BC amending legislation to deal with growing number of orphan oil/gas wells

Photo: American Chemical Society

Government say amendments expedite restoration, protect environment

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources is looking to improve the restoration of orphan wells in British Columbia and better protect the province’s land and water with amendments to legislation, according to a government press release.

“We are taking action to deal with the growing number of orphaned well sites by cleaning them up, as well as preventing this from happening in the future,” said Michelle Mungall, minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources.

“Industry will continue to be responsible for their activities, as we provide additional tools for the BC Oil and Gas Commission to protect the environment.”

If approved by the legislature, Bill 15, the Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Statutes Amendment Act, 2018, will amend the Oil and Gas Activities Act (OGAA) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act (PNGA).

Amendments to the OGAA will improve funding for orphan site restoration by replacing the current tax structure with a levy to be paid into British Columbia’s Orphan Site Reclamation Fund (OSRF) – an industry-funded program that addresses the cost of restoration and environmental clean-up.

The levy will be set by the BC Oil and Gas Commission board, with Treasury Board approval, and provides a more flexible avenue to secure funds for the OSRF, when and as they are required.

Additional amendments will also limit orphan sites by granting the commission the ability to require permit holders to conduct restoration work on inactive sites.

The commission will be able to refuse permit requests if parties associated with the applicant, such as company directors, have a history of non-compliance, further limiting the likelihood of orphan sites.

With amendments in place, permits can also be transferred to another willing person/company, for the purpose of facilitating activity or restoration work.

Other amendments to the OGAA will increase the commission’s authority to protect public safety and recover the costs associated with these activities.

For example, the commission can establish roadblocks, if necessary, when dealing with an emergency, and recover the cost of those activities from the permit holder responsible for the situation.

Other amendments will improve the commission’s operations and strengthen their capacity to manage heritage resources.

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