B.C. Oil and Gas Activities Act in Force
On October 4, 2010, the British Columbia Oil and Gas Activities Act(1) (“OGAA”) came into force. The OGAA represents a significant change to the legal regime for oil and gas activities in British Columbia, and will have immediate consequences for conventional oil and gas producers, shale gas producers, and other operators of oil and gas facilities in the province. The new legal regime consists of OGAA itself, and eleven new regulations passed to date under OGAA. This newsletter provides a brief overview of key aspects of the new OGAA regime.
The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission is continued under OGAA. The Commission will have greatly expanded powers under OGAA, particularly with respect to compliance and enforcement and the setting of technical safety and operational standards for oil and gas activities. The Commission will continue to have the power to grant approvals under designated provincial statutes, including the Environmental Management Act, the Forest Act, the Heritage Conservation Act, the Land Act and the Water Act. The Commission will have the power to impose administrative penalties for specified violations under OGAA.
Expanded Consultation and Notification Requirements
OGAA, and the Consultation and Notification Regulation made by the Board, set out who must be consulted by applicants before the submission of the application. Notification and consultation distances are set out in the regulation for various oil and gas activities, including seismic activities, wells, pipelines, facilities and roads. The Consultation and Notification Regulation also sets out the required form of notices and invitations to consult that are to be given under the Consultation and Notification Regulation.
Review and Appeal Processes
OGAA also provides for new administrative appeal and review processes. Under section 70, specified eligible persons have the ability to request a review of specified administrative decisions under OGAA, including permitting decisions, Commission orders in relation to protection of the environment, mitigation of risks to public safety and conservation of petroleum and natural gas resources, decisions to impose administrative penalties, and other prescribed decisions under OGAA. Requests for review must be made within 30 days of the decision or other determination in question. Reviews are carried out by designated officials within the Commission.
OGAA also contains enhanced provisions with respect to orphan sites. The Commission will continue to have the power to restore orphan sites, and for that purpose can access funds held by the Commission in a dedicated orphan sites fund. The fund is maintained through an “orphan site restoration tax” on oil and gas production, at rates specified in OGAA.
Compliance and Enforcement
The Commission will have substantially expanded compliance and enforcement powers under OGAA. This includes the power to make orders that the Commission deems necessary to mitigate public safety risks, to protect the environment or to promote conservation of oil and gas resources and the power to make technical orders related to designation and pooling of fields. The Commission will have powers of inspection and audit of activities, and the ability to take emergency measures in response to spills and other concerns.
For more information about OGAA, the Regulations, and how they may apply to your operations, please contact one of the lawyers listed below.
Chris W. Sanderson, Q.C.
(1) S.B.C. 2008, c. 36, as amended by the Energy, Mines and Resources Statutes Amendment Act, S.B.C. 2010, c. 9.
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