B.C. launches consultations on land-based spill capabilities



The Government of British Columbia has launched a major consultative initiative to gauge the province's capabilities to respond to large scale, land-based oil pipeline spills.

Building on five previously announced conditions for the approval of heavy-oil pipelines - most notably the proposed Embridge Northern Gateway pipeline to bring heavy oil from Alberta to tidewater in Kitimat, the government is releasing a policy development discussion paper that will lead to comprehensive stakeholder engagement in the new year.

Beginning in January, Environment Minister Terry Lake and Energy and Mines Minister Rich Coleman will hold face-to-face meetings with industry leaders in the oil, gas, chemical and transport sectors to discuss key elements outlined in Land Based Spill Preparedness and Response in British Columbia: Policy Intentions Paper for Consultation, such as:

  • Establishing a world-leading regime for land-based spill preparedness and response.
  • Developing effective and efficient rules for restoration of the environment following a spill.
  • Ensuring effective government oversight and co-ordination of industry spill response.

B.C.'s stated goal is to meet or exceed best practices in order to become world-leading. Points of discussion will include: minimum response times, equipment and trained personnel requirements, wildlife response, temporary and final waste management, clean-up expectations, and impact assessment, among others.

'Our government is committed to protecting the environment and that means, regardless of future pipeline opportunities, we need world-leading standards for spill preparedness and response in place immediately for all hazardous material spills,' said Terry Lake.

'This is why we are developing a plan, in partnership with industry, which will put B.C. at the forefront of environmental protection, while at the same time working with the federal government to develop a worldleading marine-spill response,' he added.

Stakeholder outreach will be coupled with web-based public consultation where others who may be impacted, such as First Nations, local governments, and environmental nongovernmental organizations, can access the paper and provide written input. The paper can be accessed online.

This phase of consultation ends Feb. 15, 2013 and will help set the stage for a land-based spill prevention and response symposium where world leaders in the field, such as Norway and the Pacific States, will be invited to discuss best practices that will help build policy. Currently in the planning stage, the symposium is slated for late March 2013 in Vancouver.

The paper builds on one of the five minimum requirements the B.C. government has set out as being necessary for support of heavy-oil projects i.e. World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines.

Brenda Kenny, president and CEO, Canadian Energy Pipelines Association noted in response to the B.C. announcement 'We support the government of British Columbia's policy which re-enforces an effective spill preparedness and response framework for the Province. It mirrors the transmission pipeline industry's commitment to excellence in emergency management and pipeline safety.'

Pipelines will be just one focus of the consultation process. Information gathered will help to develop policies to improve preparedness and response capabilities for all non-marine hazardous spills, including: oil-tank leaks, overturned tanker trucks, and chemical spills.

Background Facts

B.C.'s Environmental Emergency Program has 16 full-time staff and about $2.4 million per year in dedicated funding. In the event of a major spill, the program can also draw on support from technical specialists from, and funded by, other government programs.

The Environmental Emergency Program covers the inland areas and coastal shoreline of B.C. (an area of 947,800 kilometres squared, with a coastline of 27,000 kilometres).

The Ministry of Environment receives approximately 3,500 notifications of environmental emergencies per year; this includes oil-tank leaks, home-based oil spills, overturned tanker trucks, oil and fuel spills on water, rail accidents and chemical spills.

Approximately 90 per cent of these are considered to be minor spills and are handled by regionally based environmental emergency response officers working in co-ordination with the spiller, local emergency response agencies (such as fire departments) and response contractors.

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