By Elizabeth Phillips
Last year, LNG Canada announced that it was moving forward with its plans to develop the country’s largest liquified natural gas export terminal. Located in northern British Columbia, the $40-billion project involves the construction of a 670-kilometer pipeline that will transport fracked natural gas from the Montney gas-producing region near Dawson Creek to the LNG Canada export facility in Kitimat. The B.C. government’s approval of the project increases the likelihood that natural gas extraction will accelerate in the region due to the need to maintain supply for the LNG export facility, paving the way for increased fracking in British Columbia.
Increased fracking should concern both B.C. residents and the government since the process is associated with a sobering array of costs to the environment and public health. One of the most significant costs is accidents and toxic wastewater leakage that result from poorly operated or malfunctioning machinery. When these fluids leak into overlying shallow aquifers, they have a profound effect on water quality and human health. Studies have revealed increased incidences of lung and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in people living in northeastern B.C., as well as high levels of benzene in pregnant women living near the Montney Basin, the 130,000-square-kilometer area that will supply the LNG Canada export facility.
The fracking process also releases radioactive materials into the environment. This is not only an occupational hazard for production workers but could also potentially travel through gas pipelines and enter households. Exposure to radioactive pollutants have terrible long-term health implications, including the increased likelihood of cancer and cardiovascular diseases for those who have been exposed. Communities within one kilometre of fracking sites have been found to have abnormally high rates of miscarriages, seizures, and rare forms of cancers. The relationship between the prevalence of negative health conditions and proximity to fracking activities warrants further investigation, but the B.C. government has done little to nothing to address these risks before giving the LNG Canada project the green light.
In 2018, after the public called for an inquiry on fracking, the B.C. government launched an independent scientific review of hydraulic fracturing to examine the impacts that fracking has on water quantity and quality, and the role that fracking plays with respect to earthquakes in northern B.C. Although the scientific review provides a step in the right direction, the findings have yet to be revealed, and as such, the decision to move forward with the project has been premature.
Further, the review doesn’t include an examination of the impacts of fracking on the health of those living near the Montney gas-producing region. The B.C. government’s approval of the LNG Canada project is short-sighted and irresponsible since it overlooks the true costs of fracking and the risks it poses to the environment and the health of B.C. residents. If Canada wishes to be a climate leader and steward of the environment, governments must take bold action to protect the health and well-being of their citizens and allow for more energy and investment to be focused on the development of low-carbon renewable energy alternatives, rather than on LNG fracked gas.
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