VICTORIA - The Province has completed the first phase of a three-part assessment of the potential human health risks associated with oil and gas activities in northeastern B.C.
Phase one was completed by the Fraser Basin Council, which was contracted by the Province to engage with the public and stakeholders and compile a report of its findings. The report identifies the key issues of concern from over 300 submissions. Phase one did not include any analysis of the concerns provided by respondents.
Potential concerns identified in respondents' feedback included:
- Environmental exposure and related issues - such as exposure to hydrogen sulphide or contaminated water and well-site accidents.
- Oil and gas operational issues - such as hydraulic fracturing, emergency response co-ordination, air and water quality, and water quantity.
- Institutional framework issues - such as monitoring, compliance and transparency.
The complete phase one report can be found online at: www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/index.html
Based on the results from the first phase, terms of reference are being developed for phase two - the human health risk assessment. Phase two will evaluate the concerns identified in phase one that could have a direct health impact associated with oil and gas activities. It will also focus on impacts to air, water, land and food quality and whether or not there are contaminants created as a result of oil and gas activities.
Phase two is expected to take about 18 months. An RFP for phase two will be issued in June 2012, with completion of the work anticipated by early 2014.
Impacts on air quality from oil and gas development were a key concern expressed by the public and stakeholders in the engagement phase. Government is committed to providing the best possible information on air quality in the Northeast and is announcing enhancements to the Northeast's air quality monitoring network.
The new program will be developed over three years, with financial commitment from both industry and government, to meet air quality needs in the Northeast by:
- Starting monitoring immediately at two priority rural locations in the South Peace. This will draw from the experience of Alberta's Sentinel Monitoring and the work of Alberta's Peace Air-Shed Zone Association (PAZA).
- Funding a co-ordinator to establish a locally based air monitoring "working group" to review air quality data currently collected in the Northeast and determine the scope, plan and design of the broader network requirements.
- Implementing further air monitoring as required in the second and third years.
- Making air quality data easily accessible to the public to help citizens make daily decisions about air quality and their health requirements.
Minister of Health Michael de Jong -
"The health and safety of British Columbians is our number one concern and it is important that we address any potential health concerns related to oil and gas development activities. That is why we are undertaking this human health risk-assessment - so that any health risks are identified and can be remedied."
Minister of Environment Terry Lake -
"Our intention is to establish a more comprehensive monitoring network in the Peace region that includes a combination of fixed monitoring stations and temporary sites as well as passive monitors to address residents' concerns about air quality. We look forward to working in partnership with other government agencies, the private sector and communities in establishing priorities and implementing the network."
Minister of Energy and Mines Rich Coleman -
"B.C.'s northeast communities are well protected from natural gas activities. The BC Oil and Gas Commission, which regulates oil and gas activities in the Province, ensures public safety while also protecting the environment through a variety of initiatives."
Blair Lekstrom, MLA for Peace River South -
"The public has been very clear that it wants open and transparent access to information that could affect their health - and I agree that they have a right to that information. This study will help us understand if there are possible health effects and complete an independent review to provide evidence-based recommendations that respond to those concerns. This work is something that residents have been waiting to be done for quite some time and I am pleased we are moving ahead with it."
Pat Pimm, MLA for Peace River North -
"Some members of the public have health concerns about oil and gas development, from issues with air and water quality to effective regulation of the industry, to transparent and open communication about adverse events. We are committed to seeing those concerns resolved, and I am pleased that we are moving forward with this phase two assessment."
- The phase one consultation took place from January to March 2012.
- Engagement was undertaken through various channels. Submissions were gathered using in person meetings, an online web form, email, a toll-free phone line and regular mail.
- More than 300 unique comments and submissions were received, and in total more than 200 participants took part in either one-on-one or group meetings.
- The government of British Columbia has been actively monitoring air quality in the northeast for the past 20 years in communities such as Taylor, Pine River and Fort St. John.
- In the first year alone, the enhanced air monitoring network is anticipated to cost over $500,000 to design, set up and co-ordinate.
- The monitoring initiative will be a partnership between government agencies, industry and local stakeholders.
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)
Ministry of Environment