The British Columbia government found itself liable for the costs of cleaning up an abandoned gold mine on the Taku River, idle oil and gas wells in the Peace region, and other industrial failures, and is working on a way to make sure polluters pay instead.
The environment and energy ministries released a discussion paper with options on Wednesday, seeking expert advice on a system of performance bonds required by communities to protect them from abandoned factories and mines, leaving contaminated sites. Protecting taxpayers from costs is a directive from Prime Minister John Horgan in both ministers’ mandate letters, but there is no indication yet of when new protection will be in place.
Port Alice Mayor Kevin Cameron has been calling for several years for better protection of communities like his, as the small community recovers from the effects of a pulp mill site that was abandoned in 2019. This site is under court-ordered receivership and the cleanup is ongoing.
“Our village knows firsthand the negative impacts an abandoned industrial site has on the surrounding community and ecosystems,” Cameron said in a ministry statement April 13. held responsible in the future.
The discussion paper suggests that industries can use a pooled fund for performance bonds, similar to that administered by the BC Oil and Gas Commission to cover “orphan” wells left behind by drilling companies that go bankrupt. The federal government has stepped up public funds to ramp up work in northeastern British Columbia to provide work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The working document is available here, and written public submissions are open until May 28.
Legislative Assembly of British Columbia Politics of British Columbia