Oil and Gas Well Setback Distances

Res #: 10-11A
Number: 10
Year: 2011
Midterm: No
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure

WHEREAS there are many new oil and gas wells currently being drilled in the province; and

WHEREAS there is an increased risk of watershed contamination from uncontrolled releases of oil and/or salt water; and

WHEREAS environmental issues have resulted in greater responsibility being put on regulatory bodies such as rural municipalities;

BE IT RESOLVED that setback distances for new oil and gas wells drilled near rivers and lakes be increased from 100 metres to a minimum of 500 metres from the lake, river, creek, and other water sources and that any new wells on the flood plain have a berm sufficient to contain potential spills.

Response from Honourable Bill Boyd, Minister of Energy and Resources:
In this resolution, SARM has requested that the setback distance for new oil or gas wells be changed from 100 metres to 500 metres from lakes, river edge, and other water sources due to concerns of water contamination. 

I would like to assure you that the Government of Saskatchewan is committed to the sustainable development of the province’s natural resources and to the responsible stewardship of the environment while ensuring that the citizens of Saskatchewan receive the highest level of benefit from these developments.

The current setback distances were developed through consultation with the Ministry of Environment and environmental professionals with experience in providing environmental management solutions for the oil and gas industry. It is built on sound science to ensure that our precious water resources are protected from oil and gas development activities.

In addition, the Government of Saskatchewan has in place review processes enforced by multiple regulatory agencies to ensure the greatest protection to our environment is provided during the drilling of oil and gas wells.

For example, all oil or gas exploration or development activities are reviewed through various forms of environmental assessment review processes by the Ministry of Environment, including those developments that occur on private (freehold) lands.

This review examines the potential impact to all environmental receptors, such as a surface water body, from the proposed development activities. Where there is an environmental impact existing which cannot be mitigated, the development would not be allowed to proceed.

In addition, all oil and gas wells must be licensed by Ministry of Energy and Resources and during this application review, similar environmental reviews are carried out and the same restrictions are applied. This redundancy is in place because the Government of Saskatchewan is foremost committed to the protection of Saskatchewan’s valuable environmental resources.

Finally, as you may be aware the current regulatory requirement to berm a well site is not just applied to a well located in a floodplain but all wells that may have potential run-off in case of a spill.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention.