Fracking review flawed, relies on industry information: Council of Canadians

Media Release
January 25, 2013

The Council of Canadians recently obtained a copy of Environment Canada’s work plan on shale gas development under an access to information request. The heavily redacted documents, “Activities Related to Shale Gas Development” and “Shale Gas Action Plan,” outline the department’s work on shale gas including researching emissions, gathering information on chemicals and provincial regulatory requirements, and reviewing existing literature on fracking. The Council of Canadian Academies, which is conducting a second independent review, will examine the potential environmental impacts and technical mitigation options.

“We support getting a better understanding of greenhouse gases, provincial regulatory requirements and activities across the country,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians. “But Environment Canada's review relies on industry organizations for information on fracking chemicals and fails to commit to any consultation with Indigenous communities or municipalities on what their experiences with fracking have been. The federal government's review should be independent of industry. And communities hold invaluable information on the impacts of fracking.”

The reviews rely on the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers for information on fracking chemicals and commit to engaging other “industry stakeholders on ongoing Environment Canada initiatives.” The documents do not specify consultation with any Indigenous communities or municipalities who have experienced fracking in their region.

“There are a couple of encouraging points in the documents like conducting baseline surface water quality monitoring, setting up monitoring stations in northeastern British Columbia, and considering changing the National Pollutant Release Inventory to include shale gas drilling, which currently exempts oil and gas wells,” says Emma Lui, Water Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “But the fact that they sent us an unsigned and heavily redacted document raises questions of how committed the federal government is to these actions.”

“The documents also reveal that Environment Canada hopes that 'emissions from the shale gas sector are managed/minimized, consistent with Canada’s climate change objectives,' but can this really be genuine when the biggest fracking operations in Canada go to fuel the tar sands?” asks Maryam Adrangi, Energy Campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “Fracked gas, with huge emissions and impacts on our water, is going to fuel oil extraction with even more climate and water impacts.”

“We would support monitoring of existing fracking operations,” adds Lui. “But ultimately fracking needs to be stopped. In no way should a commitment to monitoring be construed as a way to expand fracking operations, which would still contribute to climate emissions and destroy water and land.”

Neither the Activities nor the Action Plan are signed by Environment Canada’s Deputy Minister Paul Boothe or other Environment Canada officials. The Council is raising questions about whether these documents were ever finalized and whether this represents a genuine commitment from the federal government to review fracking. A large number of sections of the Shale Gas Action Plan have been redacted including the purpose and summary.

The Council of Canadians is calling for a ban, or at the very least a moratorium, on fracking.

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