PROPOSED CHANGES TO B.C.’S SITE PROFILE SYSTEM ADDRESS PERCEIVED GAPS AND WEAKNESSES IN THE PROCESS

31. January 2020 0

The Ministry of Environment’s (“MOE”) site profile system is a process to screen for potentially contaminated sites. Through this system, the MOE and certain municipalities coordinate their respective functions to identify and address environmental risk. The anticipated changes are designed to address perceived gaps and weaknesses in the process.

Current System

The current system requires a site profile to be submitted to the MOE in specific circumstances if;

  1. any of the activities listed in Schedule 2 of the Contaminated Sites Regulation (“CSR”) have occurred on the site;
  2. one or more of the following triggers pertains to the site;
    • An application to local government for zoning, subdivision, development or development variance, soil removal, or demolition;
    • decommissioning a site;
    • taking over a property as a trustee, receiver or liquidator;
    • selling property that has or had a Schedule 2 activity on it; and/or
    • an application for a Certificate of Restoration under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act; and
  3. there are no applicable exemptions under the CSR.

Site profiles must include the basic land description, along with the past and present uses of a site. The content and format of a site profile is provided in Schedule 1 of the CSR, and is essentially a list of yes/no questions.

Based on the completed site profile submission, the MOE’s Director of Waste Management may determine a site investigation is required. An investigation will freeze the local government’s ability to approve applications and permits for the site until a ‘release’ is obtained from the Director.  Currently, the CSR provides a mechanism for local governments to opt out of the site profile system altogether.

The New System

Proposed amendments to the site profile system are moving through the legislature at the moment, and are to take effect later this year. The new system will be called the Site Identification System (“Site ID System”). Some of the more substantial changes include:

  1. The Site ID System replaces the existing site profile form with the Site Identification Form (“Site ID Form”), which no longer involves a series of yes/no questions. Among other things, the Site ID Form requires a summary of the planned activity at the site, a list of any past or present permits, approvals, or certificates pertaining to the environmental condition of the site, and a list of any record searches completed in order to fill out the form (e.g., Land Title Searches, maps, directories, etc.).
  2. The activities and purposes listed under Schedule 2 of the CSR will be modified. The updates are intended to improve clarity and consistency, and reduce redundancy. The amendments include exclusions for specific activities to avoid capturing sites where risk of contamination is low. The amendments also add new purposes and activities to address situations where potentially contaminated sites are not currently being captured (e.g., fire training facilities).
  3. The CSR will be amended to remove the option for local governments to “opt out” of the system. This is intended to ensure a more consistent process across the province.
  4. Any site with a Schedule 2 use will be automatically frozen and subject to the requirements under the Environmental Management Act and CSR before a local government can provide permits.

Significance of New System

The impending changes will be more significant for some stakeholders than others. For example, municipalities will all be subject to this added process, like it or not – no opting out.  Operators or former operators of Schedule 2 activities, such as fuel outlets, will find all such properties automatically flagged. For sellers and purchasers of property in B.C., there will be more certainty that lands have been appropriately flagged. Developers too will find more consistency as they navigate the permitting process across the province. Broadly speaking, the new system is intended to become more consistent and reliable.

If you have any questions or comments about the new Site ID System or how the changes could affect you, please contact Richard Bereti at rbereti@harprgrey.com or anyone else from our team listed on the Authors page.

This article was co-authored by Richard Bereti and articling student, Nicola Virk.

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