Public Input Sought on Spill Preparedness & Response Published in the Newsletter of the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC

As a result of several years of investigation and communication, the Minister of Environment of British Columbia has recently submitted an intention paper for public feedback concerning preparedness, response and recovery from spill of harmful substances for communities, environment or infrastructure. They propose amendments to the Environmental Management Act (EMA). The ministry plans different improvements to the previous intentions papers and proposes some additional legislation and regulations. Here is our summary of the modifications proposed in the document.

The amendments are focused on two aspects : improvement of legislation, regulation and requirement and establishment of preparedness and response organization (PRO).

Spill reports should be standardized. After technical assessment and research from experts, response times will be prescribed and follow-up reports should be done to oversee the evolution and monitoring of spill events. A timeline for follow-up reports has been proposed. Those reports should help evaluate the changes and progression in spill response. Sampling and monitoring have to be carried out and would probably be prescribed in the future in order to collect data about the consequences of a spill and to evaluate the response actions.

Substance and quantity thresholds are proposed in the intention paper and will serve to define regulated persons who will need to comply with some requirements in terms of preparedness. Persons below the limitations are invited to spontaneously follow the same requirements. The regulated persons will have to evaluate the danger/hazard of their activity, report substances and quantities manipulated or stored and their location and keep records of the plans and spill preparedness. They will have to prepare and keep updating spill contingency plans as regularly as is established in regulation. More accurate regulation of those plans are proposed. Spill contingency plans will be tested through planned as well as unplanned exercises and training to see if they meet the response requirements.

Two other prepardness plans are proposed at higher level and will allow involvement of First Nations, local governments and stakeholders. First regulated persons will have to collectively develop a Geographic Response Plan (GRP) for specified areas. This form of plan will be used to preestablish first-response strategies following spill incidents in plan areas. The areas are established according to the sensibility of the area and the quantity of potential spill sources. Second, Preparedness and Response Organizations (PRO) will have to present an Area Response Plan (ARP) if they want to be certified. Those plans will concern larger areas of the Province. GRP and PRO’s detailed regulations will be presented by the ministry. It is suggested that a PRO function as a warranter and coordinator ensuring that the law and response requirements are respected through interaction with all regulated persons. However it should not substitute existing functions.

The ministry presents requirements for recovery procedures which include spill impacts assessments, actions and compensation. These requirements should ensure that the environment will be protected and restored after a spill incident or if the necessary recovery actions can not be taken that other compensation will occur. The existing penalty disposition will be expanded into new aspects of the policy.

The Minister will have to return feedback about the effectiveness of the policy to the Legislative Assembly to ensure further enhancements.

In the future new regulations will be established to ensure that responders are competent, presenting appropriate abilities and expertise through specific training. The idea of creating three advisory committees in which Fist Nations, communities or other knowledgeable person could be invested in was also covered.

The engagement process consists of several steps. If you want to contribute and provide your feedback about the intentions paper, you can do it before June 30th, 2016 at 4pm on this link