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Our voices made a difference

Submissions to the royalty review call for a revamp, premium on environmental protection.

At the BC Climate Alliance, we encourage our members (and any other concerned Canadians) to engage with the government through public consultation opportunities.

In November, the BC govt sought feedback on their antiquated oil and gas royalty system. The results of that process are out, and clearly showed the impact that personalized, thoughtful input can have. The review received 938 survey completions, as well as 4,632 emails (123 of which were unique letters) and 98 unique formal submissions from impacted groups and the general public - including one from the BC Climate Alliance.

The summary of the feedback shows that the majority of respondants support a revamp of the current system to include; high royalty rates that reflect the social, environmental, and health impacts of oil and gas extraction, as well as carbon emissions from the burning of these resources; high additional fees for the use of water in operations that leave the water contaminated, such as fracking; fines and other fees applied to methane leaks and lost volumes of natural gas; and more.

This is all good news - but what I found particularly interesting in reading the summary report (77 pages!) was the insight it gave me into the consultation process. Here's my take home lessons.

Take the emails, for example. Of the 4,632 emails recieved, an algorythm detected that all except 123 were form letters. Ten types of form letters were detected; nine were anti oil & gas, and one was pro oil & gas. Each of the 10 types was coded once and analysed with the 123 unique email submissions. Lesson? For maximum impact reword and remix the form letter.

Letters, in the form of email attachments, were analysed separately. Of the 136 recieved, 41 originated from 3 form letters. Once again, these were analysed separately. Notably, a higher number of letter were sent by NGOs (24) than by Producers and Supporting Industries (17) or Industry and Trade Associations (6). Lesson? We're ahead - and could go even farther.

It's possible to get cynical about public consultations, especially when progress can feel slow. You open up yet another form, wade through the background documents, click through questions that maybe don't even approach the core issue, or give you space to say what you really want to say. But looking through the results of the royalty review an imagining my answers amongst them, I can see that the time I spent on my submission mattered. Someone is reading the letters we send in, someone is coding and collating. And at the end of the day, its a record of what we, the public, think - and that we cared enough to say so.

So. . . . public consultation on watershed security is up! Have your say!

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