In British Columbia, when an oil or gas well is permanently plugged, the company responsible for that site is required to assess and cleanup the environmental damage its caused. But the provincial government has long known the advice its been providing to do those assessments has been insufficient for wells located in northeastern British Columbia, resulting in "inefficient and ineffective" remediation. The environment ministry made that disclosure late last month when it quietly announced on the government's procurement Website it was looking to spend at least $60,000 hiring a consultant who could improve that advice.
According to that document, industry representatives have told the government its existing guidance - while helpful - is too voluminous and "designed for use at predominantly industrial/commercial sites in developed areas of British Columbia" rather than oil and gas wells.
As a result, it doesn't take into consideration the "unique features" of wells in northeastern British Columbia, leading to inadequately cleaned sites and "ongoing human health, environmental, and liability concerns for government and industry."
In an email, an environment ministry spokesperson confirmed the government has known about that problem for two-and-a-half years. At the time, it was "prioritized below other needs." But "now that progress has been made in other areas, this issue has advanced as a priority."
The government expects to have a new guidance document prepared by March 31, 2011. The following is a complete copy of that procurement document.