Environment

New legislation to enable world-leading provincial spills regime

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Environment

New legislation to enable world-leading provincial spills regime

Media Contacts
Media Relations
Ministry of Environment
250 953-3834
Media Contacts
Media Relations
Ministry of Environment
250 953-3834

Backgrounders

Backgrounder

Legislation introduced today, if passed, will replace existing spill response provisions in the Environmental Management Act. The new and enhanced amendments will:

Create a new category of Regulated Persons – enshrining in legislation what is already required today by the polluter pay principle. Individuals or corporations responsible for a spill are required to clean it up. To be clear, a parent company will be deemed responsible if one of their drivers is involved in a spill. Regulated persons (parties who present a spill risk above a certain threshold to be defined in regulations) will be required to meet new spill preparedness requirements, including contingency planning requirements which will demonstrate whether they are prepared to effectively respond to a spill.

Create new spill response and restoration requirements – clearer requirements for the responsible person (spiller) in terms of spill response, and new requirements for a responsible person to prepare and carry out a recovery plan to resolve or mitigate the impacts of a spill – including environmental restoration. In the event government must provide this work, the Province will be able to pursue costs against the responsible person and the owner of the substance spilled.

Enable the certification of a preparedness and response organization (PRO) – a PRO can maintain spill response capability throughout B.C. and lead communication, co-ordination and collaboration between industry sectors for planning and continuous improvement. Regulations may require regulated persons work together with a certified PRO. During government-led spill response actions, government may rely upon the PRO to provide spill response capability – for example, equipment and technical expertise.

Ensure development of area response plans and geographic response plans – these are two key preparedness planning tools used to ensure the right resources are available in the event of a spill in B.C., regardless of what is identified in a company’s spill contingency plan.

Increase transparency, participation and accountability – ministerial authority will be given to create advisory committees to help the minister obtain advice from experts and representatives from local governments and First Nations. The minister will also be required to submit reports on the effectiveness of the spill response regime to the legislature (more details, including frequency, will be outlined in regulations).

Enable oversight to ensure fairness – proposed legislation will enable a complaint mechanism for regulated persons to raise concerns about fees charged by the PRO to the minister and will allow for the minister to adjust the fees of the PRO.

Authorize the collection of information – government can request information about hazardous substances when it is related to the risk of a spill or after a spill to identify all necessary actions needed to protect the environment.

Provide statutory immunity for the government – this provision will clarify that no legal action can be taken against government, its employees or contractors for any decisions in relation to any government spill response work.

Create new offences and penalties – new penalties ranging from $300,000 to $400,000 in fines depending on the offence AND can include a jail term of up to six months. These penalties are in line with existing penalties for similar offences under EMA or other statutes. However, it is expected the majority of penalties administered under the regime will be administrative penalties.

Media Contacts
Ministry of Environment Communications
250 953-3834
Design principles for provincial spills regime

Proposed amendments for building a world-leading provincial spills regime are based on seven design principles that were explored in two policy intentions papers and received broad support from industry, First Nations, local government and stakeholders during the engagement. These design principles include:

Polluter pays – this principle is already in effect in B.C. and will not change. Companies that spill or pose the risk of having a spill should be responsible for the costs associated with preparing for and responding to a spill.

Risk-based requirements – all spillers will be required to meet new response requirements. The requirements for planning and preparedness will be based on a defined threshold to be developed in the regulations which will consider persistence, toxicity and volume.

Avoids unnecessary duplication – recognizing there are some effective and collaborative spill response procedures in place in certain sectors, the Province believes some existing requirements need to be supplemented to ensure environmental protection and ensure British Columbia's spill regime can be considered world-leading.

Fair and transparent process – continued dialogue and engagement between the Province, First Nations, industry, local government and other stakeholders will continue through the development of regulations.

Opportunities for First Nations and communities in preparedness, response and recovery – active engagement by First Nations and communities on all aspects of a world-leading regime are considered key to the successful design, implementation and operations.

Strong government oversight – new legislation and regulations will provide both clarity and certainty for spillers, consider public and First Nations expectations and maximize the protection of the environment.

Continuous improvement – government is committed to continuous improvement ensuring a sustainable world-leading regime by applying lessons learned from exercises, incidents and other jurisdictions. Additionally, any technological innovations will continue to be adopted.

Media Contacts
Ministry of Environment Communications
250 953-3834

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