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B.C. premier extends COVID-19 state of emergency for fourth time

WATCH: Premier John Giorgan answers questions about COVID-19 at his weekly media briefing.

Premier John Horgan has once again extended the provincial state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added it will remain in place for the “foreseeable future.”

Horgan also reminded residents ahead of the long-weekend coming up to avoid all non-essential travel and to stay home if sick.

B.C. premier on Victoria Day travel: ‘visit someplace near your home’
B.C. premier on Victoria Day travel: ‘visit someplace near your home’

“We are fighting the virus, we should not be fighting ourselves,” he said.

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READ MORE: Premier John Horgan, Dr. Bonnie Henry take your COVID-19 questions at Global BC town hall

In another announcement, Horgan said the B.C. government is using $120 million in federal money to clean up 2,000 orphan and inactive wells in the northern part of the province.

B.C. government announces plan to clean up abandoned wells
B.C. government announces plan to clean up abandoned wells

The support for oil and gas service companies will help restart the economy by supporting up to 1,200 jobs.

“Communities in the north will help us nominate which communities are in the highest need,” Horgan said.

“We will be able to protect our environment and protect climate change.”

Last month the federal government announced $120 million for B.C. to support cleaning up oil and gas sites.

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The bulk of the money, around $100 million, will be used to reclaim dormant oil and gas sites, which are wells that have been inactive for five consecutive years and are unlikely to be returned to service. This program will provide up to $100,000 per company, or 50 per cent of total costs, whichever is less.

The Orphan Sites Supplemental Reclamation Program will provide $15 million to reclaim orphan oil and gas sites where the operator is insolvent, no longer exists or cannot be located.

The Legacy Sites Reclamation Program will provide $5 million to address the legacy impacts of historical oil and gas activities that continue to have environmental impacts, such as on wildlife habitat or on the traditional use by Indigenous peoples.

“Through these three programs, we are accelerating the cleanup of thousands of orphan and inactive wells,” B.C.’s Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Bruce Ralston said.

“This allows us to restore lands of important environmental and cultural relevance, while also supporting local jobs and local economies in B.C.’s northeast.”

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Of about 25,000 oil and gas well sites in B.C., approximately 357 are considered orphan. In addition, there are currently 7,685 dormant well sites in B.C.

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First Nations communities will be working with the province to find sites on their land and opportunities for members of their community to work on the sites.

“Doig River is pleased that the province of B.C. is making steps to further manage the impacts of development on our territory through reclamation and restoration programs,” Doig River First Nation Chief Trevor Makadahay said.

“We are committed to cleaning up our land base and look forward to exploring the opportunities these programs create for our band membership, our company Uujo Developments and our environmental partner Tervita Corporation.”

Last week, Horgan and other officials released details of how the province would slowly begin to restart the economy, schools and health services, starting mid-May.

Global BC COVID-19 Town Hall: May 12
Global BC COVID-19 Town Hall: May 12