On March 29, 2010, the Government of British Columbia announced that it intended to introduce into the British Columbia legislature, a bill to amend the Oil and Gas Activities Act and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act.
Amendments to the Oil and Gas Activities Act increase the regulatory powers of the Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) and enhance government’s ability to protect the environment from potential impacts of natural gas and petroleum development:
- The OGC will have expanded powers to use money from the Orphan Site Reclamation Fund to clean up sites where no oil and gas owner can be held accountable.
- The OGC will have a broader authority to collect fees and levies that support it in regulating the industry.
- The Province will have the authority to set environmental objectives for the OGC to incorporate into their permitting decisions.
- Amendments regarding approvals for pipeline crossings of roads will better accommodate community interests and government transportation objectives.
Amendments to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act will support landowners in resolving conflicts with industry, making the dispute resolution process more balanced and effective:
- The Mediation and Arbitration Board will be renamed the Surface Rights Board, to clarify the board’s purpose.
- Landowners will now have the right to request mediation in surface access disputes.
- Neighbours and tenants will now have the right to request mediation for claims related to damage caused by an oil and gas activity.
- The board will have authority to deal with disputes over the operation of a surface lease.
- The board will have expanded authority to award costs.
The legislative objective of these amendments is to ensure a effective process for resolving disputes, one that equally balances the rights of landowners and industry.