Private funding for energy ministers meeting a ‘corrupting influence’

Author: 
Rebecca Penty
Source: 
Calgary Herald
Date published: 
Wed, 2011-07-13

A national environmental organization slammed corporate sponsorship of an upcoming meeting of energy ministers, funding the Alberta government and industry defended.

The Sierra Club Canada in a news release bashed the coverage of up to 30 per cent of costs tied to the July 16 to 19 conference in Kananaskis Country by “big oil,” calling money put up by energy firms and groups “a corrupting influence.”

Twelve oil and gas companies and industry organizations are together spending between $150,000 and $180,000 of the $600,000 it will cost for the annual meeting of provincial and territorial energy and mines ministers and their federal counterpart, according to the Alberta government, which is hosting the conference.

Starting Saturday, politicians will visit the Calgary Stampede, tour Alberta’s oilsands and spend time in Kananaskis discussing a proposed national energy framework, among other policy issues.

The Alberta Department of Energy said industry sponsorship will cover the oilsands tour — including flight costs estimated at $20,000 — as well as receptions, conference room rentals and the Alberta reception at the Boundary Ranch on Monday evening, which is in support of the STARS air ambulance charity.

John Bennett, executive director of the environmental advocacy group, said Canadians will be unable to separate the decisions made by the ministers with the industry funding.

“At the very least, it’s unseemly and it’s certainly a kind of lobbying we wouldn’t expect from our highest level officials,” Bennett said in an interview, noting his concern discussions will centre on the energy business, instead of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“They’re not talking about an energy strategy, they’re talking about an export strategy.”

The Sierra Club points to three “Olympic-sounding” levels of sponsorship on the website for the ministerial conference.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is labelled gold; silver goes to the Oil Sands Developers Group, Nexen Inc., TransCanada Corp. and Cenovus Energy Inc.; and bronze sponsors are Devon Energy Corp., Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, Shell Canada, Encana Corp. and Enbridge Inc.

Alberta Department of Energy spokesman Jay O’Neill said sponsorship by oil and gas companies does not change the nature of discussions.

The government doesn’t receive “a single penny” of sponsorship money, O’Neill said, noting that’s paid out to vendors offering services for the conference.

He argued environmental groups and green energy companies will also participate at meetings.

“The energy industry doesn’t just involve oil and gas companies, it involves wind companies, green technology companies, it’s not just oil and gas,” O’Neill said.

Don Thompson, president of the Oil Sands Developers Group, said his organization’s sponsorship is not monetary, but consists solely of hosting the tour.

“That got deemed to be silver-level sponsorship by whoever runs this,” Thompson said.

“I don’t know how energy ministers or anyone else can tour industrial facilities without the co-operation of industry,” he said.

“We are pleased to host them and have them see how the oilsands have become the cornerstone of Canada’s economy and Canada’s energy security and we are pleased to show them what we are doing to continuously improve our environmental footprint.”

RELATED:

Industry sponsorship of ministerial conference throws gasoline on a simmering fire  Calgary Herald, July 20, 2011

List of corporate sponsors raises eyebrows at energy summit  Postmedia News, July 13, 2011

Corporate sponsorship for energy meeting slammed  CBC News, July 13, 2011

No easy task for ministers to set national energy strategy in Kananaskis  Canadian Press, July 15, 2011

Big Oil sponsors energy meeting  News 660, July 13, 2011

Read the Sierra Club Canada Media Release

            

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