Amendments to the Environmental Management Act (EMA), introduced today will, if passed, provide the legal foundation to establish a new, world-leading spill preparedness and response regime to address environmental emergencies in B.C.
The proposed spills regime will ensure effective preparedness, response and recovery measures are in place for hazardous substance spills, from any source, and reflect over three years of engagement with industry, First Nations and local government. This legislation will:
- Establish new requirements for spill preparedness, response and recovery
- Create new offences and penalties
- Enable the certification of a Preparedness and Response Organization
- Increase transparency, participation and accountability
These proposed requirements were first announced in June 2015 and build on the proposed policies outlined in the ministry’s two intentions papers on land-based spills.
If legislation is passed, key elements of the new spill regime, including an initial set of detailed regulations, will come into effect in 2017. Engagement will continue with all stakeholders during the coming months as regulations are designed.
Once fully implemented, these proposed amendments will ensure a world-leading spill preparedness and response regime, satisfying one of the Province's five conditions for moving heavy oil (condition three).
While it is still the primary responsibility of the federal government to ensure a world-leading marine spills regime is in place (condition two of B.C.’s five conditions), some elements of the new provincial legislation will also apply to spills into or affecting the marine environment.
B.C. continues to proactively support the federal government in establishing world-leading marine response capabilities, and recently commissioned Nuka Research to do a follow-up to their 2013 report which assessed current marine spill preparedness and response capabilities for B.C.'s coast. The latest report on world-leading practices in marine spill preparedness and response is available at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/main/west-coast-spill-response-study/docs/BC-World-Leading-Approaches-for-Select-Jurisdictions-Oct2015.pdf
Mary Polak, Minister of Environment –
“Our government has always maintained we want economic growth in B.C. while balancing environmental protection, and a world-leading provincial spills regime is the perfect example of this commitment. Through this legislation, and the detailed regulations to come, we are working hard to ensure B.C. sets the bar in protecting human health and the environment.”
B.C.’s five conditions were established in 2012 to outline requirements that must be met for the Province to support the construction and operation of heavy-oil pipelines in B.C. The Province’s position has not wavered since then. The 5 conditions are:
- Successful completion of the environmental review process.
- World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines and shipments.
- World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines.
- Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project.
- British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy-oil project that reflect the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.
BC Newsroom – Ministry of Environment: http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/ministries/environment-1
Two backgounders follow.