Ignoring the law and getting away with it: a fracking dangerous precedent
December 3, 2018
Even as calls for climate action grow more and more urgent, fracking is at the centre of efforts to give fossil fuels renewed life in B.C. Given the seriousness of the climate threats we are fighting, it shouldn’t be happening and Sierra Club BC is fighting it on multiple fronts.
Where fracking companies get a free pass, we’re challenging them and the provincial government in court. Because believe it or not, the provincial government is letting fracking corporations ignore the law and get away with it.
Together with our colleagues at Ecojustice, we’re challenging an unparalleled decision to exempt two fracking dams in northeast B.C. from environmental assessments — after they’d already been built!
On behalf of Sierra Club BC, Ecojustice launched an application for judicial review in B.C. Supreme Court on October 31. In the court action, which has garnered provincial and national media, we’re arguing the province violated its Environmental Assessment Act by retroactively allowing Petronas Energy Canada (formerly Progress Energy) to skip environmental assessments for these dams.
The government’s decision to exempt Petronas Energy Canada (PEC) from following the law is irresponsible. If the decision is upheld, BC’s reputation for patchwork environmental laws and lax enforcement will only get worse.
It would also send a signal to other fracking companies that they can break the law and get away with it too. Our friends at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives have reported on dozens of other unauthorized, unlicensed dams built by PEC and its competitors to store freshwater used in extremely water-intensive fracking operations.
Had PEC undergone a proper environmental assessment, it could have shed light on the ways fracking dams threaten surrounding environments and communities, and forced PEC to address these problems.
The fracking industry cannot get a free pass. It pollutes water with toxic chemicals, puts human health at risk and significantly increases global carbon pollution – at the fracking wells, through the LNG export industry and by providing fracked gas to support Alberta’s tar sands operations. Furthermore, Indigenous peoples bear the brunt of the social, environmental and health costs of BC’s fracking operations.
A year ago, Sierra Club BC joined a coalition of community, Indigenous and environmental organizations calling for a promised government “review” of natural gas industry fracking operations to be broadened to a full public inquiry.
We helped highlight the risks of LNG and fracking again recently at a November event we hosted with the Wilderness Committee. We heard from Freda Huson, Hereditary Spokesperson of the Unist’ot’en Camp and community, whose home in her traditional territory lies in the path of several fracked gas pipelines. Dr. Élyse Caron-Beaudoin of l’Université de Montréal shared the disturbing findings of her research on the effects of fracking on pregnant women in northeastern B.C. Mike Sawyer, an environmental consultant, spoke about his court challenge against the TransCanada pipeline that would feed the LNG Canada fracked gas project – a case in which we’ve filed to intervene.
Sierra Club BC’s Jens Wieting brought to light the increased amount of carbon pollution the planet faces if B.C. continues to expand its fracking and LNG industry.
And in a recent letter to the BC government, our new Executive Director, Hannah Askew, also challenged the government to do better when it came to the climate impacts of fracking and LNG expansion.
The concerning impacts of fracked gas for our climate were highlighted again this week in a letter to the province from forty leading scientists and climate experts to the B.C. government calling for strengthened climate targets, a climate test for energy projects and an end to subsidies for fracked LNG as part of its climate strategy. The letter was supported by Sierra Club BC and signatories included prominent climate scientists Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Kirsten Zickfield and Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon.
The B.C. government is expected to release its new climate plan this week, but it’s still cheerleading for the LNG and fracking industry. Expanding this industry undermines meaningful climate action.
Fracking and LNG are the last gasps of the fossil fuel industry in B.C. We’re determined to pursue every avenue to stop this doomed industry from making the climate crisis even worse.
We’ll continue to pursue our legal action with Ecojustice in the new year, while mobilizing British Columbians to hold the B.C. government accountable to its promise of bold climate action.
It’s all very well to say « no fracking way, no fracking how » — to make that a reality, we are really going to need your help in 2019. Please donate today to help us build on this critical work.