Phase-2 to BC’s Spill Response Regime
Written by Charlotte Teal, Sharon G.K. Singh, Radha D. Curpen and David Bursey
The British Columbia government is moving forward with the second phase of spill regulations, announcing further stakeholder engagement on important elements, such as spill response in sensitive areas and geographic response plans. The government will also establish an independent scientific advisory panel to recommend whether, and how, heavy oils (such as bitumen) can be safely transported and cleaned up. While the advisory panel is proceeding, the government is proposing regulatory restrictions on the increase of diluted bitumen (dilbit) transportation.
The second phase engagement process follows the first phase of regulatory overhaul introduced in October 2017, when the Province established higher standards for spill preparedness, response and recovery.
Feedback and Engagement
The Province is planning an intentions paper for the end of February 2018 that will outline the government’s proposed regulations and will be available for public comment.
In particular, the Province will seek feedback on:
- response times, to ensure timely responses to spills;
- geographic response plans, to ensure that resources are available to support an immediate response that account for the unique characteristics of sensitive areas;
- compensation for loss of public and cultural use of land, resources or public amenities in the case of spills;
- maximizing application of regulations to marine spills; and
- restrictions on the increase of dilbit transportation until the behaviour of spilled bitumen can be better understood and there is certainty regarding the ability to adequately mitigate spills.
What this means for industry
This second phase was planned follow up to the October 2017 regulations. Many of the proposed regulatory changes have been part of ongoing stakeholder discussions for the past few years. However, the prospect of permanent restrictions or a ban on the increased transportation of dilbit off the coast of B.C. and the prospect of further regulatory recommendations from the independent scientific advisory panel creates uncertainty for Canada’s oil sector.
The government’s emphasis on environmental concerns related to bitumen and its recent initiatives to restrict oil exports to allow time for more study of marine impacts will further fuel the national discourse on how to export Canada’s oil to international markets from the Pacific Coast.