As conventional oil and gas resources are being depleted worldwide, coalbed methane is being touted as one means to fill the supply and demand gap for gas. The British Columbia government views coalbed methane as 'an important new energy source that will diversify our energy supply and contribute to British Columbias economy through revenue and jobs.'
However, because the economics of coalbed methane development are still uncertain, the Province is offering $50,000 royalty credits for every well drilled before December 2008, and it is working to make its regulations more 'coalbed methane friendly.' Industry has responded to the Provinces invitation: as of the fall of 2005, over 40 coalbed methane wells have been drilled in BC. These have been primarily in the northeast, but also in the south central interior, the Elk Valley, on Vancouver Island and near Iskut.
With commercial production on the horizon, this Guide endeavours to encourage responsible development of BCs coalbed methane resources, and to ensure that mistakes that were made in the United States are not repeated here. Experience with coalbed methane development in the early years in the US was largely negative, bringing with it significant impacts on private lands and changing the face of many communities.
This Guide explains some of the environmental and social risks associated with coalbed methane development, and then focuses on some of the tools available for local governments to plan for, avoid and mitigate the potential negative consequences. We discuss regulatory tools that are set out in the Local Government Act and Community Charter, and apply these tools to the particular challenges presented by coalbed methane development. We describe and build upon the wisdom of a number of 'best practices' projects initiated in the US.