Omnibudget could have an impact on fracking chemical exemptions

The second omnibudget, tabled yesterday morning, "amends the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act to transfer the powers and functions of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission to the Minister of Health and to repeal provisions of that Act that are related to the Commission." In fact the omnibudget scraps the Commission by replacing the section that establishes the Commission with a section that establishes a Council overseen by the Minister of Health.

A part of the mandate of the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission is to “to formally register claims for trade-secret exemptions and issue registry numbers.” In the Canada Gazette, there are a whole slew of companies that are seeking exemptions from the Hazardous Materials Information review Act. In particular they've filed claims for exemptions "from the disclosure of supplier confidential business information in respect of a controlled product” which would normally be required under the Hazardous Products Act. In the September 22, 2012 notice, one of the companies is fracking company Calfrac Well Services Ltd.which has four claims for exemptions on the chemical identity and concentration of seven ingredients.

There are serious concerns about how carefully and stringently these exemptions can be assessed if they are transferred over to Health Canada given that Health Canada underwent serious budget and staffing cuts last year. The agency and its mandate would no longer be independent or arms-length and would come under the purview of a federal government that has failed to regulate the fracking industry and prioritize water and environment protection as well as public health.

More analysis on the impacts of the omnibudget on fracking and other water issues to come.