Frequently Asked Questions - The ABA Framework

The measurement of disturbance will be assessed against triggers/thresholds that have been established by expert opinion. These thresholds will trigger actions that will reduce the impact of further development, by introducing avoidance and mitigation strategies. 

The actions that will be assessed are the combined footprint impact of all industrial development on the selected values. This includes all surface land use disturbance associated with oil and gas activity, geophysical activity, cutblocks and non-oil activity (such as mining, recreation, hydro, wind power, transmission lines). For the Commission, that means that decisions about oil and gas activities will be made with all industrial development in mind.

Area-based Analysis has been expanded to cover the full extent of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in northeast British Columbia (NEBC). This includes the key development basins: The Horn River, the Cordova Embayment, the Montney and the Liard Basin.

The initial values being assessed focus on the biophysical components of the ecosystem. This includes 650,000 hectares of hydro-riparian reserves and 3.5 million hectares of Old Forest.

The ABA process monitors all industrial disturbance in a comprehensive incursion database.

Embodied in the existing environmental legislation and policy regime that governs resource management within British Columbia is the concept of “coarse-filter” and “fine-filter” management.

Coarse-filter management refers to the conservation of landscapes through networks of protected areas and management zones that allow natural processes to persist. Conserving the ecological communities of a given region through coarse filter management will also conserve those species that co-occur on the landscape, share common ecological processes and/or threats and are expected to behave similarly to development pressures and management actions.

Some species, ecosystems and features need to be conserved through individual, often localized efforts because they fall through the mesh of the coarse filter. This process is termed fine-filter management, and refers to conservation through localized protection measures such as individual species protection plans or protection of critical habitats or features (dens or rookeries) that are requisite for key life functions.

This framework was used to define the suite of starting values, as well as to help define the nesting of related values. The starting values are:

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

ABA fits into the existing legal framework within which the BC Oil and Gas Commission operates. This legal framework is an environmental protection regime that is embodied in the collection of acts, regulations, standards, practice requirements and management plans that govern the mandate of the BC Oil and Gas Commission.

The legal framework was developed over many years. It is based on a wealth of information and knowledge about the activities on the ground and/or the environmental components. Overall the legal framework is intended to balance scientific knowledge with management risk, while protecting the environment and enabling development.

ABA gives the Commission greater certainty that decisions about oil and gas activity are made within the legal framework and that the effects of oil and gas activity can be managed and mitigated effectively and to lasting effect.

Some of the specific concerns ABA will help address include:

Management/regulation concerns

  • Clarification of current legal/policy objectives in the Oil and Gas Activities Act (OGAA) and the Environmental Protection and Management Regulation (EPMR), which are both administered by the Commission.
  • In conjunction with the cumulative effects program of the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), the ABA will:
    • Address the situation that multiple government agencies permit and authorize different industries and activities that impact the same values on the same land base
    • develop common objectives and shared information to minimize or eliminate the accumulation of unintended impacts
    • ensure the assessment(s) informs decision-making in a coordinated and consistent manner across the natural resource sector in order to reduce unintended impacts on values
    • address the cumulative environmental effects of all natural resource activities and events on a select set of resource values (rather than just oil and gas, for instance).

Environmental concerns:

  • The ABA will assist in addressing concerns by
    • identifying and making coordinated decisions about significant resource development in northeast British Columbia
    • managing the impacts of development on key ecosystem attributes (habitat, water, air, species) to stay within acceptable levels
    • managing the impacts of development on the resource values that support the practice of treaty rights.

Area-based Analysis (ABA) follows the outline identified in the 1999 document “Cumulative Effects Assessment Practitioners Guide” prepared for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Scoping consists of five basic steps:

  1. identify the issues of concern
  2. select the appropriate values
  3. identify the spatial and temporal boundaries
  4. identify the actions that impact the values
  5. identify potential impacts from the actions and possible effects.