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Dotted throughout northeast B.C. are oil and gas industry sites – and some of them (a little more than one per cent) are defined as orphan sites—wells, facilities, pipelines and associated areas where an oil and gas company is declared bankrupt, or cannot be located.

Once designated as an orphan, site cleanup and restoration work can begin (or continue) and is organized by the Commission, and paid for out of the industry-funded Orphan Site Reclamation Fund.

What is the Commission doing about them?

Introduced in May 2019, our Comprehensive Liability Management Plan makes sure 100 per cent of the cost of reclaiming oil and gas sites in B.C. continues to be paid for by industry, and there’s no direct cost to B.C. residents.

Once a well is “orphaned” the Commission takes on the tasks of ensuring the sites pose no risk to the public or the environment and that they are fully reclaimed, or returned to as close to the state it was in before activity. While orphan wells make up just over one per cent of all oil and gas wells in B.C., the goal is to clean up and restore all orphan wells in B.C. within 10 years of receiving an orphan designation.

Orphan sites are a growing concern for many across Canada. In B.C., the number of orphan sites has risen due to a number of factors, including an economic downturn in the industry, which contributed to the increase in orphans across western Canada in recent years.

What is the Commission doing about the increase in orphan sites?

At the Commission we are working to:

  • Tighten conditions to ensure companies have adequate resources needed for timely site cleanup.
  • Partner with First Nations on restoration work to develop ecologically and culturally appropriate reclamation plans.
  • Require industry to restore sites in a timely manner, which lowers the risk of future orphan sites.
  • Speed up the rate in which orphan sites are cleaned up, paid for by an industry levy, which took effect on April 1, 2019.

Orphan sites are a concern for us, for citizens and a challenge we are addressing head on. By making changes to help ensure companies clean up their sites, and by increasing the restoration rate, we believe all orphan sites in B.C. can be restored in a timely manner.

The Commission will continue to hold industry accountable, protect public safety and safeguard the environment.

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