A B.C. government plan to provide more public information about hydraulic fracturing activity in the province fails to address serious concerns about the practice, according to critics.
Premier Christy Clark recently announced an online registry will be launched in January 2012. It will allow British Columbians to search for information about the location of hydraulic fracturing activity and learn more about what chemical additives are being used, according to the province.
Hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking”—is a method of extracting valuable deposits of trapped natural gas by injecting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into shale rock. Much of the activity around shale-gas development is taking place in northeastern B.C.
Independent MLA Bob Simpson criticized the plan, claiming more needs to be done.
“No amount of online reporting moderates or mitigates the health implications and the question around is that really what we should be doing with our freshwater resource. It’s a start but it doesn’t go anywhere to address the real issues,” he told the Straight by phone.
Simpson said the chemicals used in hydraulic fracking are “neurotoxins, carcinogens, pretty nasty stuff”.
The MLA for Cariboo North wants to see a special committee of the legislature convened to look into health, economic, and environmental issues around the controversial gas-extraction practices.
Tria Donaldson, a B.C. campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, also objected to the government’s approach.
“I think it isn’t going far enough when we’re at a time when jurisdictions around the world like New Jersey, like France, like New South Wales in Australia are looking at bans on fracking,” Donaldson told the Straight by phone.
“Having an online website where people can look at information isn’t nearly going far enough to protect British Columbians from both the health impacts and the environmental impacts associated with fracking.”
Critics of hydraulic fracturing have cited environmental and health concerns over the demand the practice places on water resources and the use of toxic chemicals.
Amid the controversy, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has recently established a set of guiding principles for hydraulic fracturing.
The industry group commits to disclose information about use of chemical additives, to use sound construction practices, and to reuse and recycle water when practical.
In a statement, association president Dave Collyer said the new principles were created by industry to “guide water management and improve water and fluids reporting practices”.
“CAPP’s principles apply nationally providing the same type of transparency to shale gas developments regardless of jurisdiction,” Collyer said.
Premier Clark announced the plan to launch the online registry on Thursday (September 8) at the annual B.C. Oil and Gas Conference being held in Fort Nelson.
“British Columbia is committed to the development of a more open and transparent natural gas sector and the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing practices and additives supports this goal,” Clark said in a statement.
“Now all British Columbians will have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about the industry’s operations,” she said.
The plan is backed by the oil and gas industry.
“Industry supports the government of B.C. in its move to improve disclosure,” Collyer said in the statement.