner to corner in this in this province. We need to have a competitive power rate and to ensure that those industries continue to operate here. And then to ensure that those industries that are looking at investing here, most certainly, have that opportunity.

“The largest potash mining industry in the world is right here, in Saskatchewan the most sustainable potash mining industry in the world is right here, in Saskatchewan. The same goes for agriculture. The same goes for the uranium that we produce. The steel that we produce, just north of the city here. The value-add that we’re seeing in the agricultural and the agri-food world.

“The timber industry are employing again many, many First Nations and Metis people in the area of the province where I live, in that forest fringe, is undergoing unprecedented investment expansion. And so, these are all positive, positive investment announcements in Saskatchewan, contributing to that population growth, contributing to that that GDP growth, contributing to that export growth.

“But most certainly, it could all be put at risk could all be put at risk with the doubling or tripling or quadrupling of, of the power rates in Saskatchewan.

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Unanimous motion

On Wednesday, a government motion in the legislature was passed unanimously stating, “That this Assembly recognizes that the federal government’s electrical generation target of net zero emissions by 2035 is unrealistic and unaffordable in Saskatchewan; and further, That this Assembly supports the provincial government’s made-in-Saskatchewan plan for affordable, reliable power generation to 2035 and beyond.”

An opposition amendment calling on the government “to make significant investments in renewable power to ensure reliable, affordable, sustainable power and seize the economic opportunity that comes with green jobs” was defeated. Even so, the New Democratic Party joined the Saskatchewan Party in voting for the original motion.

To that end Moe said, “So we were pleased, when the opposition joined the government in supporting the Saskatchewan plan, a plan to ensure that we have the opportunity, as a province, to determine if we’re going to run our natural gas facilities, one of this kit which came online, one will come online next year, one’s just announced, it hasn’t been built yet. But we can run those out to the end of their life. As a province we reserve the right to make that decision.

“The same goes for a coal-fired facilities.

“And most certainly, we were pleased to see the opposition join the government in supporting the incorporation of nuclear power in our province as we move forward through the years.”

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Not about a fight with the feds

Moe added, “But as I said yesterday, this isn’t about fighting with the federal government. This is about representing Saskatchewan people and ensuring they have that affordable, reliable electricity, access to electricity for decades into the future. There’s actually, in here, lies an opportunity for the federal government to work alongside the Province of Saskatchewan and we’ve asked them to work alongside the Province of Saskatchewan in funding part of our quest for that affordable reliable electricity access, but also in reducing our emissions as we move forward through the next number of decades.

“And so, you know, the opportunity is there. I would say the first step that the federal government has in putting their best foot forward, and working with provinces. because this is not exclusively a Saskatchewan problem. Other provinces will not meet net-zero by 2035 either. Some stated, some unstated. And here’s the opportunity, and the first opportunity, I think, for the federal government to show that they are listening and willing to work with provinces, is to go back to the drawing board with their Clean Electricity Standards, go back to the drawing board with their unrealistic net-zero by 2035 targets, and start working with provinces on what is actually possible, and actually working with those provinces on how they’re going to fund what’s possible.

“You think of the comparison. You think of the jobs that are created by and by the investments of the $13 billion investments that the federal government has made in the Volkswagen plant. No talks of just transition, you know, regional roundtables that are pre-empted with that topic of just transition or anything like that. Volkswagen didn’t have to take part in any of those discussions. Think of the jobs that our ask, as a $6 billion ask. Saskatchewan would chip in $22 billion over the next decade in that Saskatchewan plan. Think of the jobs that are not only preserved in Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan industries that are large electrical user. Evraz steel. Think of the potash mining industry, the uranium mining industry, the timber industry, the agriculture industry, all the retail industries in all of our communities, by having that affordable, competitively priced power. Most certainly, those will not only preserve the jobs that we have, today, in our province, but will preserve the rate of growth of jobs that we’re having. with 5,600 new jobs this year. We’re building on 20,000 Last year, I guess there’s a good and smart investment we would say in an opportunity that we have provided to the federal government to work hand-in-hand with the province of Saskatchewan in ensuring future growth of this province, and ultimately contributing to future growth of the nation to Canada.

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Handcuffs?

As for going to jail for keeping the power plants running, Moe said, “If Prime Minister Trudeau, Justin Trudeau is the Prime Minister and Guilbeault, Minister Guilbeault is the environment minister on January the first, 2031, They can come and get me. I mean, we’re standing up for the people of this province, the access to affordable, reliable electricity. Running our assets that we built out to the end of their life should not be illegal. And I certainly would hope that this is not a nation where that would be deemed so.

Moe noted he would likely be reaching out to federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre to “walk him through this plan.”

“We’ve talked to other provinces as well on where we are, on where we can collaborate and where some of our challenges are. And there are many challenges when it comes to a net-zero by 2035.” Even though Ontario is already at 94 per cent emissions-free power, and yet they are building 10 natural gas-fired power plants, he noted. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have coal-fired power plants that similarly have end of life dates in the 2040s, Moe said. Nova Scotia has four coal and petcoke-fired power plants. New Brunswick has one coal plant, and one that runs on fuel oil, and five that operate on natural gas or diesel.

“I understand the reasoning behind trying to green your grid, but you also have to understand that the reality behind greening your grid,” Moe said.

 

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Asking Moe: What if the feds order power plants be shut down, and the Supreme Court backs them?

Saskatchewan running coal power later than 2030 would be illegal: Guilbeault