Oil and Gas Activities in Northeastern B.C.

Last updated on April 11, 2017

Oil and gas development in B.C. has grown in recent years. The Province is committed to protecting the health of British Columbians, while supporting growth and development.

Some British Columbians have health concerns about oil and gas development, such as air and water quality, and effective regulation of the industry. Another concern is ensuring open and transparent access to health-related information. In response, the Ministry of Health has undertaken a three-phase human health risk assessment, which has now been completed. The information below describes the process in detail.

Human Health Risk Assessment

The Human Health Risk Assessment of Oil and Gas Activities in Northeastern British Columbia was a three-phase project led by the Ministry of Health to identify, explore and assess concerns about human health risks relating to oil and gas activities in the Northeast. The project began in 2012. All phases of the project have been completed:

  • Phase 1:  Identified concerns raised by the public and stakeholders in the region related to oil and gas development.
  • Phase 2:  Evaluated potential human health concerns related to oil and gas activities.
  • Phase 3:  Reported on findings to the Province, stakeholders and the public. 

The overall findings of this detailed human health risk assessment suggest that, while there is some possibility for elevated air concentrations to occur at some locations, there is a low probability that health impacts would occur in association with continuous air emission exposures. The elevated air concentrations were rare or occurred in remote locations. Given the margin of safety built into the human health risk assessment, they are not expected to result in negative health effects.

When the Phase 2 findings and recommendations were publicly released, the Minister of Health announced that the ministry would follow up with the responsible ministries and agencies to ensure the study recommendations were followed. The minister also committed to an annual public progress report on the implementation of the recommendations.

Progress Report: June 2016

The Progress Report (June 2016): Recommendations in the Human Health Risk Assessment of Oil and Gas Activities in Northeastern British Columbia (PDF, 236KB) outlines the steps the Ministry of Health; Northern Health Authority; Ministry of Environment; Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations; Ministry of Natural Gas Development; BC Oil and Gas Commission; Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development; and their partners are taking to address the recommendations.

Phase 1

Begun in January 2012, Phase 1 was carried out by the Fraser Basin Council, which the Province contracted to engage with the public and other stakeholders, and compile a report of its findings.

The final report was released on June 6, 2012. It identified the key issues of concern from over 300 submissions, including:

  • Environmental exposure and related issues – e.g., exposure to hydrogen sulphide or contaminated water, and well-site accidents.
  • Oil and gas operational issues – e.g., hydraulic fracturing, emergency response co-ordination, air and water quality, and water quantity.
  • Institutional framework issues – e.g., monitoring, compliance and transparency.

View the full report, Identifying Health Concerns Relating to Oil and Gas Development in Northeastern B.C., including the stakeholder submissions:

Impacts on air quality from oil and gas development were a key concern expressed by the public and other stakeholders in Phase 1. To provide the best possible information on air quality in the Northeast, the Province committed to enhancing the region’s air quality monitoring network. Visit Monitoring Air Quality in Northeastern B.C to learn more.

Phase 2

The Province awarded a contract to Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc. to undertake Phase 2. The project evaluated potential human health concerns related to oil and gas activities. Intrinsik was awarded the contract following a competitive request for proposals (RFP) process. View the RFP (PDF, 488KB).

Phase 2 included the actual human health risk assessment, a jurisdictional scan of past and current studies and related reports, and a review of existing regulations. It focused on potential impacts to air, water, land and food quality, and how these may relate to public health. Phase 2 was completed in the spring of 2015.

For more information, see these fact sheets:

Phase 3

Phase 3 of the Human Health Risk Assessment is the public release of the Phase 2 results. It has now been completed, with the release of the following documents:

Additional Information

Community Information Sessions on the Human Health Risk Assessment

Information sessions were held in Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Hudson's Hope and Taylor from June 23-30, 2015. Bart Koppe of Intrinsik Environmental Sciences gave a presentation on the assessment, findings and recommendations to government: