Changes to Petroleum Legislation Pass in the Legislature

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August 23, 2019

The Government of the Northwest Territories has taken the first steps to modernizing its petroleum laws.

Bill 36, An Act to Amend the Petroleum Resources Act and Bill 37, An Act to Amend the Oil and Gas Operations Act, passed at third reading on August 14th and 15th.

Here’s how we got here, and why it matters.

Engagement and Policy Development

The Acts were developed through a rigorous research and policy development process.

This began with community visits across the NWT, targeted stakeholder meetings, and a multi-platform engagement campaign. While the engagement was primarily focused on targeted changes identified in an engagement paper, staff were also on-hand to collect feedback on a variety of topics related to oil and gas which were outside the scope of the initiative. This gave people the opportunity to contribute to future reviews while the GNWT was on-the-road this time around.

Related: 

Updates to NWT Petroleum Legislation: Engagement Update Vol. 2 — Going North

This supplemented legislative research completed by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, and close work with Indigenous governments on developing the policy outcomes and legislation.

That process drew out several areas where the NWT could make important, priority changes to existing oil and gas laws to lay the groundwork for future legislation and regulation reviews.

What Do The New Laws Achieve?

The first area was transparency and public accountability. By passing these laws, NWT residents will now have the ability to access much more information about those doing oil and gas business in the NWT – including about materials used in hydraulic fracturing. They also mean the territorial government and its regulators will be held to higher standards of transparency.

Understanding Proposed Changes to NWT Petroleum Legislation

The next was managing Significant Discoveries. With the passage of Bill 36, the licensing process will be changed so that companies will no longer be able to tie up large areas of land for an indefinite period. It does so by setting a 15 year limit for how long companies can hold a Significant Discovery Licence, and addressing some loopholes which allowed companies who haven’t done any work to be awarded such a licence. This is good for the NWT because it will mean going forward, companies will be expected to create benefits for northerners by developing our resources, or open the land up again for some other use.

And the final area included a number was administrative and technical improvements

Building Consensus

This was a collaborative process with significant input from members of the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment (SCEDE) to further improve the Bills after introduction.

Read the Committee's Report here.

Ultimately, the government accepted seven out of eight motions introduced by SCEDE.

What’s Next?

The Bill has received Royal Assent. The commissioner has signed off on the new laws officially. In the meantime, there’s still some work to do to get these new laws into force. 

The two Regulators of oil and gas in the Northwest Territories — the Office of the Regulator of Oil and Gas Operations (OROGO) for most of the onshore regions of the NWT, and the National Energy Board for the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and the Norman Wells Proven Area — will get to work on putting together guidelines.

This is necessary to help those doing business in the Northwest Territories understand what these new laws mean for their day-to-day business.