Provincial Spills-Related Legislation

The following provincial legislation pertains to spills, industrial accidents and other environmental emergencies. The Queen's Printer provides electronic copies of all provincial statutes and regulations.

Emergency Program Act

Emergency Program Act
R.S.B.C. 1996

The Emergency Program Act provides enabling legislation that authorizes the Director of the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) to declare and designate any area of the province a disaster area (i.e. State of Emergency), and during an emergency, to employ or summon the assistance of non-government personnel, use private property, and initiate evacuations.

The Act also enables local authorities such as a mayor or council to declare a State of Local Emergency, which provides similar, wide-ranging emergency powers. This is subject to local governments having emergency plans and coordinators. A State of Local Emergency declared by a municipality or regional district can revert to the Province for response management for the particular hazard or threat.

The Emergency Program Management Regulation under the Act identifies the requirements for emergency plans and procedures of the Province and of government corporations. Schedule 1 of the regulation identifies the "key" ministries for emergency planning, preparedness and response on behalf of the Province for specific hazards.

Emergency Program Management Regulation

Emergency Program Management Regulation

The Emergency Program Management Regulation identifies the emergency management responsibilities of the Provincial Emergency Program and other ministries. For example:

  • Section 2 defines the responsibilities of the Provincial Emergency Program. These responsibilities include preparing and maintaining a hazard, risk and vulnerability study that identifies potential emergencies and disasters.
  • Section 3 requires each minister to develop emergency plans and procedures.
  • Section 4 requires each ministry with specific emergency management duties specified in schedule 2 to develop emergency plans and procedures that set out how these duties will be performed.
  • Sections 6 and 7 specify the role of ministers in relation to hazards, emergencies or disasters.
  • Schedule 1 of the regulation identifies the "key" ministries for emergency planning, preparedness and response on behalf.
  • Schedule 2 identifies in greater detail the duties of ministers in the event of an emergency. The key environmental management duties of the Ministry of Environment are specified here.

Fire Services Act

Fire Services Act
R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 144

The Fire Services Act is administered by the B.C. Office of the Fire Commissioner, which is part of the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

  • Section 25 of the act outlines emergency powers of the B.C. Fire Commissioner. If an emergency arising from a fire hazard or from a risk of explosion causes the fire commissioner to be apprehensive of imminent and serious danger to life or property, or of a panic, he may immediately take the steps he thinks advisable to remove the hazard or risk. The Commissioner may evacuate a building or area, and may call on the police and fire prevention authorities having jurisdiction for assistance.

Land Act

Land Act
R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 245 (as amended)

The administration of Crown Land in the province is carried out under the Land Act. Crown land means "land, whether or not it is covered by water, or an interest in land, vested in the government". The Land Act provides a focus for access to and management of crown resources. The following sections are relevant to emergency response in the event of a major industrial accident:

  • Section 55 of the Act pertains to bodies of water and Crown grants and ensures that the shore generally remains accessible to the public.
  • Section 60 defines unauthorized use and trespass on Crown Lands.
  • Section 67 prohibits garbage on Crown Lands.
  • Section 105 provides the right of entry of government employees to enter Crown Lands and premises for the purpose of discharging his/her duties under the Act.

Wildlife Act

Wildlife Act
R.S.B.C. 1996

The Wildlife Act is administered by the Ministry of Environment. Provisions related to environmental emergencies include:

  • Section 7 establishes that it is an offence to alter, destroy or damage wildlife habitat or deposit on land or water a substance or manufactured product or by-product if wildlife or wildlife habitat is harmed.
  • Section 8 allows the government to recover damages and take a right of action against a person who destroys or damages wildlife habitat in a wildlife management area.

Drinking Water Protection Act

Drinking Water Protection Act
S.B.C. 2001

The Drinking Water Protection Act is administered by the Ministry of Health and sets out requirements for drinking water operators to ensure the provision of safe drinking water to the public. Relevant sections of the Act include:

  • Section 9 requires water system operators to prepare written emergency response and contingency plans and implement them in the event of an emergency or abnormal operational circumstances affecting water supply systems or drinking water sources.
  • Section 11 sets out water monitoring requirements.
  • Sections 12, 13 and 14 set out the process for providing notice when minimum reporting standards are not met and when there is a threat to drinking water.
  • Section 24 requires persons reporting spills of hazardous materials to report potential threats to drinking water to the drinking water officer.
  • Section 25 allows hazard abatement and prevention orders to be issued to the person whose action or omission led to the drinking water health hazard or the person who had possession, charge or control of a condition or thing that caused or significantly contributed to the drinking water health hazard. These orders, for example, may require the person to provide information relating to the hazard, undertake investigations and tests to assess the hazard, or take action to control, abate, stop or prevent the drinking water health hazard.
  • Section 27 allows action required by a hazard abatement or prevention order to be taken at the expense of the person to whom the order was issued when that person fails to perform the action required.
  • Section 28 allows a drinking water officer to take direct action to address a drinking water health hazard when a hazard abatement and/or prevention order cannot be issued.

Health Act

Health Act
S.B.C. 2008

The Health Act is administered by the Ministry of Health and addresses health hazards and disease control. The act also provides powers to the provincial health officer and staff. Sections related to emergency management include:

  • Part 3 pertains to the prevention of disease and other health hazards.
  • Division 2 allows the Minister to order a place be designated as a quarantine facility.
  • Division 3 pertains to the reporting of disease, health hazards, and other matters.

Animal Disease Control Act

Animal Disease Control Act
R.S.B.C. 1996

The Animal Disease Control Act is administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands and specifies the procedures that must be followed when an animal is diseased or when an outbreak occurs. Sections worth noting include:

  • Section 5 requires owners to give notice to an inspector and take precautions when an animal appears to be diseased. Owners must follow instructions given by the inspector.
  • Section 9 requires land, water and premises where disease exists to be cleansed and disinfected at the expense of the owner or occupier.

Contaminated Sites Regulation

Contaminated Sites Regulation (Environmental Management Act)

The Contaminated Sites Regulation under the Environmental Management Act specifies the procedures for identifying a contaminated site, indicates remediation standards and clarifies responsibility for remediation. Sections of note include:

  • Section 17 indicates how numerical standards may be used to determine if a site has been remediated.
  • Sections 18 and 18.1 provide direction on the use of risk-based standards for the remediation of contaminated sites.
  • Sections 19 to 33 indicate the circumstances under which entities (e.g. transporters, owners, municipalities, secured creditors) can be held responsible for remediation.