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NEWS: Encana-PetroChina deal means more fracking in Alberta

The Globe and Mail reports, “Encana Corp. reached a $2.2-billion joint venture with PetroChina to develop the hot new Duvernay property in Alberta, in a deal that will fly just below the radar of Investment Canada’s new guidelines on state-owned enterprises. …Encana CEO Randy Eresman said the partners received assurances from Ottawa that the transaction would not be reviewed under the Investment Canada Act prior to closing the deal on Thursday because there is no transfer of control.”

“Under the terms of the agreement, PetroChina – China’s largest international oil company – will gain a non-controlling, 49.9-per-cent interest in Encana’s 445,000 acres in the Duvernay in west-central Alberta for $2.18-billion.

Encana will remain the operator with a 50.1-per-cent interest. The partners expect to spend $4-billion over the next four years to develop the Duvernay land that is rich in natural gas and condensates, an oil-like substance that is used to dilute bitumen for shipment in pipelines. …In a statement last night, Industry Canada said investments that do not involve acquisition of control are not reviewable.”

The Calgary Herald reported on the Duvernay shale rock formation last year noting, “Thanks to a new technology called multi-stage hydraulic fracking, this potentially huge deposit has ignited a firestorm throughout the oilpatch, with companies bidding hundreds of millions of dollars each for the right to drill into it. …Why the large multinational oil firms never thought to use multi-stage fracking on the Duvernay is a mystery; it is being used widely in the big natural gas plays of the Horn River basin in northeastern B.C. and the major U.S. shale gas plays.”

In terms of Encana’s other fracking operations, Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Sharleen Wildeman recently stated, “The executives at Encana Corporation are pressuring BC Premier Clark to give them the right to take 3-billion litres of fresh water every year from the river to be used for shale gas fracking — without consulting my community who depend on the river, or without any environmental assessment.” That’s at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=17968. Encana is also the corporation being challenged by Alberta resident Jessica Ernst for the pollution of her well water through fracking, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=6687.

More generally, we have also recently commented in a blog on how the Harper government’s approval of the Petronas takeover of Progress Energy last week will result in a massive expansion of fracking in British Columbia, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=18329. Last week, a Canadian Press news report on the purchase of Progress and Nexen by larger state-owned corporations quoted Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow saying, “We are deeply concerned by the takeover because investment, foreign or otherwise, is the last thing we need more of in the tar sands and shale gas. We need to be phasing out dirty energy, not handing over huge concessions to multinational corporations.” That’s at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=18407.

In January, the Council of Canadians will be organizing a province-wide session in Edmonton on strategies to oppose fracking in Alberta. More on that soon.

For more on the Council of Canadians campaign against fracking, see http://canadians.org/fracking. Information on our campaign against the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act can be found at http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22Canada-China+FIPA%22.