• BC Minister of Environment Reverses Amendment to Reviewable Projects Regulation on Sweet Gas Processing Plants
  • May 2, 2014 | Author: Selina Lee-Andersen
  • Law Firm: McCarthy Tétrault LLP - Vancouver Office
  • On April 14, 2014, the BC Government issued Order in Council (No. 185) amending the Reviewable Projects Regulation (B.C. Reg 370/200) to remove the need for a provincial environmental assessment for sweet natural gas processing plants (the Proposed Amendment). The Proposed Amendment, which was to come into effect on April 28, 2014, would have had significant implications for upstream activities, especially in northeast BC where shale gas development is rapidly underway.

    Following a public outcry in response to the Proposed Amendment by the Chief of the Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN), Environment Minister Mary Polak publicly apologized for failing to adequately consult with First Nations prior to approving the Proposed Amendment and announced that the BC Government would rescind the Proposed Amendment any proceed to undertake discussions with First Nations before proceeding with the regulatory change.

    Minister Polak’s announcement comes in the wake of the expulsion of BC Government officials from an LNG conference hosted by the FNFN in mid-April, where the FNFN put the BC Government and oil and gas industry on notice with a declaration that “BC’s LNG Strategy is on hold. No shale gas development will proceed in FNFN territory until our nation and our treaty is respected and our concerns about our land and our waters are addressed.” The FNFN’s declaration went on further to say that: “All agreements with the Province are now under review.” The Chief of the FNFN, Sharleen Gale, also noted that the FNFN has “a lot of pre-work to do with government and industry before any projects can move ahead.” The FNFN, a member of Treaty 8, is a community of approximately 810 Dené and Cree members and their traditional territory encompasses the northeast corner of BC. Of the four major active gas plays in BC, three are in the traditional territory of the FNFN: Horn River, Cordova and Liard Basins.

    In her statement rescinding the amendment, Minister Polak said that the Province will continue to engage with First Nations in northeastern BC, “including shared decision making that respects the environment, First Nation values, and Treaty 8 and its associated rights”. She also noted that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) had been made aware of the decision to rescind the Proposed Amendment until further discussions with First Nations have taken place and that CAPP respects the need for the BC Government to engage in such discussions.

    Now that the ball is firmly in the court of the BC Government and industry, stakeholders will be watching with interest as to how the Province will re-set its relationship with First Nations on this issue in order to move forward with the development of shale gas resources in northeastern BC.