During a time when energy companies are rapidly expanding efforts in BC’s Horn River Shale Basin, the Liberals are slashing funds for environmental oversight and inspection. Cuts in the latest budget plan occur despite mounting evidence that new production techniques carry special dangers. In BC, activity levels soar and regulatory efforts plummet.
In the 2008 Budget Fiscal Plan, expenditures in the current (2010/2011) year were planned to be $360 million for environment, energy, mines and resources. In the most recent plan, the budget for those same programs is $221 million. Expenditures originally planned for this fiscal year were 163% higher than funds now budgeted.
With private river and wind power projects planned all over the province, increased mining activity and higher natural gas production in the northeast, regulatory capacity is crippled by budget cuts. This reflects the Campbell government’s aversion to environmental enforcement and willingness to accept industry self-regulation.
In the USA, the regulatory situation respecting shale gas production is reversed. Because of known dangers and apparent risks, the EPA is acting aggresively. More news from ProPublica:
A federal study of hydraulic fracturing  set to begin this spring is expected to provide the most expansive look yet at how the natural gas drilling process can affect drinking water supplies, according to interviews with EPA officials and a set of documents outlining  the scope of the project. The research will take a substantial step beyond previous studies and focus on how a broad range of ancillary activity – not just the act of injecting fluids under pressure – may affect drinking water quality.
The oil and gas industry strongly opposes this new approach. [emphasis added] The agency’s intended research “goes well beyond relationships between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water,” said Lee Fuller, vice president of government affairs for the Independent Petroleum Association of America in comments  (PDF) he submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The “lifecycle” approach will allow the agency to take into account hundreds of reports of water contamination in gas drilling fields across the country. Although the agency hasn’t settled on the exact details, researchers could examine both underground and surface water supplies, gas well construction errors, liquid waste disposal issues and chemical storage plans as part of its assessment.