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B.C. to move ahead on world-leading spill response

by ahnationtalk on June 16, 2015671 Views

June 15, 2015

VANCOUVER – After two years of engagement with industry, First Nations and local government, British Columbia is moving forward with plans for a world-leading land-based spill regime.

The new regime will ensure an effective response to any land-based spill of any hazardous substance, from any source. The key elements of the new system include:

  • A provincially certified, industry-funded Preparedness and Response Organization (PRO) to make sure trained people are ready to immediately respond to any spill, with appropriate equipment and in a co-ordinated way.
  • New legislative and regulatory requirements for spill preparedness, response and recovery.
  • Geographically based planning and response that will see active participation by First Nations, first responders and local communities.

The new requirements will build on the proposed policies outlined in the ministry’s two intentions papers on land-based spills, ensuring a consistent and effective level of preparedness, response and recovery is in place throughout B.C.

As part of a world-leading land-based spill system B.C. will also work with industry around new industry funding options to expand the provincial environmental emergency program, enhance planning and response participation by First Nations and communities, and establish funding mechanisms for orphaned spill incidents.

Because land-based spills could eventually impact the marine environment and vice-versa, B.C.’s new regime will also complement marine-response capabilities, which are primarily under federal jurisdiction. Should it be necessary to support a federal marine response, the new regime will help with response co-ordination and minimize potential impacts to shorelines without delay.

Engagement on these new requirements will continue with First Nations, industry, local governments and other stakeholders. Government intends to introduce the new land-based spills legislation in spring 2016. The new regime, including detailed regulations, is expected to be in place beginning in 2017.


Mary Polak, Minister of Environment –

“We are committed to continuing to grow our economy and create jobs in a way that respects our environment. British Columbians should not have to choose between the two, and that is why our government is taking decisive action to significantly improve the land-based spill system in British Columbia.”

Larry Hartig, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation –

“We value our collaboration with the B.C. Ministry of Environment in reducing the risk of spills along our shared border. We commend its leadership for its initiative in drawing together stakeholders in the province and taking these important steps to enhance spill preparedness, response and recovery. We look forward to further collaborations as the new regime envisioned by the ministry moves forward.”

Dale Jensen, ecology spills program manager, Washington State –

“Washington State shares a trans-boundary and pristine marine environment with British Columbia. It is critical to have the highest level of spill prevention, preparedness planning, and response capability to ensure that public health and safety, and the environment, are protected.  We appreciate the work that British Columbia has done to seek world-class capability.”

Dr. Sara Dubois, BC SPCA chief scientific officer –

“As a founder of the Oiled Wildlife Society of British Columbia, the BC SPCA applauds the leadership of the B.C. Ministry of Environment in advancing plans for a world-leading land-based spill regime. Consistent with the Intentions Papers, the BC SPCA expects that oiled wildlife response will be a key component of preparedness and response, and meet international best practices for oiled animal care.”

Dr. Brenda Kenny, president and CEO of Canadian Energy Pipeline Association –

“CEPA is supportive of the Ministry of Environment’s vision for a world-leading land-based spill regime in British Columbia, and the design principles that are guiding their initiative. Our members’ very low frequency of incidents and demonstrated commitment to effective emergency response and remediation efforts in the event of a release are consistent with the polluter-pay principle, which we strongly endorse. CEPA and our members appreciated being consulted throughout the development of this initiative. We look forward to continuing to work with the ministry to further strengthen the provincial preparedness and response regime.”

Learn More:

BC Newsroom – Ministry of Environment:

Media Contacts:

Ministry of Environment Communications
250 953-3834


Design principles for spill regime

Government’s new requirements for building a world-leading land-based spill regime are based on seven design principles that were explored in the two policy intentions papers and received broad support from industry, First Nations, local government and stakeholders during the engagement. These design principles include:

  1. Polluter pays – this principle is already in effect in B.C. and will not change. Companies that spill or pose the risk of having a spill should be responsible for the costs associated with preparing for and responding to a spill.
  2. Risk-based requirements – all spillers will be required to meet new response requirements. The requirements for planning and preparedness will be based on a defined risk threshold which will consider toxicity and volume.
  3. Avoids duplication – recognizing there are some effective and collaborative spill response procedures in place in certain sectors, supplementation is still required to ensure environmental protection and also ensure British Columbia’s system can be considered world-leading.
  4. Fair and transparent process – government has committed to continued dialogue through consultation on the development of new legislation and regulations.
  5. Opportunities for First Nations and communities in preparedness, response and recovery – active engagement by First Nations and communities on all aspects of a world-leading system are considered key to the successful design, implementation and operations.
  6. Strong government oversight – new requirements will provide both clarity and certainty for spillers, meet public and First Nations expectations and maximize the protection of the environment.
  7. Continuous improvement – government is committed to continuous improvement ensuring a sustainable world-leading system by applying lessons learned from exercises, incidents and other jurisdictions. Additionally, any technological innovations will continue to be adopted.


Preparedness and Response Organization

The provincially certified Preparedness and Response Organization (PRO) will ensure new spill requirements are met provincewide in a timely and effective manner. The Province will set all rules and requirements for the PRO, and certify the PRO’s ability to meet all requirements of a world-leading land-based spill regime.

Companies exceeding a yet-to-be-determined level of risk will be required to join, while others can join voluntarily. Those that present the greatest spill risk will be responsible for the cost of preparedness and response.

While the PRO will be industry-funded, these fees are not intended to cover the organization’s actual response costs, which would remain the responsibility of the spiller under the existing polluter-pay model. The Province can also call on the PRO to take over if a spiller-led response is failing.

The PRO will have a dedicated response capacity and be responsible for provincewide co-ordination while avoiding regulatory duplication. This co-ordination will serve an important role in providing shared response equipment and certified responders for all operators. This will help in meeting the new requirements that may otherwise be challenging or inefficient to accomplish individually.

By serving as a single point of contact for local communities and First Nations regarding spill preparedness and planning, the PRO can ensure local resources do not have to participate in numerous different individual company plans. Conversely, industry can also use the PRO to collectively accomplish geographic response planning and engagement with First Nations and communities.

Recognizing that spills that happen on the land base can affect the marine environment and vice-versa, the Province’s goal is to ensure both the land and marine environments are protected, and will require a spiller to take action and activate the PRO immediately.


Requirements for spill preparedness

New requirements for spill preparedness, response and recovery will address gaps that exist with what is currently required by the provincial and federal governments.

Preparedness requirements will apply to all companies who pose a spill risk beyond a certain threshold (e.g. major oil pipelines, oil and chemical by rail and tanker trucks). Response and recovery requirements will apply to any spills, regardless of the initial risk threshold.

These requirements will allow the public and the government to be confident that companies are doing everything possible to prepare and lessen the chance for any response or recovery costs being assumed by taxpayers, communities or First Nations.

New preparedness requirements for companies with spill risk will include the need to have detailed spill response plans, including geographic response plans, to minimize any impacts of a potential spill. Additionally, equipment staging, trained personnel and practice drills and exercises will all be required.

Examples of response requirements include enhanced spill reporting, response times for responders and equipment, trained responders, communication plans, sampling/monitoring and use of the Incident Command System.

Recovery requirements will provide spillers clear direction on what they must do following initial clean-up to restore any damage. This includes environmental damage assessments, restoration plans and activities and post-incident reviews.

Requirements for planning and response also include expanded roles for local governments and First Nations.

Media Contacts:

Ministry of Environment Communications
250 953-3834


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