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

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

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

Most central Alberta communities under province’s enhanced measures list

Sylvan Lake RCMP, Fire Department and Victim Services will be out on Dec. 5 for the annual Charity Check-stop. File Photo
Give Sylvan Lake RCMP the bird at Charity Check-stop

Sylvan Lake RCMP will be accepting frozen turkeys for the food bank during the charity check-stop

Ecole H.J. Cody School. File Photo
Sylvan Lake high school temporarily moves to online classes

Over the weekend, H.J. Cody reported six positive cases of COVID-19

.
Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Central zone active cases slightly up

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer.
photo submitted
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Traffic crosses over the Lions Gate Bridge from North Vancouver into Vancouver on July 2, 2015. Motorists would have to pay a fee to drive into downtown Vancouver under the city's plan to slow climate change but one expert warns it could pose financial hardship for some. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver’s climate plan ‘first 10 steps in a journey of 10,000,’ says expert

Almost 40 per cent of Vancouver’s carbon pollution comes from vehicles

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Most Read