County will inform residents about new abandoned well rules by Dan Singleton, November 13, 2012 , Mountain View Gazette
Mountain View County council has instructed administration to come forward with a plan to inform residents about new provincial regulatory requirements pertaining to abandoned oil wells on rural properties. During the Nov. 7 Policies and Priorities Committee meeting, John Rusling, director of planning and development services, explained that the ERCB’s new “Subsurface Development in Proximity to Abandoned Wells Directive 079” sets out detailed requirements for accommodating abandoned wells during subdivision and development projects. The directive, which came into effect on Nov. 1, specifies that development on top of an abandoned well will not be permitted and a minimum setback of a five-metre radius around the well must be maintained. New subdivision applications, except for lot line adjustments, will now need to include documentation from the ERCB identifying the presence or absence of abandoned wells. Such documentation will have to be obtained through the ERCB’s database website.
The new regulations also require new development permits for buildings larger than 47 square metres and for additions to buildings that will as a result become larger than 47 square metres to include documentation from the ERCB with the application identifying the presence or absence of abandoned wells. Municipal subdivision or development authorities evaluating development permits and subdivision applications must ensure that the regulations’ provisions are applied prior to issuing approvals. “What the amendments say is that when somebody is applying for a subdivision, with some exceptions, or a development permit, with some exceptions, they have to supply us with information on abandoned wells on their properties,” said Rusling.
“The regulation is clear that it is the landowner who has to supply this information. These are mandatory requirements and everything that we do has to conform with the subdivision and development regulations.” The municipality will be able to help landowners obtain the required ERCB documentation at the county office, he said. “This is going to be confusing for a lot of the public out there,” he said. “What the staff has done is we have shortcuts to the ERCB databases on our public terminals. When people come in we certainly will help them get on the ERCB website and pull up their properties on the website and help them work through the database.”
Deputy Reeve Patricia McKean asked Rusling, “Where does our liability lie on this?” Rusling replied: “If the municipality is acting on information that comes from the landowner, then the liability, in my opinion, would rest with the landowner.” [Emphasis added]