Information Letter - Application of Remediation Guidelines and Risk-Based Methodologies to the Clean-up of Upstream Oil and Gas Sites on First Nation Reserve Lands in Canada.
This Information Letter details Indian Oil and Gas Canada's (IOGC) position on the application of remediation criteria and the use of a risk-based tools, methods, and models in the clean-up of upstream oil and gas sites on First Nation Reserve lands in Canada.
For further information on carrying out oil and gas remediation projects on First Nation Reserve lands and on submitting Remediation Action Plans (RAPs) to IOGC, see the Information Letter: "Using And Submitting Indian Oil and Gas Canada's Remediation Action Plans, January 2023."
Under Federal laws, First Nation Reserve lands are under the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada and the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) quality guidelines apply. IOGC requires the most protective CCME criteria - agricultural land use - be applied for remediation regardless of the existing land type and vegetative assembly(s). This requirement protects the ecological integrity of the finite land base that Reserves represent for First Nations. It also recognizes First Nations' unique relationship with the land where all fauna and flora may be harvested for food, medicine, and ceremony.
For all remediation projects, the responsible party must submit a completed IOGC Remediation Action Plan (RAP) to the Environment Unit at IOGC and receive plan approval before clean-up can commence.
Provincial and CCME Guidelines
IOGC requires the most protective CCME quality guidelines criteria – agricultural - be applied in the remediation of upstream oil and gas sites. When provincial and CCME guidelines apply for a substance, the default is the most conservative guideline. For some projects, unique local background conditions may support consideration of a less conservative guideline. As of September 2023, IOGC accepts variation from CCME guidelines for Barite (Alberta only) and Methanol.
For sites in Alberta, Barite endpoints for remediation can be employed as detailed in the Alberta Environment Publication: "Soil Remediation Guidelines for Barite: Environmental Health and Human Health." When conducting the remediation work and for document submissions, the analysis must demonstrate that the barium on site was proven to be associated with Barite, that soils have been accurately interpreted and that the guidelines were correctly applied. Alternatives to the CCME guideline for methanol can be applied once it has been quantitively demonstrated that local site conditions support the degradation rate assumed by the substitute guideline being proposed.
If deviations from the most conservative guideline are sought for other substances, the responsible party must first contact the Environment Unit at IOGC for approval before proceeding. Further, the responsible party must demonstrate to IOGC and the First Nation how it serves the First Nation's best interests to use an alternative guideline. A signed Band Council resolution (BCR) will be required when remediation has departed from the most conservative guideline. See Section E for more on BCRs.
Use of Risk Based Methodologies
At this time, IOGC does not generally support the use of Risk-Based Methodologies in the clean-up of contaminated oil and gas sites on Reserve Lands. This is particularly so when the argument being advanced in support of such tools is centred on economic and not ecological considerations or the generational interests of the First Nation.
Infrequently, there are projects where physical and engineering limitations exist, and a risk-based methodology may be considered. In such cases, the responsible party must first contact the Environment Unit at IOGC and receive their approval before proceeding. As with the guideline's variance, the responsible party must demonstrate to IOGC, and particularly the First Nation, why this approach is the only feasible method for clean-up, and how it is in the First Nation's best interest to employ a risk approach.
A signed BCR will be required for such projects. Also, the adoption of risk methods places the remediation into the category of "Non-routine." For more information on Routine and Non-Routine remediation projects, refer to IOGC's publication; "Guide to Indian Oil and Gas Canada's Remediation Action Plan (RAP) Form and Annual Remediation Reporting Requirements, May 2022."
Band Council Resolution Requirements
When a site is to be cleaned up to a guideline other than the most conservative guideline or when a risk-based methodology has been employed, a signed BCR will be required before remediation work can commence.
For Guideline departures, the BCR must include a clause to the effect:
"Chief and Council understand and approve that the lands being returned will not be cleaned to the most conservative standards."
For risk-based remediation where there is no option to completely remove all or more of the contamination, the BCR must include a clause to the effect:
"Having been fully informed, Chief and Council confirm and accept that a risk-based methodology will be employed to manage the risk of the contamination that remains on site."
For risk-based remediation where there is an option to remove all or more of the contamination than what is being left in place, the BCR must include clauses to the effect:
"Having been fully informed, Chief and Council confirm and accept that a risk-based methodology will be employed to manage the risk of the contamination that remains on site. The decision to employ the risk model was agreed to by Chief and Council after being fully informed of the viable options to remove more or all of the contamination.
For further information or assistance, or a copy of the RAP Guide, please contact Indian Oil and Gas Canada's Environment Unit. (IOGC-Environment-Notification IOGC-Environment-Notification@sac-isc.gc.ca)
For all other enquiries please consult our Contact List.
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