When Premier Christy Clark and her BC Liberal government announced their five conditions for supporting heavy oil pipelines crossing the province to export hubs on the coast, they indicated that the development of world leading land-based oil spill prevention, response and recovery practices would be essential.
Following up on that announcement, the government released Land-Based Spill Preparedness and Response in British Columbia: Policy Intentions Paper for Consultation, which they will be discussing with representatives from the oil and gas, chemical and transportation industries until Feb. 15.
"Our government is committed to protecting the environment," said Environment Minister Terry Lake.
"That means, regardless of future pipeline opportunities, we need world-leading standards for spill preparedness and response in place immediately for all hazardous material spills. This is why we are developing a plan, in partnership with industry, which will put B.C. at the forefront of environmental protection, while at the same time working with the federal government to develop a world-leading marine-spill response."
The potential for land and marine oil spills have become a hot button issue in the ongoing discussion about Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion, both of which would increase movement of Alberta oil sands bitumen to the coast for export to Pacific Rim markets.
They are also issues could derail those plans.
That underscores the need to develop land-based spill preparedness and response practices, environmental restoration guidelines if a spill should occur and adequate government oversight of spill response, which are they discussion points in the consultation paper.
Online engagement with First Nations, municipal governments and environmental organizations will also be part of the consultation process.
That process will be followed by a symposium featuring experts in land-based spill prevention and response tentatively slated to take place in Vancouver this March.
Feedback from the energy sector has been positive so far.
"We support the government of British Columbia's policy, which re-enforces an effective spill preparedness and response framework for the Province," said Brenda Kenny, president and CEO of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA).
"It mirrors the transmission pipeline industry's commitment to excellence in emergency management and pipeline safety," she continued. "The Canadian pipeline industry already follows strict national standards and regulations which enable the industry to operate in the safest and most environmentally sound manner.
"However, any opportunity to review and continuously improve on these standards and regulations for the benefit of Canadians and the environment is always encouraged."
"We support this review by the B.C. government," added Dave Collyer, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).
"Providing the public with confidence that our industry operates in a safe and responsible manner is key to industry's social license to operate."