Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says visiting American senators have promised to help set up meetings with the U.S. government's energy department to discuss carbon capture projects.
The three senators were in Saskatoon on Saturday for talks on energy and agriculture issues after a tour of Alberta's oilsands on Friday.
Wall says the senators agreed to arrange meetings that could help secure funding for joint projects between Saskatchewan and the U.S. for developing ways to capture carbon dioxide emissions and store them underground, or reuse them.
The province had an earlier deal with Montana that would have piped CO2 from a SaskPower coal plant to the state for underground storage, but the deal has changed due to a lack of federal funding from both the Canadian and U.S. governments.
Wall says there are now other U.S. partners interested in the project, and he says Saskatchewan will still be pursuing support from the U.S. Department of Energy.
"That's what part of this meeting was about because the specific deal with Montana has changed. But there are other U.S. interests that could easily fit into the project and we're going to still be pursuing the U.S. Department of Energy support for it," Wall said Saturday after meeting with the senators.
"They indicated a willingness to help facilitate some important meetings with the Department of Energy which was very welcome and we're going to pursue that."
South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham noted that half the power in his state comes from coal, so he's very interested in carbon capture and sequestration technology, as well as clean coal projects in Saskatchewan.
"This province is leading the way for the world, and capturing CO2 not only gives us cleaner air, it makes sure coal is viable," Graham told media Saturday morning.
Graham, along with fellow Republican Saxby Chambliss from Georgia and Democrat Kay Hagen from North Carolina also discussed the contentious beef country-of-origin labelling issue with Wall. Following their discussions with the premier, they met with representatives from uranium mining giant Cameco.
Carbon capture remains a largely unproven concept considered key for addressing climate change.
But Wall said there is already a successful project in Weyburn where captured carbon dioxide is being pumped into mature oil wells so that more oil can be extracted. The project uses underground pipes to feed greenhouse gases from a coal gasification facility in Beulah, N.D., to oil fields in Weyburn, Sask.
Wall said Hagen and Graham saw the Weyburn project when they visited the province last year and that they understand the importance of Canada as a clean energy supplier.
"Forty per cent of the world's stored CO2 is stored in Sask," Wall said.
On Friday, the senators flew over Alberta's oilsands and were led on a tour of the operations by Premier Ed Stelmach.
"We need to be buying more oil from Canada," Hagen said in Saskatoon, noting that Canada is a safer supply for energy than the Middle East, where she says many countries are enemies of the U.S.
Chabliss, meanwhile, said he was impressed with how well land had been reclaimed from oilsands development following the tour with Stelmach.
Earlier this month, world-renowned ecologist David Schindler published a study that he says proves the oilsands is emitting heavy metals including mercury and lead into the Athabasca watershed. That finding contradicts the position of government scientists, who have long maintained that such toxins are the result of the river eroding naturally occurring bitumen deposits.
Chambliss told The Canadian Press on Friday that the senators did not talk to environmentalists, scientists or aboriginal people who live downstream from the oilsands who have voiced concerns about the adverse impacts of pollution.
The Canadian Press