British Columbia's oil and gas activities act

17 décembre 2010

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The proclamation of the Oil and Gas Activities Act, S.B.C. 2008, c. 36, (OGAA), on October 4, 2010, represents a significant change to the legal regime for oil and gas activities in British Columbia. The OGAA sets out the regulatory framework that will now govern oil and gas activity within the Province. It attempts to simplify the previous oil and gas framework by consolidating and modernizing the requirements that previously existed under several acts and regulations. This was accomplished by repealing the Oil and Gas Commission Act, the Pipeline Act as well as the regulatory provisions in the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act.

Before the implementation of the OGAA, the regulatory framework governing oil and gas activities was over 40 years old. Since then, oil and gas activities have expanded, new technologies have developed and expectations relating to stakeholder input and environmental responsibility have evolved. As a result, the OGAA attempts to address these changes by balancing economic goals with environmental and socially responsible development.

The new legal regime consists of the OGAA itself as well several regulations passed under the Act. The Oil and Gas Commission, the regulatory agency that oversees oil and gas operations in British Columbia, is continued under the OGAA. The Commission has expanded compliance and enforcement powers and has the ability to set technical safety and operational standards. The Board of the Commission as well as the Provincial Cabinet has the power to make regulations under the OGAA. The Board has exercised this power to make regulations related to consultation and notification requirements, geophysical activities, drilling and production activities, pipeline and liquefied natural gas facilities, and fees, levies and security. The Provincial Cabinet has introduced the Oil and Gas Activities Act General Regulation and the Environmental Protection and Management Regulation. The Cabinet also amended regulations which fall under other acts, such as the Petroleum and Natural Gas General Regulation.

A key aspect of the OGAA framework is the expanded consultation and notification requirements that set out who must be consulted before an application is submitted to the Commission. These requirements do not replace the established processes for consultation by the Commission with First Nations.

The framework also establishes a new administrative appeal and review process. Specified eligible persons have the ability to request a review of certain administrative decisions under the OGAA. For example, industry participants can request a review or appeal of a Commission decision regarding a permit and private land owners can appeal a decision regarding the issuance or amendment of a permit that covers their land.

The OGAA and the Environmental Protection and Management Regulation implement environmental standards for oil and gas activities. The regulation sets forth the Provincial Government’s environmental objectives for water, riparian values, wildlife and wildlife habitat, old-growth forests, resource features and cultural heritage resources. The Commission is required to consider these objectives when deciding whether to authorize an oil and gas activity.

The framework also gives the Commission expanded compliance and enforcement tools. For example, the Commission can now levy penalties that reflect the gravity and magnitude of a contravention, including consideration of the operator’s compliance history.

The OGAA website contains detailed information about the OGAA framework and provides a variety of training materials for industry participants.

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