An independent scientific review of hydraulic fracturing in British Columbia has found the regulatory framework to be robust, while also identifying areas for improvement.
The three-member independent scientific panel submitted its final report, Scientific Review of Hydraulic Fracturing, to Michelle Mungall, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, on Feb. 20, 2019. The scientific panel makes 97 recommendations, primarily focused on addressing knowledge gaps and concerns regarding environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.
Over the last 18 months, government has implemented a number of changes to strengthen the regulatory framework for the oil and gas industry. Much of this work addresses concerns raised by the scientific panel.
Government actions to date include:
- The BC Oil and Gas Commission has created a new process to make sure commission-regulated oil and gas dams in B.C. are operating with appropriate permits.
- The commission has put in place new procedures to ensure all dams and water storage structures used in oil and gas development are properly licensed and safe for use.
- In May 2018, government took action to address the growing number of inactive and orphaned well sites by passing Bill 15, amendments to the Oil and Gas Activities Act.
- Longer term, the BC Oil and Gas Commission is working closely with Indigenous communities within Treaty 8 in developing culturally appropriate restoration practices. A pilot project is underway with Fort Nelson First Nations and there are discussions underway with Saulteau and Doig River.
- The commission is also working with local First Nations within Treaty 8 on the installation of additional hydrometric stations that will assist in improving the Northeast water tool — a geographic-information-system-based hydrology tool used as part of the water-use decision process.
- The commission and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources have consultation agreements with most Treaty 8 First Nations. Capacity funding is provided to First Nations to support them in their review of oil and gas activity applications.
As the report is highly technical, the ministry has developed a phased approach to implementing the scientific panel’s 97 recommendations. In May 2019, the government will release its short-term action plan, followed by its long-term action plan in December 2019.
The scientific panel’s report is available at: www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/natural-gas-oil/responsible-oil-gas-development/scientific_hydraulic_fracturing_review_panel_final_report.pdf