Rob Fleming and John Horgan: B.C. NDP government would review fracking

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British Columbia needs to have a strong environmental lens guiding the development of our energy resources.  As we transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy, we must recognize the need for the responsible development of existing energy sources. 

While British Columbia has a well-established natural gas industry and an existing network of natural gas pipelines, we must approach further expansion with care.

New Democrats have met with First Nations, local governments, and residents throughout northeast B.C. While there are questions and concerns about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, there is also much agreement that extraction and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects can be done with greater consideration for environmental protection.

That's why Adrian Dix and B.C.’s New Democrats have put forward a plan that we believe will ensure long-term sustainability and environmental stewardship, greater public accountability, and best practices in the industry, particularly when it comes to fracking.

The first point of our plan would be to appoint an expert panel to conduct a broad public review of fracking, including public hearings and consultations with First Nations, local communities, industry, environmental groups, and citizens. The panel will ensure British Columbians get B.C.-specific information they can trust.

Second, we would make immediate changes to protect B.C.’s water resources, including consolidating authority for water licensing within one public body; improving water mapping, monitoring and public reporting; and reviewing current water pricing practices.

Many British Columbians are raising valid questions and concerns about water use and the impacts of fracking. Our call for a review of water management stands in stark contrast to the B.C. Liberal government, which has largely failed to put the necessary protections in place.

The B.C. Liberal government has dragged its feet on introducing the Water Sustainability Act which promised to “respond to current and future pressures on water, and position B.C. as a leader in water stewardship.” While draft legislation was promised years ago, it likely won't see the light of day before the end of the Liberals' term in office.

A number of B.C. First Nations are in favour of supporting LNG development under the right circumstances. For example, while the Fort Nelson First Nation has criticized the Liberal government for “irresponsible, unsustainable water use” in the shale gas industry, they acknowledge the economic benefits of the natural gas industry and believe “that shale gas development can occur without full-scale damage to our rivers, lakes, and streams”.

Our plan would also include extending funding for the Farmers’ Advocate office to ensure landowners in the natural gas fields have the credible, independent support they need to deal with the gas industry.

And finally, we must find ways to align expansion in gas development and greenhouse gas emissions with the targets set out in the province’s Climate Action Plan. The Liberals have largely failed to take responsibility on this front, opting instead to change the definition of what constitutes "clean" energy rather than tackle the tough issues.

New Democrats can support LNG exports while opposing the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline because LNG is a much safer alternative to oil. While any incident would be a major concern, the safety record of gas pipelines, LNG terminals, and LNG tankers shows there have been very few leaks. And unlike raw bitumen, which would cause a devastating environmental catastrophe in the case of a major spill off B.C.'s north coast, liquefied natural gas would evaporate and dissipate.

A New Democrat government would approach the development of safer, cleaner energy sources in an environmentally-responsible way. By subjecting each project to a rigorous environmental assessment and having the proper protections in place, we would make certain the best interests of our province are represented. This will enhance our economic development and indigenous peoples’ self-determination, and create a sustainable environment for the future.

Comments (8) Add New Comment
Sue Stroud
Good info in this article clarifying NDP's position but I must say I almost feel it's a dishonest trick that when I go to share the story has a different headline. Please fix this. What I'm posting should be the same as what I'm seeing.
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Ali Said
16 years without warming and yet the eco totalitarians are peddling their trade, low carbon economy... meanwhile there is nothing on fracking in this article. Straight= NDP/Green/Tidesmouthpiece
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john twigg
Good stuff, generally. Over-reacting in order to pander to the climate-alarmist vote would be counter-productive on several levels. Yes let's study BC fracking to ensure there are measures to ensure there are no critical leaks, and that domestic water supplies are not depleted or polluted - but do the studies by BCers and for BCers, then get on with revenue enhancements and job creation.
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Eddie Gardner
This is a good stand to take respecting LNG and Enbridge. It is well thought out. This is in sharp contrast to response to the Cohen Commission which has recommendations to implement. Action to take would be applying the precautionary principle advocated by Bruce Cohen and stop any renewals of fish farm leases or expansion of the open net feedlots on the Pacific coast. Anyone can easily understand that crowding tons of Atlantic salmon or any other fish in open net cages would cause mounds of toxic excrement that settles to the ocean floor. Then there are the chemicals used to fight off the amplification of sea lice as the feedlot are breeding grounds for sea lice that are harmful to migrating wild salmon. On top of all this, there is the chilling threat of deadly viruses that can spread from pharmed fish to wild salmon. The NDP seems to be ready to take action in the North, but has been silent on the action it would take regarding fish farms and the overall protection of wild salmon - an icon of Supernatural BC. It appears that the leadership of the NDP has been bought out already by the Norwegian Aquaculture industry that owns most of this business and we can accept expansion and renewals if the NDP gets in - you know, business as usual. Those who are concerned about protecting this most precious resource will have to consider voting for the Green Party is Adrian Dix stays silent on this most pressing and important issue to the economy that wild salmon supports. In the meantime, we wait and when the election approaches, this silence will help determine who we vote for. :)
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Ian Stephen
“As we transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy”

As we transition? Where is that happening?

Otherwise, this seems responsible so long as it is conducted meaningfully. There should be a moratorium on new fracking sites until this work is carried out. Let's understand what we're doing before we do more of it.

Will the expert panel's public review look at the full impacts of gas extraction and LNG projects including all greenhouse gas emissions? Anything less would be green-wash. We can't claim to be developing a resource responsibly while turning a blind eye to its full impacts.

Part of the debate also needs to address the benefits of public subsidies to these projects against the potential benefits of those same subsidies being directed elsewhere. Do we spend $10 billion building Site C to provide power to LNG plants, or would we be better off to keep the class 1 farm land in the Peace River Valley and instead use some of that money in other ways?

Will the consolidated authority for water licensing include a planning function and consideration of cumulative impacts of water licenses?

Planning and consideration of cumulative impacts are entirely lacking in oversight of this industry presently, as reported by independent MLAs Simpson and Huntington following their trip to the Peace early this year. http://www.bobsimpsonmla.ca/peace-river-follow-up/

These proposed actions are headed in the right direction. Let's hope the NDP carry through on them.
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Jonathan
Check out the Green Party's take on the NDP and fracking:

http://www.straight.com/news/daniel-tseghay-and-andrew-weaver-bc-liberal...
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Andrea Clark
I agree that there should be a moratorium on fracking until all the information/research/analysis is fully examined. There are hundreds of thousands of fracking wells in the US with substantial evidence of serious toxic water table contamination. We need the NDP to address this issue seriously and responsibly.
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don
“that shale gas development can occur without full-scale damage to our rivers, lakes, and streams”
Does this mean that partial damage is acceptable. Water is the reason that life exists on Earth. Oil and water do not mix. Humans are not here because oil exists.
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