Earlier this week, Council of Canadians released an action alert encouraging residents of B.C. to ask what their provincial NDP candidate's position is on fracking. The Liberals have already made it clear that they support the industry, but we had not heard much from the NDP -- until now. But the entire point is not what each political party is saying. The point is that B.C. is home to some of the largest gas reserves being exploited by fracking in North America, and this is impacting people's water, health, and contributing to carbon pollution. This upcoming election, we hope that political candidates take a firm stance to oppose fracking operations and, instead, commit to safeguarding communities.
This article is a response to some of the comments we have been hearing from provincial candidates. If you have not emailed or spoken with your NDP MLA candidate, please do so by check out our Action Alert.
We have received some responses from MLA candidates saying that the depth of fracking wells in B.C. are well below the depths of aquifers, which pose less risk to groundwater than do deeper fracking wells. The short video called The Sky is Pink, made by Josh Fox who directed Gasland, gives us reason to believe that we should still be concerned about these fracking wells, regardless of their depth. If you fast forward to about 7 minutes and 30 seconds, you will see that memos from the gas industry say that wells leak and that they still have not figured out how to fix them.
A PowerPoint from Southwestern Energy, a Texas-based energy company involved in gas extraction, has some slides about cement casings in fracking wells that stop gas released from lower layers of rock from migrating upwards and polluting aquifers. However, Josh Fox says that "This isn't a power point about drilling wells. This is a PowerPoint about how casings fail and allow gas and other substances to migrate into aquifers. It is one of their own documents about how cement fails."
Another document is from Slumberger Oilfield Review. It showed that cement casings fail at alarming rates. "Their own documents show that well casings failed in 6 per cent of wells drilled immediately upon drilling and that those well casings deteriorated over time. That over 30 year period, 50 per cent of well casings failed," reports Fox.
With this information, can we trust that the depth of fracking wells will prevent contamination to drinking water and water overuse?
The province is saying they will be consulting with First Nations; however, will they be seeking consent and permission to be on land that may not belong to the government? Fort Nelson First Nation has asked to be at the table when there are conversations about fracking that would impact the water in their territory, and the Unist'ot'en clan located on the route of a fracking pipeline has consistently said "No" to all pipelines. One of those pipelines is the Pacific Trail Pipeline, which would carry fracked gas to a Liquified Natural Gas terminal in Kitimat for export.
In December of last year, Chevron bought out part of the Pacific Trail Partnership now making it a joint venture between Apache Corp. and Chevron. The gas pipeline project was not securing buyers and was hoping that the joint venture with Chevron, with their international reputation in the LNG industry, would help attract more financial propositions. Bob Dye, Apache's senior vice-president of global communications said "they bring financial strength, operating experience and marketing expertise to the project."
Members of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in northern BC evicted pipeline surveyors contracted out by Apache in November of last year. A few short days later, supporters mobilized for a global day of action in support of the grassroots community members who have set up camp in the pipelines supposed "right-of-way," targeting corporations and investors involved in the PTP proposal.
The Chevron partnership was finalized shortly after this day of action, and at the end of this month there will be a day of action specifically targeting Chevron and highlighting their fracking operations in B.C. The day of action is being called by Rising Tide-Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories in solidarity with the Unist'ot'en camp that is defending Unist'ot'en and Wet'suwet'en land from pipelines.
As MLA candidates prepare for the upcoming election, it is crucial that they not only listen to the concerns of people who are acting in solidarity with impacted peoples, but that they respect the demands of those who will face the true costs of fracking projects.
In the upcoming film Fractured Land, Caleb Behn, a law student talks about the environmental and human rights impacts of fracking operations. Both in northeastern B.C, home of some of the largest fracking projects in North America, and in other regions, children are born with birth defects. Caleb visits a community in New Zealand in which "every house or at least every other house has probably had someone with cancer or someone in their family with major birth defects," says a member of the community. Caleb echoes this by reflecting on his own experience: "I have a birth defect. 18 surgeries, 7 plates, 20 screws in my face. This isn't a game. These are real people. Real cultures."
These stories cannot be ignored. In the upcoming months, fracking can become an election issue. Members of the NDP have said that they would make changes to B.C.'s water licensing and end the current practice of issuing free water permits through the Oil and Gas Commission. While these are steps in the right direction, we can demand that communities have the right to govern their own resources. People living near fracking operations and pipelines are becoming increasingly concerned with the health impacts of fracking and the industry's contributions to harmful emissions that impact air quality and climate change -- and they have every reason to be concerned.
If you have not taken part in the Council of Canadians Action Alert, you will find it here. Demand that the B.C. government echoes our voices and says "No Fracking Way!"