Extracts of testimony to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, House of Commons, February 3, 2011
Will Koop (Coordinator, British Columbia Tap Water Alliance):
. . . the rush to develop B.C.’s non-renewable deep shale gas is occurring without cumulative environmental effect studies: “Northeast British Columbia’s shale gas race will undoubtedly become and remain one of the most significant environmental and public planning issues facing First Nations, the Province, Regional Districts, regulators, communities, and residents alike”. Given the backdrop of ever more lax and non-existent legislation regulations, these developments can be understood as distinct social and political failures.
Since 2003 the government has leased thousands upon thousands of hectares of public lands to energy companies without conditions to conduct cumulative effect studies and without consulting the public. . .
. . . the cumulative effects issue is further complicated by the fact that the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission has provided little accurate or comprehensive data on public resource issues . . .
This long list released by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission regarding companies operating in the Horn River basin failed to provide accurate information, incorrectly suggesting that little water was needed for the fracking operations from 2009 to 2010.
I wrote in my last report that Encana had apparently conducted the world’s largest fracking operation on multi-well pad 63-K , in the Horn River basin, next to Two Island Lake, doubling the resource figure that Apache Canada had given earlier, when it announced the world’s largest fracking operation a few kilometres away.
I estimated that Encana used about 1.8 million cubic metres of fresh water, . . . And I said that this operation might be a template or an indication of many more operations in the future.
The absence of long-term, integrated, strategic cumulative effects planning, the lack of accurate resource-use data by the Oil and Gas Commission, and little governmental oversight or monitoring of the energy developments in northeast B.C. are not the only concerns.
Many landowners who are directly affected by the energy developments have told me of their concern that they seem to have few rights and stakeholder privileges. They state, for instance, that high-pressure toxic gas facilities should not be established so close to residences. Air quality standards are deficient. There are few or no air-monitoring systems. Water tables used for residents and agriculture are changing. B.C.’s mining legislation gives priority to developers to access and develop private property.
The concerns . . . about legislative and regulatory deficiencies and monitoring oversight in British Columbia are not isolated. . .
In British Columbia? The Environmental Assessment Act process and legislation was introduced in 1995. When the B.C. Liberal administration came in, they started to remove things and water it down. There was a tremendous amount of pressure by companies to do so, and they’re sympathetic to that, so they started doing that. And they did it across the board. So we have an atmosphere in British Columbia where we’ve gone back in time. We’ve gone back to the 1980s with the Social Credit government. We’re headed backwards–sorry about that.
What I’m saying is that this has become a problem. And there’s a bigger problem. What we also see is we see the tar sands, we see the federal government allowing things to go on to the Fisheries Act, etc. The way I’m looking at it now is that the tar sands have lowered the environmental bars and are creating kind of a ripple across Canada. In British Columbia there’s apparently very little that the public thinks it can do with the government to change these things. They’re very concerned about what’s going on, but they seem very powerless.
. . . There’s a big rush to develop all these things. Let’s slow down, let’s take a look. . .