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Groups call for public inquiry into fracking in British Columbia

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives say a public review into the dangers of fracking is needed as gas production ramps up.

A natural gas plant near Fort St. John, B.C.

Matt Kieltyka / Metro

A natural gas plant near Fort St. John, B.C.

The provincial government needs to launch a public inquiry into fracking in British Columbia, according to more than a dozen groups.

A coalition of environmental, First Nations and health organizations are calling on the NDP to go further than its campaign pledge to have a panel to review the controversial practice.

The groups say they are concerned about the escalating water usage, poor consultation with affected First Nations, emissions and other dangers – such as earthquakes – associated with fracking as the province increases gas production in the northeast.

“The NDP’s commitment to appoint a panel is a good starting point, but we believe very strongly a much more formal, deeper public inquiry is needed,” said Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives resource policy analyst Ben Parfitt. “I think the time has come for this to happen in light of the ramp-up in gas production that we’ve seen over the last decade and very clear signs that there will be further increases in the future.”

Parfitt says some fracking operations in B.C. use eight times the amount of water than similar-sized operations in the United States, which has led to reports of unauthorized dams being built and groundwater contamination.

Earthquakes are becoming more common, he said, and many public safety and environmental concerns still revolve around the practice of pumping water into shale formations to break them up and release natural gas.

British Columbia has held several royal commissions into the forestry sector, so one into gas production wouldn’t be without precedent, Parfitt argued.

“Right now, it’s very clear that the industry and the regulator, the oil and gas commission, are not considering the cumulative impacts of this industry,” Parfitt alleged. “They’re not looking at significant greenhouse gas emissions. They’re not looking at the implications for water. They’re not addressing seriously the impacts on First Nations Land. What we’re asking for is an independent, credible body to take a very serious look at what is required to ensure public safety and environmental protection.”

The 17 groups calling for a public inquiry also include the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club, Public Health Association of B.C. and the Wilderness Committee.

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