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B.C. Oil and Gas Commission

The Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) is a Crown Corporation of the province of Oil and Gas Development in British Columbia, Canada, established in 1998. Its mandate is to regulate oil and gas activities and pipelines in British Columbia. Their mandate does not extend to regulating consumer gas prices at the pump.

Overview

The Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) was created and defined under the 1998 Oil and Gas Commission Act by and for the Canadian province of Oil and Gas Development in British Columbia.[1]

The OGC is a crown corporation acting as "an agent of the [provincial] government", where the Minister of Finance is its fiscal agent. It is headed by 3 directors. The deputy minister is a director and the chair of the OGC, and the Lieutenant Governor in Council may appoint 2 directors, for a term not longer than 5 years, one of whom is the commissioner and vice chair of the commission.[1]

Purpose

The OGCs purposes are to

(a) regulate fossil fuel activities, i.e. the petroleum industry, which includes but is not limited to petroleum licensing, regulating hydrocarbon exploration, oil and gas well drilling, shale oil extraction, natural gas processing, oil pipeline in British Columbia in a manner that

  • "provides for the sound development of the oil and gas sector, by fostering a healthy environment, a sound economy and social well being,"
  • "conserves oil and gas resources in British Columbia",
  • "ensures safe and efficient practices, and"
  • "assists owners of oil and gas resources to participate equitably in the production of shared pools of oil and gas,"

(b)" provide for effective and efficient processes for the review of applications related to oil and gas activities or pipelines, and to ensure that applications that are approved are in the public interest having regard to environmental, economic and social effects",

(c) "encourage the participation of First Nations and aboriginal peoples in processes affecting them",

(d) "participate in planning processes", and

(e) "undertake programs of education and communication in order to advance safe and efficient practices and the other purposes of the commission."[1]

Tools

The OGC issues various authorizations under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act and the Pipeline Act, including a "general development permit" which is "an approval in principle for oil and gas activities and pipelines in an area of British Columbia".[1]

The OGC is a Single-window system [2] It handles applications and at the same checks the regulatory compliance and enforces its regulations with penalties for violations.

The OGC has offices in four cities: Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Kelowna and Victoria.

Compliance and enforcement information

In 2010-11, the OGC "issued 15 penalty tickets with fines of $575 (the maximum allowed for tickets) or less, which included unlawful water withdrawals and failure to promptly report a spill. Court prosecutions included a $20,000 fine for a Water Act stream violation, $10,575 for another stream violation and $250,0000 for a sour gas release. [...] The commission would not release the names of the companies convicted".[2] Per the OGC, in 2O12, of "more than 800 deficiencies, 80 resulted in charges, largely under the provincial Water Act for the non-reporting of water volumes and a smaller portion under the provincial Environment Management Act. Another 13 resulted in orders under the provincial Oil and Gas Activities Act, 22 in warnings, 76 in letters requiring action and three in referrals to other agencies".[2] Paul Jeakins, OGC commissioner and CEO, has publicly acknowledged that OGC inspection and enforcement reports are "a bit of a gap".[2]

Lawsuits

In November 2013, Ecojustice, the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Committee filed a lawsuit against the OGC and Encana about Encana's water use from lakes and rivers for its hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, "granted by repeated short-term water permits, a violation of the provincial water act".[3] In 2012, the OGC had granted Encana access to 20.4 million cubic metres of surface water, 7 million of which were for fracking and 54% of that were through short-term approvals.[4] In October 2014 the Supreme Court of British Columbia found no violation and dismissed the case.[4]

Criticism

The agency has been criticized to be "too industry-friendly", to have "vague regulations" and to issue non transparent fracking violation reports, for example by not naming convicted companies. The B.C. Ministry of Environment and other B.C. Crown corporations of British Columbia like WorkSafeBC have reported company names and details of those penalties for years. OGC reports prior to 2011 were available on the OGC website, but for 2012 they had to be requested. [2]

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Oil and Gas Commission Act". Queen's Printer, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Gordon Hoekstra (18 February 2013). "B.C. Oil and Gas Commission lacks ‘transparency’ on fracking violations". Vancouver Sun (Postmedia Network Inc). Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  3. Dene Moore (13 November 2013). "Fracking Lawsuit Targets EnCana, B.C. Oil And Gas Commission". Canadian Press (The Huffington Post). Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dene Moore (16 October 2014). "B.C.’s Supreme Court dismisses Water Act challenge to fracking operations". The Globe and Mail (Phillip Crawley). Retrieved 4 February 2015.