Geoff Meggs and George Heyman differ on fracking in Vancouver-Fairview NDP race
They both say they don’t like fracking. What Geoff Meggs and George Heyman intend to do about it is another matter.
Also known as hydraulic fracturing, the controversial industrial technique that’s used to extract shale gas from the ground appears to be the only issue separating the two candidates in the race for the B.C. NDP nomination in Vancouver-Fairview.
Meggs, a Vision Vancouver councillor, and Heyman, an environmental activist and former labour-union leader, agreed on all other issues, ranging from housing to raising the minimum wage, during their one-time-only debate on October 15.
In a November 2011 news release, the B.C. NDP declared that it is “committed to a plan that ensures long-term sustainability and environmental quality in B.C.’s expanding natural gas fields”.
Environmentalists have raised concerns about fracking, which involves the high-pressure injection of large volumes of water, chemicals, and sand to break up rocks and extract natural gas. They say the dangers include seismic risks, water contamination, and increased greenhouse-gas emissions.
John Horgan, who is the New Democrat critic for energy, mines, and petroleum resources, told the Georgia Straight in August that there is no contradiction between his party’s opposition to the building of pipelines that will carry oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the B.C. coast and its support for projects involving fracked gas in B.C.
Heyman said that if he’s nominated and ultimately elected as the MLA for Vancouver-Fairview, he will try to reverse the B.C. NDP’s favourable stand on fracking. Meggs indicated that he would not rock the boat.
Heyman told reporters after the Monday debate that on August 30, less than a month after Horgan said fracking was safe, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission released its report on the “anomalous seismicity” recorded in the Horn River Basin.
Located in northeastern B.C., the Horn River Basin is considered the crown jewel of Canada’s gas industry. In its report, the commission concluded that the tremors seen there ranging between 2.2 and 3.8 on the Richter scale were caused by fracking operations.
“I’m not proposing that we don’t sell any gas,” Heyman said. “I am proposing that we stop the expansion of new frack wells until we have an appropriate public study on the health impacts, the community impacts, the water impacts, and the climate, greenhouse-gas-emissions impact.”
After the debate, the Straight asked Meggs to clarify his stand on fracking.
“The party position is we will allow fracking,” Meggs explained. “I personally don’t like it. I wish we would examine and study it. But I accept that our party has taken a position on it. George [Heyman] is saying he wants to change the party’s position. And while I might prefer a different position, I’m not campaigning to have it changed.”
Vancouver-Fairview is a world away from the fracking wells of northeastern B.C., but many of its residents have an affinity to environmental causes. New Democrats in the constituency will choose between Meggs and Heyman at a nomination meeting on Sunday (October 21).
Before the debate started, community activists hoisted placards lambasting Meggs. Randy Chatterjee slammed the Vancouver councillor on several issues, from the latter’s involvement in the government of B.C. NDP premier Glen Clark to the breakup of the city’s Coalition of Progressive Electors and the
developer-friendly policies of the ruling Vision Vancouver party.
“We don’t want this guy back in Victoria,” Chatterjee told the Straight. “We want him to get out of politics.”
Asked about Chatterjee’s criticism, Meggs quipped: “The only thing in the last 15 years he hasn’t blamed me for is climate change.”