The British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission has enacted new rules for inline well tests and will launch a “fact-finding program” in May to study air quality in the Peace River area, where natural gas shale exploration programs are booming, the minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources said Thursday.

Blair Lekstrom praised the commission for enacting the new inline well test rules, which he called a “progressive step” toward achieving the goals and targets outlined in the BC Energy Plan: A Vision for Clean Energy Leadership, which was unveiled three years ago (see Daily GPI, March 1, 2007). The ministry issued a progress report on the energy plan Friday.

Power generation and alternative energy are the cornerstones of the energy plan. However, it also lays out ways to improve the province’s burgeoning energy development, including proposals to eliminate gas flaring at all production facilities by 2016.

Under the commission’s new well testing requirements “routine flaring is further reduced in this province,” said Lekstrom. “BC’s vibrant natural gas and petroleum industry is a key driver of the provincial economy, and we are committed to ensuring it meets world-class environmental standards.”

Effective immediately, inline testing is required for all new wells located within 1.25 kilometers of a residence and three kilometers or less from pipeline infrastructure. The testing procedures are detailed at

Lekstrom and BC Environment Minister Barry Penner also announced that the province’s Mobile Air Monitoring Laboratory (MAML) is to visit four locations in the Peace River region as part of a fact-finding trip to monitor the area’s air quality. The area includes drilling areas around Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Chetwynd and Pouce Coupe.

“This summer’s visit…will provide valuable information about air quality in the Peace region, in areas that we haven’t gathered data on previously,” said Lekstrom. “Although we’re not aware of any air quality issues in these areas, it’s important that we monitor air quality so that people throughout BC continue to enjoy the best air quality possible.”

Between May and August the mobile lab will gather air quality data at four gas and oil production areas: Kelly Lake/Toms Lake, Rolla, Farmington and Groundbirch.

The provincial government wants to expand air quality monitoring in areas where data is not currently gathered, including some areas in the Peace region. Air quality readings from 100 24-hour reporting stations are reported on a real-time basis on the BC Air Quality Map at

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