Ontario’s Auditor Report on Province’s Setting of Environmental Indicators and Targets, & Monitoring

The Office of the Auditor General of Ontario recently released a series of audit reports related to the environment in the Province.  One report examined the the value-for-money of setting environmental indicators and targets, and the subsequent monitoring.

Her report acknowledged the importance of the environment and its relationship to the economic health and social wellbeing of the people of the Province.   It stated that decision-makers and the public need an adequate picture of the state of the environment, knowledge of whether the environment is improving or deteriorating, and awareness of underlying environmental problems and risks. To have this picture, there needs to be thorough monitoring of Ontario’s environment, natural resources, wildlife, and agriculture, and clear public reporting.

The Provincial audit found that the Environment Ministry’s air and water monitoring programs are extensive, and respond to legislative and regulatory requirements, inter-jurisdictional agreements and other commitments. However, it found that the three lead ministries have not put into place effective systems and processes for setting targets, carrying out effective monitoring practices, and ensuring data quality and data sharing for certain aspects of Ontario’s environment.

With respect to environmental targets, the audit found that some environmental protection targets lack deadlines and are not evidence based. It also found that when the ministries had set targets, they did not always make them public.  Specifically, it stated that the Environment Ministry has not set targets for conserving water; decreasing hazardous and toxic substances in products; improving the water quality of lakes (other than Lake Simcoe and Lake Erie); or protecting and recovering species at risk.  It also found that the Environment Ministry’s targets to reduce the amount of waste disposed per capita lack publicized time frames for driving and measuring progress.

With respect to environmental monitoring, the audit noted that there is  no long-term, broad-scale monitoring of Ontario’s biodiversity, monitoring in Ontario’s protected areas is not required or consistent, and few environmental monitoring programs
are evaluated to ensure that they are effective.

In conclusion, the audit found that the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture ministries do not have effective systems and processes for setting targets, carrying out effective monitoring practices, and ensuring data quality and data sharing for certain
aspects of Ontario’s environment. These are needed for effective longer-term monitoring of Ontario’s environment, natural resources and agriculture.

In response to the audit report, the Ontario Environment Ministry stated it will explore opportunities to improve how it tracks progress and measure effectiveness of Ministry programs and how best to share program results publicly. It also stated it will review its data management approaches and look to improve the practice and application of performance measurement in our monitoring
programs.

 

Enhancing the simulation of real-life CBRN threats

Written by Steven Pike, Argon Electronics

Effective chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threat detection relies on ensuring that response personnel are fully confident in the use of their operational equipment before they step foot into a real-life hazardous situation.

While essential knowledge can of course be gradually acquired through exposure to live incidents, the ability to handle vital CBRN detection equipment, and to interpret the readings that are obtained, is not something that can simply be ‘picked up on the job.’

What is crucial is that CBRN personnel are able to demonstrate proficiency in the detection and identification of the full spectrum of threats – from volatile organic compounds and toxic industrial chemicals (TICs) to chemical warfare agents (CWAs), biological warfare agents and combustible gases.

Much headway has been made in recent years in bringing together standardised suites of mission-specific CBRN technology such as the CBRN dismounted reconnaissance sets, kits and outfit (DR-SKO) systems created by Flir.

The DR-SKO programme, which first went into development in 2008, provides the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and WMD Civil Support Teams with access to highly-advanced CBRN dismounted reconnaissance capability, aiding in the countering of both current and emerging CBRN threats.

What has also been recognised however, is that alongside the procurement of these powerful CBRN detection support systems there is the need for a rigorous and sustained foundation of training and instruction.

Realistic training for modern CBRN threats

A key priority of any CBRN training programme is to ensure that operators develop proficiency in using their operational equipment – be it in configuring the various modes of their detectors prior to deployment, or understanding the importance of managing their sieve-pack consumables and sieve-pack life indicator test protocol.

Equally, there is the need for trainees to understand and experience the factors that can impact on the effectiveness of CBRN detection – recognising for example how the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) can affect their physiological, psychological and sensory abilities during a live incident.

In addition, it is also important that they are adequately trained in the use of their decontamination equipment and in the various resources that they will need for the marking, sampling and reporting of CBRN threats.

The ongoing challenge for instructors is to expose their trainees to the full range of potential CBRN threats in a way that is safe, realistic and easily repeatable.

Safe and repeatable CBRN training

Live training exercises can offer an invaluable opportunity for hands-on experience of chemical warfare agents and radiological hazards in an environment that is as near to actual life as possible.

But such training exercises can also have their limitations. Safety considerations mean there will be necessary restrictions on the quantities of CWA substances that can be used or the level of radiological source activity that can be employed – all of which in turn can dilute the effectiveness of the reading-related, decision-making experience for trainees.

Live exercises can also represent a significant expense for organisations. Choosing to use actual detectors carries with it a certain degree of risk in terms of compromising the operational readiness of that equipment and isn’t generally the most practical setting in which to train personnel in the use of their actual detector equipment.

Taking control of CBRN scenarios

Increasingly CBRN instructors are turning to the use of CBRN simulator training systems in order to provide personnel with a way to train in the use of their actual operational systems.

Simulators offer several benefits – improving trainees’ proficiency in the use of their equipment, enabling instructors to ensure that all actions have been correctly performed, and avoiding the risk of expensive damage to operational detectors.

Crucially too, simulators provide the opportunity for trainees to familiarise with their detection systems in realistic environments where mistakes can be safely made and where the parameters of training exercises can be tightly controlled.

Successful hazard identification and management relies on robust operational capability.

While a substantial amount of money is often  spent on sophisticated CBRN-specific detection equipment it is also vital that these resources are put to best use by investing in the right training tools.

Procuring the latest detector equipment is just the first step.

What is also essential is that these valuable assets are supported by a rigorous programme of instruction that thoroughly tests trainees’ practical knowledge and strengthens their operational skill.


About the Author

Steven Pike is the Founder and Managing Director of Argon Electronics, a leader in the development and manufacture of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) and hazardous material (HazMat) detector simulators. He is interested in liaising with CBRN professionals and detector manufacturers to develop training simulators as well as CBRN trainers and exercise planners to enhance their capability and improve the quality of CBRN and Hazmat training.

Update on Faro Mine Remediation Project

The Government of Canada recently announced it had reached a significant milestone in the Faro Mine Remediation Project that will help protect the valuable fish habitat of Rose Creek.  Under the North Fork of Rose Creek Realignment Project, clean water has started to flow through a newly constructed channel that will help prevent the contamination of Rose Creek. In collaboration with Yukon partners and First Nations communities affected by the contaminated site, the Government of Canada continues to work to ensure environmental protection work is maintained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The Faro Mine in south-central Yukon was once the largest open pit lead-zinc mine in the world. Today, it is the site of one of the most complex abandoned mine remediation projects in Canada. While the full remediation plan to clean up the mine is under environmental assessment, certain necessary work like this project have continued at the site as they are critical and essential for protecting human health and safety and the environment.

Realigning this section of the creek has been vital for ensuring that clean water and valuable fish habitat in Rose Creek do not come into contact with the contaminated water from mine wastes. Contaminated water can now be captured for treatment on site while the clean water safely flows into a new channel that reconnects with Rose Creek. Fish overwintering ponds have also been built to compensate for fish habitat lost due to construction.

This project has been important for the environmental protection of the area and to local First Nations: Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation and Selkirk First Nation. Yukon-based company Pelly Construction Ltd. was awarded the subcontract for the realignment project and partnered with Ross River Dena Council’s Dena Nezziddi Development Corporation to include training and employment of local Indigenous workers for the project.

The Dena Nezziddi Development Corporation also actively participated in the construction of a new work camp at site. The camp provided temporary housing for approximately 75 workers who came from Ross River and other communities outside of Faro and the Yukon, reducing travel between Northern communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the mine site.

The North Fork of Rose Creek Realignment Project has been an important and necessary part of protecting the environment and in advancing one of the most complex abandoned mine remediation projects in Canada.

QUOTES

“I would like to extend my congratulations to the Faro Mine Remediation Project team, as well as their First Nations and Yukon partners, on the North Fork of Rose Creek Realignment Project. Canada has been working collaboratively with Northern and Indigenous partners, and we are proud to see opportunities for training, employment, and engagement with Yukon First Nations on this long-term project as a whole and on critical work for environmental protection. We know that by working in collaboration with all partners, we will be able to effectively continue to advance the long-term remediation plan while also managing the immediate risks to both the health of northerners and the environment.”

The Honourable Daniel Vandal, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Northern Affairs

“Remediating the Faro Mine Site is our top priority. The completion of the North Fork of Rose Creek realignment marks an important step towards protecting the water. The Ross River Dena Council is pleased with the progress being made at the Faro Mine Site. We want to see the remediation work continue and for this to remain a top priority for Canada and the Yukon.”

Chief Jack Caesar
Ross River Dena Council

“The Government of Yukon is pleased with the advanced progress on the North Fork Rose Creek realignment project. Our skilled Yukon-based workforce is why this project can continue despite limitations due to COVID-19. We are glad that Yukoners and Yukon First Nations will benefit economically from participation in these urgent works. It also proves that Yukoners are well positioned to contribute to remediation activities being implemented at Yukon’s abandoned mines.”

Minister Ranj Pillai
Energy, Mines and Resources, Government of Yukon

“The Faro Mine Remediation Project is key to supporting our communities, strengthening our economy, and protecting the environment. Yukoners and Yukon First Nations continue to be an important part of this remediation and the North Fork of Rose Creek Realignment Project. I am happy to see the remarkable progress made as work continues during this unprecedented time. It is a testament to the dedication of all those involved in the project.”

The Honourable Larry Bagnell, P.C., Member of Parliament for Yukon

Quick Facts

  • Most work packages and subcontracts at the Faro Mine site are structured to maximize opportunities for Indigenous businesses.
  • To ensure the Faro Mine Remediation Project is a success and that all partners work cooperatively, a Transition Agreement situating management of the Faro Mine Remediation Project under the Government of Canada has been signed by both Selkirk First Nation and Ross River Dena Council.
  • Budget 2019 allocated $2.2 billion over 15 years to create the Northern Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program, starting in 2020–21. The program will remediate the largest, most complex contaminated sites in the North.

Source: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

An Integrated Radioactive Waste Management Strategy for Canada

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) recently announced that it will lead the development of an integrated radioactive waste management strategy. This is part of the Government of Canada’s Radioactive Waste Policy Review, and leverages the NWMO’s 20 years of recognized expertise in the engagement of Canadians and Indigenous peoples on plans for the safe long-term management of used nuclear fuel.

“This is important work, and we look forward to lending our expertise to make informed and practical recommendations to the Canadian government on a more comprehensive radioactive waste management strategy for low- and intermediate-level waste,” said Laurie Swami, President and CEO of the NWMO. “I want to thank Minister O’Regan for entrusting us to lead this process.”

All of Canada’s low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste is safely managed today in interim storage. An integrated strategy will ensure the material continues to be managed in accordance with international best practice over the longer-term. Building on previous work, this strategy represents a next step to identify and address any gaps in radioactive waste management planning, while looking further into the future.

“For more than 50 years, Canadian nuclear technology has been in our lives – powering our homes, making life saving medical treatments and bringing safe food to our tables,” said Karine Glenn, Strategic Project Director for the NWMO. “I look forward to this being a process of informed, balanced dialogue about what we must do to ensure that people and the environment are protected from the remaining hazards of this material long after we are gone.”

More details regarding the process will be shared in the coming weeks. Interested individuals and organizations will have a variety of ways to participate, while respecting public health directives related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please sign up for updates at nwmo.ca/radwasteplanning.

About NWMO

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is implementing Canada’s plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. The organization was created in 2002 by Canada’s nuclear electricity producers. Ontario Power Generation, NB Power and Hydro-Québec are the founding members, and along with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, fund the NWMO’s operations. The NWMO operates on a not-for-profit basis and derives our mandate from the federal Nuclear Fuel Waste Act.

SOURCE Nuclear Waste Management Organization

 

Two forestry companies court-ordered to pay $40,000 for violating the Species at Risk Act

Débroussaillage Québec and Forestière des Amériques Inc. were recently each fined $20,000—for a total of $40,000—at the Longueuil, Quebec courthouse. Each company pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Emergency Order for the Protection of the Western Chorus Frog (the Emergency Order) in contravention of the Species at Risk Act. The companies pleaded guilty to the charge of carrying out a prohibited activity, namely pruning vegetation— including trees, shrubs, and bushes—in a sensitive area.

On April 23 and 24, 2018, employees of Forestière des Amériques Inc., whose services were retained by Débroussaillage Québec, carried out vegetation-cutting work under high-voltage power lines. The work was done in the enforcement area of the Emergency Order for the Protection of the Western Chorus Frog (Great Lakes / St. Lawrence — Canadian Shield Population) in the municipality of La Prairie, near Montréal.

Vegetation-cutting work in the enforcement area of the Emergency Order requires a permit under the Species at Risk Act. Neither Débroussaillage Québec nor Forestière des Amériques Inc. had a permit authorizing the brush-clearing activities. The Act prohibits killing or harming a wildlife species that is listed as threatened and damaging or destroying the habitat of these species. The Emergency Order prohibits removing, pruning, damaging, or destroying any vegetation such as trees, shrubs, or plants.

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Enforcement Branch makes considerable efforts to ensure the protection of wildlife species and their habitat is observed by businesses and individuals. They encourage people to report any wildlife-related illegal acts that they witness to the National Environmental Emergencies Centre by calling 514-283-2333 or 1-866-283-2333 or by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) to anonymously report crimes related to wildlife species.

Quick facts

  • In Canada, the western chorus frog is found in southern Ontario and in the Montérégie and Outaouais regions of Quebec. The species is divided into two populations. The Carolinian population, in southwestern Ontario, is not at risk. The second population—the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence, and the Canadian Shield population—includes individuals from other regions of Ontario and from Quebec. Since 2010, this population has been listed as threatened in Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act.
  • Western chorus frog populations have undergone serious declines in both Quebec and Ontario. Habitat loss and degradation are the main threats to the species. In Quebec, in the Montérégie region, a decrease of over 90 percent in the species’ historical range was noted in 2009, while in the Outaouais region, over 30 percent of inhabited sites have disappeared since 1993.
  • Habitat destruction in suburban areas of southwestern Quebec is happening so quickly that populations may disappear from these areas by 2030. In these regions, the main threats to western chorus frog habitat are rapid residential and industrial development and agricultural intensification, such as the conversion of pastureland to grain crops. Many breeding sites in agricultural areas are also at risk of being contaminated by pesticides or fertilizers.
  • The area covered by the Emergency Order consists of approximately 2 km2 of partially developed land in the municipalities of La PrairieCandiac, and Saint-Philippe, on the outskirts of Montréal, Quebec. The main purpose of the Emergency Order is to prevent the loss or degradation of the habitat that the western chorus frog needs to grow and reproduce.

Chemical Spill by Quebec Mining Company results in $350,000 Fine

Breakwater Resources Limited, which operates the Langlois Mine, recently pleaded guilty in the Val‑d’Or, Quebec courthouse to one count of violating the Fisheries Act. The company was fined $350,000.

The incident that lead to the eventual fine occurred on February 28th, 2018.  A 500-litre spill of flocculent from the Langlois mining site in Lebel‑sur‑Quévillon resulted in a discharge of acutely lethal effluent into the Wedding River. The discharge of acutely lethal effluent into water frequented by fish is a violation of subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act.

The Langlois mine is located is located in the James Bay Territories, in northwest Québec, approximately 50 km north east of the town of Lebel-SurQuévillon and 213 km north of Val-d’Or.  The mine produces zinc and copper concentrates with lesser values of silver and gold by-products.

In October 2019, the mine’s owner announced it putting the mine down on “care and maintenance”, effectively shutting down production. The company said that rock conditions at the mine have deteriorated to the point that continued mining is not economical.

The $350,000 fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.  The company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Two Quebec Companies fined for violations of Canada’s PCB Laws

Two companies based in Quebec were recently fined a total of of $75,000 after each pleaded guilty to a charge of breaching the PCB Regulations made under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

The first company, 150 Montréal-Toronto Inc., was fined $50,000 after pleading guilty to the non-compliant storage of PCBs between February 20, 2015, and January 30, 2018, in breach of paragraph 19(1)(b) of the PCB Regulations.

The second company, Recydem Enviro Inc. was fined $25,000 after pleading guilty to failing to send the PCBs for destruction to an authorized facility on or about March 19, 2016, as stipulated in paragraph 19(1)(a) of the PCB Regulations.

PCBs have been widely used for decades, particularly to make coolants and lubricants for certain kinds of electrical equipment, such as transformers and capacitors. PCBs are toxic, and steps have been taken under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to control the use, importation, manufacture and storage of PCBs, as well as their release into the environment.

As a result of this conviction, the companies’ names will be listed in the Environmental Offenders Registry.

 

 

How CBRN training programmes can benefit from lessons learned

Written by Bryan W Sommers, Argon Electronics

As major incidents such as the 2018 Novichok nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury have demonstrated, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) emergencies can push national and international response capabilities to their very limits.

Conversely though, these types of challenging CBRN events can also provide a powerful learning opportunity by highlighting the core skills, resources and training that most effectively support and underpin emergency response.

Salisbury poisonings prompt chemical attack questions

In an article published by the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), Retired Col. Liam Collins, former director of the Modern War Institute at West Point, explores some of the key lessons learned from the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

He also discusses how this knowledge might best be applied in order to strengthen military readiness in the chemical environment, to identify readiness shortfalls and to improve proficiency.

Among Collins’ key observations is the importance of increasing the focus on CBRN training within the military operational force.

In particular, he emphasises the value of staging “operational-level war games” that incorporate not just disaster response but the full spectrum of CBRN operations.

Combat operations in a CBRN environment

As commander of a Special Forces detachment in the 1990s, Collins says, he routinely conducted close-quarters battle training with live ammunition while wearing protective masks and, on occasion, with full protective equipment.

But with the decision to minimise CBRN training during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he believes the Army’s expertise in the CBRN environment underwent a period of “atrophy.”

The challenge now, says Collins, is to refocus military efforts on the conducting of combat operations in a CBRN environment, including decontamination training.

He also emphasises the importance of having access to sufficient stocks of equipment and PPE is vital in ensuring that personnel are able to operate for extended periods of time in environmentally challenging conditions.

“Taking a timeout, unfortunately, is not an option in a true chemical environment,” he says, “(and) even the most mundane of tasks can pose severe challenges.”

A joint-agency approach to CBRN response

Another factor that the Salisbury attack highlights is the diverse variety of individuals and teams that can be called on to respond to a CBRN emergency – from police, ambulance, the fire service and the military to healthcare organisations, crisis management institutions and detection/verification specialists.

How well these different groups are able to work with and alongside each other can be a hugely significant factor in the effectiveness of emergency response.

What is important is that CBRN training offers a sufficient degree of flexibility and adaptability in order to accommodate individual learning outcomes and to acknowledge differences in emergency management structures.

Enhancing CBRN training with real-world capability

Realistic exercises can provide an invaluable training ground for testing the effectiveness of response to a CBRN incident.

Through the provision of realistic scenarios there is the opportunity for personnel to hone their practical skills, strengthen their knowledge and enhance their decision-making abilities within a safe, immersive and controlled environment.

Incorporating the use of simulator detector equipment into military CBRN training continues to provide instructors with a flexible, scaleable and safe training solution.

In addition there is now also the option to take realistic CBRN instruction to a new level through the use of new software that interacts directly with actual operational detector equipment.

With the introduction of the new Radiation Field Training Simulator (RaFTS) for example, there is the opportunity to extend CBRN training capability beyond the realm of radiological training to encompass a much wider variety of hazardous substances, even more complex virtual scenarios and multiple instrument types.

The security environment in which CBRN responders are required to operate is in a state of continuing evolution – fuelled in no small part by the growth of international free trade, increased cross-border movement, globalisation, fundamentalism and the information-sharing capabilities of the internet.

In this challenging and ever-changing CBRN environment, a commitment to hands-on, realistic training has a vital role to play in ensuring a common knowledge base, a minimum level of best practice and the highest possible standard of operational readiness.


About the Author

Sergeant Major Bryan W Sommers has forged a distinguished career in the fields of CBRNe and HazMat training. He recently retired after twenty-two years service in the US Army, with fourteen years spent operating specifically in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) environments. In 2020 he was appointed as Argon Electronics’ North American business development manager.

Repurposing: Another Tool to address Alberta’s Backlog of inactive and abandoned oil and gas sites?

Written by David McGillivary, Lorne Rollheiser, and Natasha Tames, Gowling WLG

The current path to land use reclamation of legacy oil and gas sites in Alberta is often a long one, imposing specific requirements on regulatees during the suspension, abandonment, remediation and reclamation stages of the process.   Companies often hold wells in abandonment status to avoid or delay clean-up costs and many such companies are struggling financially.  Despite having undergone reform, this regime has resulted in approximately 97,000 inactive wells, 71,000 abandoned wells, and 2950 orphan wells.

However, there are potential land uses that should be considered in respect of assessing (or reassessing) the status of these wells and associated infrastructure within the reclamation process.  These new and emerging land uses may represent alternative solutions with a number of environmental and economic benefits.  Some potential land uses that may result from repurposing include:

  1. Geothermal power generation:

Thousands of the inactive and orphan wells in Alberta have been identified as having appropriate proximity to existing infrastructure and having heat properties that could be used in electricity generation, industrial heat, or as direct heat sources.  Progress in this industry continues to be made and momentum appears to be increasing with Alberta’s 7 October 2020 announcement of its intention to “clear hurdles to the development of clean geothermal energy”[1].

  1. Exploration and extraction of other substances (such as hydrogen, helium or lithium) using legacy oil and gas infrastructure:

Another alternative that may transform old wells from liabilities to productive assets is the combination of existing technologies in oil extraction that have been altered and applied to extract hydrogen in a near zero-emissions process.  As an example, Proton Technologies continues to develop its process for hydrogen production[2], a two-step process of heating the reservoir to create free hydrogen and extracting pure hydrogen gas.  Proton continues to test and refine its technologies and has described its patented combination of heating reservoirs with Oxinjection wells and harvesting the hydrogen with Hygeneration wells. Both types of wells adapt existing equipment to a new purpose.

Subject to the growth of the hydrogen economy, these technologies have the possibility of being quickly implemented utilizing existing infrastructure, minimizing land use burdens.

  1. Carbon Capture and Storage (“CCS”):

Inactive or abandoned wells and associated infrastructure may also be repurposed to assist with carbon emission reductions through the application of CCS technology. The use of wellsites (with the appropriate technical alterations) for CCS is appealing as another tool to assist in confronting climate change. However, repurposing wellsites for CCS presents certain risks and repurposing activities are likely to be carefully scrutinized on a case-by-case basis to minimize risks and to ensure the integrity of a potential storage reservoir.

The increased use of CCS in Alberta also gives rise to potential spinoff commercial opportunities for the use and marketing of carbon dioxide as a commodity.  Carbon dioxide has some potential for use and marketability in support of climate change goals including through the displacing of products with higher life cycle emissions or in connection with products that have a permanent carbon retention component. [3]

  1. Production of biogas/upgrading into renewable natural gas for distribution through existing pipeline networks or for power generation:

The production of biogas, which may then be modified to produce renewable natural gas (“RNG”), represents a further opportunity for the repurposing of inactive or abandoned oil and gas sites and associated infrastructure.  Biogas primarily consists of methane (~60%) and carbon dioxide (~29%) and arises from the breakdown of organic matter generated from agriculture, forestry, landfill, or wastewater operations in an oxygen starved environment. This process is often done through use of an anaerobic digestor or by thermochemical means such as gasification. Biogas has a number of practical and commercial uses, including as a fuel source for farming operations and as a feedstock for power generation.  Upgrading biogas to RNG (i.e. increasing the methane content to 95-99%) results in a renewable equivalent to conventional natural gas.  RNG produced from biogas can be comingled with conventional natural gas, shipped, and stored using existing conventional natural gas infrastructure, often requiring few to no alterations.

Conclusion

The above options for land repurposing each give rise to potential environmental and economic benefits. From an environmental perspective, each is consistent with public policy objectives for the reduction of GHGs, advancing energy transition and decarbonization, and reducing the need to utilize undisturbed or valuable agricultural land for future development while awaiting regulatory closure on legacy oil and gas sites with uncertain timelines. Economically, repurposing turns a long-standing liability into an asset, supports economic diversification, and creates opportunity for collaboration and growth across a number of different industries and sectors.

However, each of the land uses discussed for site repurposing also entails certain risks from the application of new or emerging technologies to existing, aging infrastructure. Furthermore, the use of sites that are not fully reclaimed brings the prospect of unknown or lingering environmental issues.  Broad acceptance and investment in repurposing as an alternative to standard reclamation processes likely requires further dialogue among industry (across multiple sectors), government, and thought leaders to determine how repurposing initiatives may proceed as an additional option for handling Alberta`s backlog of inactive and abandoned wellsites and associated infrastructure to environmental and economic advantage for the province and the country. Some issues that warrant additional consideration include:

  • With reforms to Alberta`s liability management framework underway, is there a willingness on the part of government and regulators to accept repurposing as an alternative to full fledged reclamation? If so, what requirements apply for a site to be considered eligible for repurposing? How is liability in such cases to be managed and allocated?
  • What, if any, legislative modernizations or reforms are warranted to facilitate repurposing of sites for the land uses discussed above? Considerations may include streamlining of regulatory requirements and oversight, site access issues, and development of royalty and rental regimes.
  • What, if any, financial incentives or funding opportunities are needed to make repurposing projects economical?

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.

This article was republished with the permission of Gowling WLG.  It was originally posted on the JWN Energy website.

About the Authors

David McGillivary is an associate in Gowling WLG’s Advocacy Group. He focuses his practice on multiple facets of administrative law, with an emphasis on energy and environmental regulation, as well as Indigenous law.
Lorne Rollheiser is a partner at Gowling WLG and the head of the firm’s Oil and Gas Industry Group in Calgary, Alberta.
Natasha Tames is an associate in the Advocacy Department in Gowling WLG’s Calgary office. She practises in the areas of commercial litigation, insurance and professional liability.

Are Regulatory Changes coming to B.C. for home heating fuel tanks?

As reported in the Saanich News, a Councillor from the Town of View Royal in British Columbia is pushing for provincial legislation to enhance safety and security issues for fuel oil tanks.  Councillor John Rogers wants to lessens the risk of environmental contamination from leaking heating fuel tanks.

Last month, Rogers’ motion to the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ annual meeting, calling on the province to legislate changes to enhance oil tanks’ safety and security, was tabled for later discussion.  The motion called on the province to legislate mandatory registration and tagging of home heating oil tanks  as being in good condition, and prohibit the filling of untagged tanks.

Under the proposed legislation, a mandatory inspection system would be established that included authorized inspector access.  Such a regulation would place liability on fuel delivery companies for spills from tanks they fill and require those companies to carry related insurance.

Under this proposal, the cost for the public clean up costs associated to leakage from properties where the owner has self-identified as having a heating oil tank would be covered by insurance.  To offset the additional costs for fuel delivery companies, owners of fuel oil tanks would have a surcharge added to their bill.

The proposal would have also required proper decommissioning of tanks that no longer meet certification or are unused for a prescribed time.

“The regulations are the province’s purview, and if the province were to take this on, every municipality would receive the benefit,” Councillor John Rogers said.

Currently in British Columbia, homeowners are responsible for ensuring that their home heating oil tanks are safe, secure, and in good operating condition.  Insurance companies in B.C. have required homeowners to move oil tanks outdoors as well as ensuring their tank meets B.C. fire and building code standards for construction and maximum age.

Leaks from Domestic Heating Fuel Storage Tanks

It is estimated that more than 40% of all oil spills in Canada are from domestic oil tanks used to heat homes.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the cost for clean-up of a leaking fuel oil tank averages between $250,000 and $500,000.

Since 2012, in the community of Saanich, B.C., a district municipality on Vancouver Island, there has been environmental response crews have had to respond to reports of six buried oil tanks that failed, four copper lines leaking (running from the tank to the furnace) and 12 above ground tanks leaking.

“We do know that there can be severe problems when tanks have been unknowingly left in the ground,” Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said in an interview with Saanich News. “For new homeowners, it has caused severe hardship and environmental damage. Buried tanks are a continuing concern in Saanich we seem to have a fairly robust approach to that.”

Rogers plans to provide the UBCM executive with further details around his motion in hopes that it may make it onto next year’s recommended list.