The Ontario government recently made regulatory changes to the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act that open the door to fracking in Ontario.
Schedule 23 of Bill 127, the Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act (Budget Measures) 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.” (emphasis added)
“The Wynne government must clarify the language in Schedule 23 of Bill 127 and implement a ban on fracking in the province of Ontario,” says Emma Lui, Water Campaigner with the Council of Canadians.
“The Canadian government is currently being sued under NAFTA for almost $120 million for Quebec’s moratorium on fracking after companies had staked claims,” says Lui. “Next year, the Liberal government may well be replaced by the Conservatives. It must ban fracking now if it wants to protect drinking water.”
In a May 11 letter to MPP Peter Tabuns, the Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe noted, “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.” Later in the letter, she adds, “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.”
However, on May 17, the Liberal majority in the provincial legislature passed Bill 127 without stating that Schedule 23 does not apply to fracking.
On March 26, 2016, the then-provincial Liberal Minister of Natural Resources Bill Mauro told the Legislature “A legislative change would be required before we would consider moving forward with fracking in the province of Ontario.” It appears that the required legislative change has now happened.
Ontario has encouraged fracking companies in the past. In 2010, the Ministry of Natural Resources released an aerial survey of southwestern Ontario that maps out geological zones that lend themselves to oil and gas formations. And in December 2011, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines published a study on areas of potential development for shale gas exploration.
The Council of Canadians opposes fracking because of its high water use, its massive greenhouse gas emissions, its impacts on human health and wildlife, and the danger it poses to drinking water supplies.
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