Fracking

Fracking Company Ordered to Drain Two Unauthorized Dams in B.C.’s Northeast

Progress Energy Lily Dam

This article was originally published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The provincial government has ordered Progress Energy to drain virtually all of the water trapped behind two massive dams the company built in violation of key provincial regulations.

The company was told on October 31 to drain all but 10 per cent of the water stored behind its Town and Lily dams near the Alaska Highway north of Fort St. John by Chris Parks, assistant director of compliance and enforcement with B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).

The order comes after Progress Energy filed an extraordinary application this summer with the EAO asking the provincial environmental regulator to retroactively “exempt” the two dams from required environmental assessments. Both dams are higher than five-storey buildings.

Coalition Calls for Public Inquiry Into B.C. Fracking

Premier John Horgan AltaGas Ridley Island Propane Export Facility

A full public inquiry, with powers to call witnesses and gather research, is needed to investigate natural gas fracking operations in B.C., says a coalition of 17 community, First Nations and environmental organizations.

The group, which includes the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, David Suzuki Foundation, Public Health Association of B.C. and West Coast Environmental Law, is appealing to the NDP government to call a public inquiry — instead of the scientific review promised during the election campaign — because of mounting evidence of problems caused by fracking.

We believe that the NDP’s campaign promise to appoint a scientific panel to review fracking won’t be enough to fully address the true risks of deploying this brute force technology throughout northeast B.C.,” said Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, one of the organizations asking for an inquiry.

B.C. Regulator Finds Numerous Frack Water Dams Unsafe, At Risk of Failure

Progress Energy Lily Dam

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

At least seven of 51 large dams built by the province’s shale gas industry in northeastern B.C. were not safe and required “enforcement orders” to comply with the law.

Almost six months after an independent report raised serious questions about the legality and safety of earth dams built to hold water for the fracking industry, the province’s energy regulator now reports it is taking action.

The Oil and Gas Commission recently issued a bulletin saying it had inspected 51 dams northwest of Fort St. John last May and found “some issues” at seven different structures.

First Nations Bear Brunt of B.C.’s Sprawling Fracking Operations: New Report

Caleb Behn Fractured Land Fracking BC

A patchwork of roads, ditches and unauthorized dams are scarring First Nations territories in north east B.C. while water sources are being jeopardised by natural gas companies using hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of water for fracking, according to a study conducted for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

A sharp increase in fracking operations is underway in B.C. but First Nations have little say in decisions about how the companies operate on their traditional lands, finds the study, written by Ben Parfitt, CCPA resource policy analyst.

Today, in the more remote reaches of northeast B.C., more water is used in fracking operations than anywhere else on earth — and substantial increases in water use will have to occur in the event a liquefied natural gas industry emerges in B.C.,” the paper states.

A Dam Big Problem: Fracking Companies Build Dozens of Unauthorized Dams in B.C.'s Northeast

A subsidiary of Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned petro giant courted by the B.C. government, has built at least 16 unauthorized dams in northern B.C. to trap hundreds of millions of gallons of water used in its controversial fracking operations.

The 16 dams are among “dozens” that have been built by Petronas and other companies without proper authorizations, a senior dam safety official with the provincial government told the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which began investigating the problem in late March after receiving a tip from someone with knowledge of how widespread the problem is.

Two of the dams built by Progress Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Petronas, are towering earthen structures that exceed the height of five-storey apartment buildings. Petronas has proposed building a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Prince Rupert, which if built would result in dramatic increases in fracking and industrial water use throughout northeast B.C.

The two dams are so large that they should have been subject to review by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). Only if a review concluded that the projects could proceed would the EAO have issued a certificate, and only then could the company have moved on to get the necessary authorizations from other provincial agencies.

But nothing close to that happened because the company never submitted its plans to the EAO before the dams were built.

Scientists Find Methane Pollution from B.C.’s Oil and Gas Sector 2.5 Times What B.C. Government Reports

Methane pollution B.C.

New, groundbreaking research from a group of scientists shows B.C.’s estimates of methane pollution from oil and gas activity in the province’s Peace region are wildly underestimated.

Using infrared cameras and gas detection instruments at over a thousand oil and gas sites during a three-year period, scientists from the David Suzuki Foundation in partnership with St. Francis Xavier University recorded fugitive methane emissions being released from facilities directly into the atmosphere on a perpetual basis.

The study estimates methane pollution from industry in B.C. is at least 2.5 times higher than the B.C. government reports. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with the warming potential 84 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.

What You Need to Know About Fracking In Canada

Fracking Fort St John Garth Lenz

Back in 2007, when Alberta landowner Jessica Ernst filed her lawsuit over water contamination from the hydraulic fracturing of shallow coal seams near her property, most Canadians had never even heard of “fracking.”

Ten years later, nearly everyone has at least heard of the controversial process of accessing oil and gas deposits.

To some, it’s an economic saviour. To others, it’s a threat to fresh water and yet another step toward climate change catastrophe. But many others don’t know what to think, especially when some provinces embrace fracking while others put a freeze on the practice.

To help you sort it out, we’ve put together this primer on what fracking really is, where it’s happening in Canada and what’s known (and not known) about the risks to the environment and human health.

Alberta Energy Regulator’s Statement on Supreme Court Fracking Case ‘Inaccurate and Misleading’: Legal Experts

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

Two University of Calgary law professors have demanded Alberta’s energy regulator withdraw its “inaccurate and misleading” statement on a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that a landowner couldn’t sue it for alleged rights violations.

The court ruled Friday, in a split decision, that Jessica Ernst couldn’t sue the oil and gas regulator for allegedly violating her Charter rights.

The Alberta Energy Regulator posted a statement on its website in response to the highly technical ruling.

The Court did not find there was a breach of Ms. Ernst’s Charter rights, and made no findings of negligence on the part of the AER or its predecessor the ERCB,” declared the statement.

But law professors Shaun Fluker and Sharon Mascher have written in a popular legal blog that the regulator’s claim isn’t true.

Jessica Ernst Loses Landmark Supreme Court Case Against Alberta Fracking Regulator in 5-4 Ruling

Jessica Ernst. Photo by Colin Smith

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled Jessica Ernst can’t sue the powerful and controversial Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) over alleged violations of her Charter rights.

The split ruling Friday — five justices rejected her claim, with four supporting it — is a setback for the protection of groundwater and the rights of landowners dealing with provincial energy regulators, often funded or captured by industry interests, say many critics and lawyers.

The majority, led by Justice Thomas Cromwell, upheld an immunity clause passed by the legislature that protects the Alberta Energy Regulator from any Charter claims or lawsuits.

In 2007, Ernst, an oil patch environmental consultant, sued the Alberta government, Encana and the regulator for negligence over the contamination of local aquifers near her Rosebud home allegedly caused by the hydraulic fracturing of shallow gas wells in 2004.

New EPA Study Highlights Fracking’s Risk to Groundwater, Notes Troubling Lack of Data

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

Another U.S. study has found that hydraulic fracking, which triggers small- to medium-sized earthquakes, can change the chemistry and quality of groundwater.

The report comes at the same time the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the final version of its five-year-long study on fracking, which confirms that Tweet: New study: #fracking's brute force technology “can impact & have impacted drinking water resources” http://bit.ly/2hEqyY1 #bcpoli #cdnpoliall stages of the brute force technology “can impact and have impacted drinking water resources” and that impacts vary “in frequency and severity” depending on location, the scale of operations, and technologies used.

The findings put to rest claims by the oil and gas industry and its regulators that hydraulic fracturing is entirely safe and proven.

In 2010, for example, Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil and now President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, told a Congressional hearing, “There have been over a million wells hydraulically fractured in the history of the industry, and there is not one, not one, reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated from hydraulic fracturing. Not one.”

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