Frequently Asked Questions - Introduction to ABA

The Area-based Analysis (ABA) approach has been developed by the BC Oil and Gas Commission (the Commission) as a framework for managing the impacts of oil and gas development. It is a different and more effective way of characterizing landscape of unconventional gas basins to inform decisions on oil and gas applications.

The Commission uses ABA to address the long-term effects of oil and gas activity in its decision making. Various decisions involving roads, water, seismic activity, well and facility locations, and pipeline corridors cause cumulative effects to both environmental and social values. Considering effects on only a project- or sector-specific basis can allow unintended impacts to accumulate over time.

In contrast, the Commission is addressing cumulative effects of oil and gas activity through the Areabased Analysis approach to permitting and authorizing. This approach allows the Commission to manage industry activity comprehensively to protect ecological, social and cultural heritage values. The actions that will be assessed are the combined footprint impact of industrial development on the selected values. For the Commission, that means that decisions about oil and gas activities will be made with all industrial development in mind.

Area-based Analysis considers all oil and gas activities and the surface and subsurface environmental impacts, both current and potential, at the full basin scale to achieve better environmental outcomes and more effective and efficient regulation. That means that broad impacts can be considered when looking at specific applications or activities, rather than just the localized effects of one permit. It evaluates the overall landscape – including features such as existingroads, wildlife management zones and other industrial users.

It’s an approach that manages environmental values based on direction set by government. ABA gives the Commission a better picture of the cumulative and larger impact of oil and gas activities for an entire region within the overall context of all activity. This information is used when the Commission makes decisions on applications.

Area-based Analysis follows the adaptive management process – the Commission will monitor to measure impacts, and adjust the overall framework as required.

Values includedTarget date
Hydro-riparian ecosystems, Old ForestFall 2014
High priority wildlife2015
Ground water
Air quality
First Nation cultural, heritage and traditional use
TBD
  

 

The ABA proof of concept was focused on landscape and ecological values within the Liard Unconventional Gas Basin. This ecological and landscape focus will be retained as ABA is deployed across the entire land base of northeast British Columbia (see Figure 2).

 

Compiling all known data and information into area-specific analyses gives industry, First Nations, government and other stakeholders the same information used by the Commission.

All documentation, data and analytical procedures used in ABA will be shared with all First Nations communities.

Area-based analysis integrates strategic direction from statutes, regulations and existing land-use plans with identified environmental and cultural values into a coherent and clarified framework.

This framework will:

  • Provide a consistent rationale and process for identifying environmental and cultural values.
  • Clarify objectives as set out in government policy and statutes.
  • Provide an analysis of all existing development and the opportunity for future oil and gas activity.
  • Provide a simplified and transparent framework to assess and manage oil and gas development impacts on identified values

The Area-Based Analysis (ABA) approach uses components of common cumulative effects assessment processes, but is geared to be operational. It will help inform decision makers about the impacts of oil and gas applications in the broader context of all development.

Area-Based Analysis is also used to evaluate trends in resource development and the effectiveness of policy regimes. Area-Based Analysis reports will be updated periodically to reflect new information, including updates to relevant government policy and legislation and new development activities.

The principle behind ABA is that as the impact to a value increases due to industrial build out by all activity, not just oil and gas, the management response escalates.

An assessment framework is developed for each value (see Figure 1) and the information generated during the assessment is provided to the Statutory Decision Maker for use in their decision.

The goal of the Area-based Analysis framework is to maintain conditions in the bottom bar where permitting is subject to routine reviews and operating procedures.

In the event the enhanced management trigger has been reached and the current condition of the value is determined to be in the middle (yellow) bar, the permitting process is subject to additional review and additional operating procedures will considered.

The objective is to return the conditions below the enhanced management trigger. FIGURE 1

In the event regulatory/policy trigger has been reached and the current condition of the value is determined to be in the top (orange) bar, the permitting process is subject to additional senior/regional staff review and additional operating procedures will considered.

The objective will be to restore conditions below the regulatory/policy trigger and ideally below the enhanced management trigger. This may include suspending permitting, confirming policy direction and implementing innovative approaches to mitigate the impact.

The framework is designed to be modular, and work is under way on five values:

  • hydro-riparian ecosystems (riparian habitat, water quantity)
  • old forest
  • high-priority wildlife habitat
  • resource features
  • cultural heritage resources.

Three additional values are planned:

  • ground water
  • water quality
  • air quality.

If additional values are identified through the First Nations engagement process, they will be considered for inclusion within the framework.