March 1, 2018
British Columbia’s government says it is moving to the next steps in defending provincial land and water from oil spills by getting public feedback even as one of its most controversial proposal heads to court.
According to Canadian Press, Environment Minister George Heyman issued a statement that British Columbians have a “personal connection” with the environment and need to have their voices heard on what steps should be taken to protect it.
The province is looking for input on four policy areas, including response times for oil spills, geographic response plans, how to best regulate marine spills, and compensation for the impact of spills.
Last week, Premier John Horgan announced the province would go to court to get a legal ruling on whether B.C. has jurisdiction over a fifth point — limiting the expansion of diluted bitumen shipments through the province. The proposal drew the ire of Alberta’s government, with officials saying it was an illegal way of effectively killing the expansion of Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
The dispute prompted Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to ban imports of B.C. wine, a restriction that was lifted when Horgan announced the constitutional reference case.
Heyman says rules around spill prevention and clean up are key to protecting tens of thousands of jobs across B.C.
“We will put effective spills prevention, response and recovery in place,” says Heyman, “while making sure that those responsible for spills are also made responsible for fixing the environmental damage they’ve caused.”
B.C. residents are invited to fill out an online questionnaire about plans for spill regulations until April 30. The province says it will engage with Indigenous Peoples, industry, local governments and environmental groups on the issues beginning immediately.
A summary report on the feedback is expected to be posted online later this year or early in 2019.
The government is also planning to establish an independent scientific advisory panel at a later date to study if and how heavy oils can be safely transported and cleaned up.