“It’s a great step forward,” Anita Perry, regional manager for Nova Scotia for BP Canada, said in an interview Friday.

The company is seeking to drill its first exploration well in 2017 off the southeastern coast of Nova Scotia, with plans for up to a total of seven wells depending on the results of the initial test well.

BP successfully bid $1.04 billion and was granted exploration licences for four parcels about 250 kilometres off Nova Scotia in 2013.

 The company committed to spend $1.08 billion exploring the leased parcels and last year completed 3D seismic testing of the roughly 14,000-square kilometre area.

Data collected at that time is still being analyzed, Perry said.

The firm, which holds a 40 per cent interest in the project with partners Hess Canada Oil and Gas ULC (40 per cent) and Woodside Energy International (Canada) Ltd (20 per cent), will operate the exploration program.

To assist in developing the project-specific environmental guidelines, the agency will review public input and information from stakeholders like First Nations communities, the fishing industry, environmental groups and government.

It will also review documents the company submitted this month (which are available on the agency’s website) describing its project and potential risks to the environment including fish and fish habitat, marine mammals and sea turtles, marine and migratory birds, commercial fisheries, current aboriginal use and special areas from the possibility of accidental oil spills.

The company does not detail its preventive or emergency plans in the documents but states it will conduct “spill trajectory modelling” to predict areas that could be affected by a spill both offshore and on shore, including Sable Island.

At least three special areas lie within a 150-kilometre radius of the project area, including the Sable Island National Park Reserve, the Gully, a marine protected area and the Northern Bottlenose Whale Critical Habitat, the documents state.

The company’s “requirements for oil spill preparedness and response planning incorporate our experience over many years of operation, and specifically from the Deepwater Horizon accident,” the documents state.

“Any of our businesses with the potential to spill oil are required to develop oil spill planning scenarios and response strategies.”

After the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the British company pleaded guilty to a number of criminal charges and paid a record $4.5-billion in a settlement with the U.S. government.

The disaster also led the company to review and change some of the ways it does business.

“Some of the new practises we’ve adopted include strengthening our contractor management, improving assurance on blowout preventers and also a lot of changes around well control, pressure testing, emergency systems,” Perry said.

“I believe by the end of this year we’ll have adopted all of the recommendations that came out of the Bly Report, which was our investigation into the incident. We’ve changed the systems where they’ve had to be and all for the better of the industry.”

All input must be submitted in writing by Sept. 8 to Scotian Basin Exploration Drilling Project, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, 200-1801 Hollis Street, Halifax, N.S., B3J 3N4; by fax to 902-426-6550 or by email to CEAA.Scotian.ACEE@ceaa-acee.gc.ca