Last week, Christy Clark stood before an Oil and Gas conference in Fort Nelson, and announced that the BC government would be launching a new website that discloses where fracking is occurring and what chemicals and toxins would be used at each site.
Sounds good, right? Transparency and openness in government, just like she promised, right?
Not so fast. There are a couple of things seriously wrong with this new initiative Christy announced.
First, let me quickly explain what fracking is, if you don’t know. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is often called, is the process by which chemical-laced water and sand are blasted underground to break apart rock and release gas for extraction,after a site has been drilled by an oil and gas company. It is a very controversial method that has already been banned in several locations, including France,and part of the United states, because some of the toxic chemicals and substances used in the process can contaminate ground water.
Here in BC, fracking has been going on for nearly a decade with not much knowledge or fanfare to most British Columbians, and in fact, up until this registry was announced by Clark, the chemicals and toxins used in BC were kept secret by the oil and gas industry in this country.
Ironically, Canadians finally got their first glimpse of the truth behind what is going on in our country, from a report issued by the U.S. Congress last year, in which a full list of the ingredient used to extract the profitable gas was revealed. Andrew Nikiforuk did a full report earlier this year in the Tyee about these revelations, which concluded that:
According to the U.S. Congress, the majority of 750 fracking chemicals, which include a bunch of kitchen sink stuff too, are hazardous if not tumor-guaranteed cancer makers.
The amazing list includes coffee grinds, salt, ceramic balls, walnut hulls, lead, petroleum distillates, methanol, (a dirty air pollutant) benzene, toluene, xylene and millions of gallons of diesel. Benzene will curdle the brain and the liver, while just a cup of diesel can make an Olympic-sized pool of water undrinkable.
Hmm. Sounds like a very good reason for the government to develop this registry… right?
Sure it does. But here is one of the problem’s with the move. It is a voluntary registry, not a compulsory one, and while the industry has stated they support this, there simply is no one to ensure they do full reporting or that what is reported is correct and factual. The Western Wilderness Committee has already stated the registry falls short because :
“While having fracking companies disclose chemical additives in water is a good first step, the plan outlined does not go nearly far enough,” says Donaldson.
“There are serious risks associated with fracking, both in terms of the environment and human health.”
Donaldson notes that governments are increasingly taking steps to halt fracking operations, with bans or moratoriums in place in France, Quebec, and some U.S. states including New Jersey.
She says B.C. is trailing behind other jurisdictions when it comes to taking the dangers of fracking seriously”
Secondly, there is very little to no monitoring to ensure mine sites are complying with environmental regulations by BC’s Environmental Assessment office once the project has passed the initial assessment, giving us no assurance at all. This was recently made public after the Auditor General , John Doyle, issued a scathing report on BC’s environmental oversight:
Auditor General John Doyle isn’t satisfied with the follow-up once the office issues its approval.
Doyle says the EAO’s oversight isn’t sufficient to ensure compliance and enforcement, or to avoid significant adverse impacts from some of the projects it’s approved.
“Adequate monitoring and enforcement of certified projects is not occurring and follow-up evaluations are not being conducted,” Auditor General John Doyle said in statement issued on Thursday morning.
“We also found that information currently being provided to the public is not sufficient to ensure accountability,” said Doyle.”
There are other issues this new registry doesn’t come close to addressing – issues like the astronomical amount of water used in the process, that can never be replaced, which is another story altogether.
The real issue here is that while the rest of the world has already begun making strides to either ban fracking altogether, or at least halt it until real substantial studies and testing is done to ascertain the total impact on groundwater supplies and contamination, our government, via Rich Coleman, has always maintained fracking is fine, safe and producers in BC have to meet” stringent environmental standards”.
The registry does not constitute what I would consider any real meaningful action on behalf of the province once again, and fails miserably in light of the lack of environmental oversight and monitoring exposed by the Auditor General in his recent report. If Clark wanted to provide real transparency for the people of BC, it would be a compulsory registry complete with regular site checks and ongoing monitoring to ensure these oil and gas companies are meeting the alleged “strict environmental standards” Coleman so often touts to the press.
Once again, the BC Liberals: Too Little, Too late.