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All Fracked Up

B.C. chapters use election to call on politicians to end fossil fuel subsidies

During the B.C. election, the Council of Canadians, through our B.C.-based chapters, is joining a broad coalition of other groups to demand that the B.C. government end the many ways it subsidizes fossil fuel corporations. Our question for all candidates is simple: Will you end all government subsidies to the oil and gas industry?

The International Institute for Sustainable Development reports that B.C. taxpayers have subsidized the industry by $830 million a year. The subsidies have taken many forms, including direct investments, tax exemptions, reduced hydro rates, reduced or forgiven royalties, and public money for infrastructure and cleanup costs.

Many of the reasons public resources should not be used to subsidize the industry in western Canada are outlined in a new book titled, All Fracked Up: The Costs of LNG to British Columbia. The book offers a unique collection of articles on fracking and B.C.’s push to refine Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) for export. It extends the idea of subsidies by highlighting the urgent need to account for the “costs” of the industry’s impacts on water, the land and agriculture, indigenous communities, human health, other species’ health, air and climate change.

It also calls into question the viability of the industry based on its own “business case” terms, and questions whether the province should be backing such capital-intensive, unprofitable projects. Learn more about the book and read an excerpt from it in Mitchell Beer’s article, “The bottom falls out of BC’s overhyped LNG gamble.”

The book is directly connected to the Council of Canadian’s work on fracking. In February 2019, the Watershed Sentinel, the Comox Valley Chapter of the Council of Canadians, and the Glasswaters Foundation hosted a forum titled, LNG, Fracking and the Comox Valley Connection. We had growing concerns about a potential pipeline that would run through our community to a proposed LNG export facility in the Alberni Inlet. We recognized that many of our friends and neighbours knew there were problems with fracking, but didn’t know the specifics or where to find the information.

After hosting a stop on the “Voices from the Sacrifice Zone” tour, which was organized by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, we were increasingly inspired to bring together some of the information that we knew was available. Former Council of Canadians Honorary Chairperson Maude Barlow was the first author to agree to make a contribution. The result is a mix of original articles, reprints (including a graphic essay), and short issue summaries. The industrial photographs by Garth Lenz are a special contribution since the majority of people in B.C. have not been to the northeast corner of the province and can’t easily imagine what the industrialization of that landscape looks like.

We were fortunate to meet Richard Wright, spokesperson for the Madii Lii Camp, at the 2019 Forum. When we learned of his sudden passing in the spring, we decided to dedicate the book to him.

The pandemic, and the work of activists and authors who have contributed to the book, make a number of things very clear:

  • The natural gas industry is financially unstable, as well as environmentally irresponsible.
  • Governments need to prepare seriously for even greater disasters, including a myriad of initiatives to combat the climate crisis.
  • The citizens of B.C. need housing, health care and education that can be delivered safely during a crisis.
  • We cannot afford to be subsidizing the natural gas industry.

This article was written and submitted by Comox Valley Chapter activist and former Council of Canadians’ Board member Alice de Wolff and Delores Broten, editor of the Watershed Sentinel. They are co-editors of All Fracked Up.