The Vancouver Sun printed an article stating that B.C. doesn’t know what it needs to know about the environmental, seismic and other risks of fracking. This revelation comes from a draft copy of a 200-page technical report that was leaked to the Times Colonist last week.
I asked the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, given the lack of data and the troubling information raised in this report, should we not adopt the precautionary principle and halt a further expansion of fracking in our province?
S. Furstenau: Yesterday an article in the Vancouver Sun stated that B.C. doesn’t know what it needs to know about the environmental, seismic and other risks of fracking. This revelation comes from a draft copy of a 200-page technical report that was leaked to the Times Colonist last week.
The independent panel shed light on some very troubling facts. It detailed a lack of compliance by the industry around earthen dams, regulations ignored and permits given retroactively.
It highlighted the lack of public trust in this industry. Basic information about surface and groundwater in both quality and quantity in the region is “sorely lacking,” and we have no idea how much groundwater is being used and how much private landowners are selling to the industry.
The conclusion of this panel was almost as troubling as its other findings. It was created to assess risk, but it could not do so because there is too little data to assess. The panel even emphasized this point by saying: “They could not assess risks with any confidence.”
My question is to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Eighty-five percent of B.C.’s natural gas production now comes from unconventional sources. Given the complete lack of data and the troubling information raised in this report, should we not adopt the precautionary principle and halt a further expansion of fracking in our province?
Hon. M. Mungall: Thank you very much to the member for the question. It gives me an opportunity, first, to publicly thank our panelists: Diana Allen, Eric Aberhart and Amanda Buston. They did a tremendous amount of work with the help of Nalaine Morin, who provided advice to the panel on traditional Indigenous knowledge in the region.
They, together, organized 50 sessions and met with over 60 experts — researchers, industry, First Nations, the regulator and environmental organizations on this issue. It is an important issue — not just for people in the north, who live with this practice every day, but it’s important for all British Columbians, because, of course, 58 percent of British Columbians heat their homes with natural gas derived from the north and, mostly, from this practice.
So British Columbians are quite concerned, and that’s exactly why we put together this scientific panel — to start putting some analysis to this practice. It’s very important in terms of the report and what they’ve delivered. It’s very technical.
I think that, with 97 recommendations, over 200 pages, we owe it to British Columbians to make sure that we do our due diligence in analyzing that report so that we can deliver good public policy for all of B.C.
Mr. Speaker: House Leader Third Party on a supplemental.
S. Furstenau: More of what we don’t know, I guess.
But the expert panel did spend a year researching and consulting experts on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing in our province. Throughout the report, one thing was clear. The data is insufficient. We simply don’t know enough to be making informed decisions.
But it did emphasize a few things that we do know. For example, the number of reported seismic events has more than doubled every year since 2016. This increase in seismic activity, triggered by fracking operations, is happening in an area with two large hydroelectric dams, plus the construction of Site C.
As the report notes, these type of ground motions could be “sufficient to misalign spillway gates.” So we have an almost complete lack of information on the risks and environmental damages that fracking is causing in our province, and we are putting major hydroelectric infrastructure at risk by allowing it to continue.
My question is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. The expert panel has made it clear that earthquakes from fracking are a risk to hydroelectric projects. Site C is in an area surrounded by fracking. How do we know that this $11 billion project is not at risk?
Hon. M. Mungall: As I said to the member, this is a very technical report with a substantive number of recommendations — all very technical in nature — and we owe it to all British Columbians, especially to the people who live in the north, who live with this practice every day in their backyard, to make sure that we’re delivering good public policy.
We have to let science prevail in this situation. That is exactly why we’re taking this report very seriously, as we follow on previous activities that we’ve taken to address some of the neglect from the previous government, such as we created a new process to make sure that oil and gas dams have the right permits. We have strengthened compliance for those dams, and we brought in new legislation last spring to address the orphan wells.
This panel is going to be able to allow us to further move forward to protect our air, land and water for the benefit of all British Columbians.