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Oil-rich Alberta lifts levy on carbon output, ups target for cuts

CALGARY, Alberta - Oil-rich Alberta will raise the cost of greenhouse-gas emissions for large industrial plants and boost targets for emission cuts as its new government took action on Thursday to strengthen the Canadian province's environmental ...

CALGARY, Alberta - Oil-rich Alberta will raise the cost of greenhouse-gas emissions for large industrial plants and boost targets for emission cuts as its new government took action on Thursday to strengthen the Canadian province's environmental reputation.

Alberta is the largest source of U.S. oil imports, and its oil sands plants are Canada's fastest-growing source of carbon-dioxide emissions.

The province has faced harsh international criticism for what has been perceived as lax oversight of its oil sands industry. Environmental groups have used its record of rising emissions in their efforts to block TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline from the oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast as well as other projects.

Alberta's recently elected left-leaning New Democratic Party government said it will boost the cost of excess greenhouse-gas output to C$20 per tonne at the start of 2016 from the current C$15 levy, and raise it further to C$30 per tonne, at the beginning of 2017. Its target for carbon emissions cuts will climb to 15 percent of normal emissions in 2016 from 12 percent, and then rise to 20 percent in 2017.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said the new targets and levies will serve to burnish the province's reputation.

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"If we get it right, our environmental policy will make us world leaders on this issue instead of giving us a black eye around the world," Phillips told a news conference.

The new rules are an extension of Alberta's current climate-change regime. Introduced in 2007, the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation was due to expire at month's end, prompting the minister to extend the policy to the end of 2017.

Phillips has appointed an expert panel to draft new rules on greenhouse gas reductions to come into place when the existing regulations expire. The panel is expected to release a preliminary proposal ahead of a key United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December.

The new measures were welcomed by environmental groups who have long demanded the province tighten its rules.

"Today's news sends an important signal both inside and outside Alberta, and is a solid set of first steps," Dan Woynillowicz, director of policy for Clean Energy Canada, said in a statement.

Related Topics: ALBERTA
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