Open Letter: UBCIC Urges BC to Address the Risks Orphan Gas and Oil Wells Pose to the Environment and Welfare of Citizens and First Nations

March 18, 2019

The Honorable George Heyman

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
PO Box 9047, Station Prov Gov
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2

Via Email: ENV.Minister@gov.bc.ca

The Honorable Michelle Mungall
Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
PO Box 9060, Station Prov Gov
Victoria, BC, V8W 9E2
Via Email: EMPR.Minister@gov.bc.ca

Open Letter: UBCIC Urges BC to Address the Risks Orphan Gas and Oil Wells Pose to the Environment and Welfare of Citizens and First Nations

Dear Minister Heyman and Minister Mungall,

In light of Auditor General’s Report on The BC Oil and Gas Commission’s Management of Non-Operating Oil and Gas Sites, it has become apparent that the burgeoning oil and gas industry in this province continues to pose unacceptable risks to the environment and the well-being of British Columbian residents, including First Nations Peoples.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) urges you to continue addressing and closing the gaps in legislation and regulation that allow operating companies to improperly decommission oil and gas wells with little oversight and accountability. By UBCIC resolution 2018-35, “Climate Impacts and Fossil Fuel Company Accountability,” UBCIC called upon BC to hold fossil fuel corporations accountable for any harm they inflict upon Indigenous communities and their territories and lands. This corporate accountability must be enacted and honored with respect to inactive oil and gas wells. If the Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) cannot regulate and compel operators to decommission and restore well sites, these orphan sites will only fester, polluting our ecosystems with oil and methane and detrimentally affecting our water and air quality.

The Auditor General’s Report highlighted several concerning issues; namely, there are nearly 7,500 inactive oil and gas wells in BC, and these numbers will only increase due to lack of funds and insufficient mechanisms in place to allow OGC to consistently and comprehensively regulate oil and gas operators. It is estimated that decommissioning inactive wells and restoring sites will cost operators $3 billion.  

This report, along with the recent 200-page technical report on hydraulic fracturing that revealed that BC has insufficient information on the impacts of fracking and its environmental and seismic risks, points to a concerning trend in BC. The province will continue to expand its extraction of natural-gas resources despite known environmental and financial liabilities; it will continue privileging oil and gas above human lives, healthy ecosystems and Indigenous Title and Rights.

It is now, more than ever, in an era of climate change and campaigns to administer “clean energy” and “clean growth” strategies, that the province needs to live up to its commitments in the CleanBC Plan to reduce pollution and promote alternative energy economies. Thoroughly addressing and remediating the orphan sites that endanger human health and the environment is one step forward.

On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip            
President   

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson
Secretary-Treasurer

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