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.

Just Posted

Forest fire 1.5 km from Sara Lake listed as out of control

While the fire is classified as out of control, they expect it to be under control imminently.

20th annual OrcaFest takes over Port McNeill

Check out the North Island Gazette’s OrcaFest photo gallery!

Oh Yeah takes a bite out of Woodchuckers at OrcaFest slo-pitch tournament in Port McNeill

Oh Yeah defeated the Woodchuckers 21-10 after seven innings.

Gate House Theatre reopens, kicks off OrcaFest in style

It was an evening of laughter and good times and the perfect launch to the festival weekend.

Port Hardy council creates subscription-based portal for agendas and minutes

It was a “council decision based on presentation by staff during financial planning budget meetings.”

Clean the house, prep for your next trip: Tips to nix the post-vacation blues

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Vancouver Island senior found safe with help from six search and rescue teams

Wayne Strilesky found safe in thick brush in north Nanaimo

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

Couple could go to jail for taking 88 lbs. of Italian sand

Pair said they didn’t know it was illegal to take the sand, which is protected as a public good

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft: RCMP

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

VIDEO: RCMP unveil new, state-of-the-art forensics lab

The laboratory is expected to handle thousands of forensic services from across Canada annually

Scheer promises EI tax credit for new parents if Conservatives form government

The government currently taxes employment insurance benefits for new parents

Most Read