Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., June 20, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

Group wants new agency to oversee oil and gas industry in B.C.

The centre is a think tank that does not take corporate donations

B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission isn’t taking action that would protect the environment in the public interest, favouring instead the companies it is intended to police, says a new report.

Author Ben Parfitt accused the Crown corporation of serving the interests of the industry and a provincial government that promotes fossil fuel development ahead of the public interest.

“What we have seen over the more recent years is that the commission’s job to ensure environmental protection and to ensure public health and safety and to ensure companies are following the rules, there is abundant evidence that the commission is failing to do that,” he said in an interview.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources said in an email that its staff are in the process of reviewing the report.

“We have a strong provincial regulator in the BC Oil and Gas Commission and it, along with government, is always looking for continuous improvement for our regulatory framework,” the email statement said.

The commission didn’t respond to requests for comment on the report released Wednesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

READ MORE: Oil companies, 24-cent gap between B.C., Alberta to be focus of gas price probe

The centre is a think tank that does not take corporate donations. It describes itself as a source of progressive policy ideas and says its values are rooted in social justice and environmental sustainability.

The report says that before the commission’s genesis, companies had to apply to numerous provincial ministries and branches to obtain authorizations before drilling for natural gas could begin.

These included the Forests Ministry, which issued permits to log forests for roads, pipeline corridors, well pads and more; the Ministry of Lands, which approved the occupation of Crown or public lands; the Heritage Conservation Branch, which issued archaeological permits; and the Environment Ministry, which handed out water permits and approvals governing industrial activities in sensitive fish and wildlife habitats, it says.

Parfitt said after the commission was established in 1998 the review and approval of industry development applications accelerated.

“The very first reports showed the Oil and Gas Commission was speeding up the approval process but not the compliance process,” he said. “The report looks at three significant indications of where the agency has failed to be tough on the companies that it regulates.”

The report highlights examples of when the commission didn’t penalize companies to the fullest extent for the construction of unlicensed dams, leaking gas wells, contaminating water and violations of rules to protect endangered species, Parfitt said.

Those examples show there is an extreme reluctance on the part of the industry regulator to hold the companies it regulates to account, he said.

There will be a significant ramp up in oil and gas industry activities once liquefied natural gas plants are built on the B.C. coast, which will lead to an increase in drilling and fracking, Parfitt said.

He said there’s been a reluctance on the part of one provincial government after another to deal with the Oil and Gas Commission.

“A different set of rules” seems to apply for the fossil fuel industry, Parfitt said.

To ensure compliance, the report recommends the creation of an arm’s length agency to oversee regulatory compliance and enforcement and that a single water authority be reinstated to regulate all water users in the province.

“The amount of drilling and fracking that is going to occur to supply those plants is going to result in a huge, huge increase in gas industry activities in the northeast of the province,” Parfitt said.

“So, this is a time that we need to get things right in terms of regulating the industry.”

The report also says the provincial government should remove the commission’s powers to change regulations and compel it to release all information that is in the public interest.

“At the end of the day, we still have to confront the fact that we still have a climate crisis in the world right now and we need to be finding a way to rapidly ramp down fossil fuel production in B.C. and around the world,” Parfitt said.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

RCMP disarm man experiencing mental health crisis

The male pulled a knife on officers and then held it to his own throat expressing a desire to die

Mowi’s B.C. salmon farms achieve environmental certification from independent watchdog

Aquaculture Steward Council certification complies with 500 sustainability and social measures

Zeballos and Tahsis included in $3.46 million provincial emergency preparedness funding

The provincial funding will help 24 local governments and First Nations to assess flood hazards and develop effective strategies

Small group of volunteers clean up Campbell River beach

Other events held in Nanaimo, Comox, Powell River and Victoria

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

Most Read