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One of the BC Oil and Gas Commission’s primary roles as regulator is to safeguard the natural environment. Throughout the oil and gas activity lifecycle, the Commission applies careful oversight and a commitment to continuous improvement to meet British Columbia’s energy and environmental goals.

Right across British Columbia, people depend on oil and gas to fuel their lives – to get around town, to get out of town, to heat their homes, to cook and more. British Columbians are also proud of our healthy waterways, our clean air, and the vast lands that are home to the many plant and animal species that live here too. The Commission works to bring balance to the relationship between the landscape we love and the energy we rely on.

Here are four ways the Commission safeguards B.C.’s environment:

1. Starting off on the right foot

The Commission ensures provincial laws and regulations are followed from the outset of any new oil and gas activity. For each application received, the Commission undertakes a rigorous assessment and decision-making process incorporating land and habitat review to ensure regulations are met and environmental values are protected. Area-based Analysis is used to assess cumulative impacts to the land base, and subject matter expert review is applied where appropriate.

2. Careful mid-lifecycle oversight

Post permitting, the Commission’s operations group ensures oil and gas activities are constructed and operated in accordance with regulations and permit specific conditions. Industry compliance is held to the highest standard through regular inspections and investigations, and the Commission uses its authority to take compliance and enforcement action where appropriate.

3. End-of-lifecycle stewardship

As oil and gas activities reach the end of their lifecycle, the Commission requires restoration of the operating area through site remediation, de-compacting and redistributing soils, restoring surface drainage, restoring waterway crossing sites, stabilizing slopes and revegetation. These activities help safeguard wildlife populations and their habitat, as well as native plants.

4. Continuous Improvement

The Commission prides itself in being responsive and adaptive to meet changing social, economic, industrial and environmental conditions. Part of our commitment to continuous improvement includes our review and audit procedures that evaluate the effectiveness of regulations, policies and procedures and identify risks to address. This plan-do-check-act approach has resulted in significant improvements – such as Bill 15, which addresses the growing number of orphan sites – and reflects the priorities and expectations of British Columbians.

Changes in the current economic climate have resulted in escalated risks with orphan wells and delays in decommissioning oil and gas sites across Western Canada. To address this, the Commission has escalated continuous improvement procedures to identify regulatory gaps and process improvements.

In June 2016, the Commission launched an internal assessment of environmental practices. This assessment systematically identified and documented the Commission’s regulatory tools and assessed our ability to protect over 20 environmental values, including air, water, land and wildlife. The assessment resulted in a list of residual environmental risks, which informed a five-year Environmental Improvement Plan to identify opportunities for improvement. This work is being supported by further development of our Environmental Management System.

These four steps ensure oil and gas operations in B.C. are aligned with regulations and are undertaken in a safe, responsible and environmentally sensitive manner. For further assurance, the Commission looks forward to incorporating the results of an audit by the B.C. Auditor General examining management of the environmental and financial risks of non-operating oil and gas sites.

With careful environmental management in all stages of the oil and gas activity lifecycle, combined with a commitment to continuous improvement, the Commission is helping safeguard B.C.’s environment for a changing energy future we can all be proud of.

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