Updated: Oct 8, 2021
Many people are not aware of the extent of the natural gas industry in BC. We tend to think of Alberta as the oil and gas province, but in fact there are more than 20,000 fracking wells in BC and their associated infrastructure covers more than 5 times the area of the tar sands.
The fracking process involves injecting chemical laced water into rock at high pressure to open fissures and extract the natural gas. The process has serious impacts on climate, the environment, and human health - and with their new 'Unnatural Gas' campaign, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) is bringing these concerns to light.
Despite its green sounding moniker, natural gas is simply another fossil fuel. What's more, it is composed primarily of methane, which has 85 times the warming potential of carbon over a 20 year period. And while the burning of natural gas is less greenhouse gas intensive than coal or oil, fracking is a notoriously leaky process. Fugitive emissions at every stage of the production and consumption process, coupled with the high warming potential of methane over the short term, cancel out much of its advantage. Estimates using radar have shown that emissions from fracking in BC are 2.5 times higher than those reported in provincial inventories, https://thetyee.ca/News/2017/04/27/Canada-Methane-Leakage-Under-Reported/ , with 47% of active wells leaking (https://thetyee.ca/News/2017/04/26/acp-2017-109.pdf. As the May Global Methane Assessment by the UN made clear, tackling methane emissions is one of the most important short term strategies for curbing climate change.
Fracking also has serious implications for human health and environmental contamination. Harmful gases like radon and benzene are released from rocks during the fracking process, and when fracking fluids sit in settling ponds, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are released into the air. Fracking fluid can come into contact with groundwater, and carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals have been found in groundwater and agricultural soils near fracking sites. The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) has compiled over 1,700 studies detailing the health impacts of fracking and natural gas production. These impacts include increased rates of cancer, low birth weights, asthma and others.
Yet despite these serious concerns, the BC government continues to encourage the expansion of the fracking industry through subsidies and the construction of new LNG facilities. The Deep Well Royalty Credit in particular was designed to specifically kickstart the industry, and still remains in place. As well, fugitive methane emissions are exempt from the carbon tax and not counted in our provincial inventory. This financial support gives fracking a competitive advantage.
The BC Climate Alliance is calling on the government to immediately stop the Deep Well Royalty Credit program, include all methane emissions in our greenhouse gas reporting, and stop exemptions from the carbon tax.
To find out more about CAPE's campaign, see www.unnaturalgas.org or sign up for their Sept 23 webinar at https://act.cape.ca/webinar_how_to_talk_to_your_mla_about_unnatural_gas?e=8143494b7b9a8ebde7e75d8760f8946a&utm_source=cape&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=bc_unnatural_gas_webinar&n=7