Premier Kathleen Wynne and Natural Resources minister Kathryn McGarry
The Council of Canadians is concerned that a recently-passed amendment to the provincial Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act opens the door to fracking in Ontario.
The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has studied the amendment and comments, "Upon my review, it appears to me that parts of Schedule 23 are broad enough to be used to authorize fracking, although this may also be possible under the existing Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act."
Here's the background:
On December 9, 2014, the then-provincial Liberal minister of natural resources Bill Mauro told the Legislature, "Should there be a need to move forward with this process in Ontario, there is legislation in effect—I believe it’s called the oil and gas act—that would need to be changed before fracking could be allowed in the province of Ontario."
On March 26, 2016, Mauro again told the Legislature, "Fracking is not occurring anywhere in the province of Ontario right now, and it does, should it be requested, require a licence from my particular ministry under the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act. ...A legislative change would be required before we would consider moving forward with fracking in the province of Ontario."
Now, Schedule 23 of Bill 127, the Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act (Budget Measures), amends the Act in a way that could be used to authorize fracking.
Specifically, it states, "The Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act is amended with respect to the regulation of compressed air energy storage projects prescribed by the regulations and of projects that involve the injection of substances into underground geological formations. The amendments relate to the definition of 'well' in section 1 of the Act; the requirement in section 11 of the Act to obtain a permit for injection projects; various regulation-making authorities in section 17 of the Act; and offences under section 19 of the Act."
It's the language highlighting "and of projects that involve the injection of substances into underground geological formations" that raises concerns.
In a letter to MPP Peter Tabuns, the Environmental Commissioner notes, "If the government does not intend these changes to apply to high-volume hydraulic fracturing, the easiest way to avoid misinterpretation would be to expressly provide that this permitting authority does not apply to fracking..."
On May 17, the Liberal majority in the provincial legislature passed Bill 127 without stating that this Schedule does not apply to fracking.
This is particularly worrisome because the province has not ruled out permitting fracking. In March 2015, the province's minister of natural resources stated, "We won't be going forward with a moratorium [on fracking in Ontario]."
While there isn't currently any fracking in the province, there are past media reports of the provincial government seemingly facilitating the industry.
In March 2010, the Toronto Star reported on the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources releasing an aerial survey of southwestern Ontario that maps out geological zones that lend themselves to oil and gas formations. And in December 2011, NOW Magazine reported on an Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines study on areas of potential development for shale gas exploration in the province.
The Council of Canadians calls on the Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne to clarify the language in Schedule 23 of Bill 127 and furthermore to implement a ban on fracking in the province of Ontario.