If British Columbia wants to pursue economic, environmental and human health then the province must slow its furious pace of unconventional gas production, says a new report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Wilderness Committee. The CAPP report, part of their partner Climate Justice Project with the University of British Columbia, concludes that BC’s natural gas sector is putting the industry’s needs before those of British Columbians, and doing so with the government’s help.
British Columbia is providing the gas industry with 78 million cubic meters of free water each year, according to a recent CBC article. That water, the equivalent to 31,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is used to hydraulically fracture, or frack, the Northeast portion of the province which is undergirded by a vast reservoir of unconventional gas.
The B.C. government has recently added another 3.65 million cubic meters of water per year to that total by issuing an additional permit to Talisman Energy. The permit grants Talisman permission to withdrawal water from the Williston Reservoir, B.C.’s largest freshwater body, for 20 years.
Historically, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) has granted short-term, temporary water withdrawal permits to the oil and gas industry, a process critics argued circumvented the environmental evaluation necessary for long-term permits. In this instance, Talisman has received one of the largest water withdrawal permits of its kind.
Independent Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in British Columbia are calling upon Premier Christy Clark to launch a comprehensive investigation into hydraulic fracturing. This demand comes late in the game, some say, after the world’s largest fracking operations have already taken place in the remote and pristine wilds of the province.
BC’s two Independent MLAs, Bob Simpson and Vicki Huntington, are not alone in their request for a full examination of the human and environmental health implications of the province’s unconventional gas resources. Supporting the appeal are numerous citizen and environmental groups, journalists, and First Nation’s representatives. They believe the rapid development of gas in BC’s north is taking place without consideration of the costs to public health and safety.
The Tyee’s Ben Parfitt has a must-read piece today focusing on the huge amounts of drinking water that the shale gas industry is drawing from public water resources for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations. It describes the efforts of Talisman Energy and Canbriam Energy to secure long-term licenses that would allow the gas industry to draw from B.C.’s public water supplies for years and possibly decades with little thought about water stewardship.
The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission - the same agency charged with regulating the gas industry - is consulting with the industry without public input or information sharing with key water stewardship officials.
Gas companies are currently sourcing most of their water needs for fracking from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) through temporary permits. The Tyee notes that the gas industry “has a unique advantage over all other water users in the province in that it can get water from its own dedicated regulator.”