VICTORIA – A three-member scientific panel will review the safety and environmental standards of fracking for natural gas in British Columbia and give the provincial government advice on what changes might be needed to minimize its risk to the environment.
Michelle Mungall, the minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, says the panel will hear presentations and collect scientific evidence from organizations and experts.
It will also consider traditional Indigenous knowledge from First Nations.
Mungall says the panel will look at the impact hydraulic fracturing has on “induced seismicity and its impacts on water quantity and quality,” as well as the escape of so-called fugitive methane emissions during the fracking process.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas involves by pumping water, nitrogen, sand and chemical additives at high pressure to split shale rock formations.
It’s a process supporters say has been safely used for decades, but critics blame fracking for groundwater contamination, air pollution and increased earthquakes.
In B.C., the industry operates in the northeastern part of the province.
Mungall said the government wants to sustainably develop the province’s resources to create jobs while also protecting the environment.
“We know British Columbians have questions about hydraulic fracturing,” she said Thursday in a news release. “It’s our job to make sure that natural gas operations continue to meet world-class standards and best practices for environmental protection.”
She said the panel’s appointment meets the NDP’s commitment to conduct a science-based review of the process.
“The scientific panel will look at the process of hydraulic fracturing used to extract B.C.’s natural gas, review our regulations and provide recommendations to minimize risks to the environment,” said Mungall.
Peter McCartney, a climate campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, said the panel’s appointment falls short of the full public inquiry called for by 17 environmental, Indigenous and public health organizations. An inquiry should look at how the industry is regulated by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission and the impact it has had on Indigenous rights, he said.
The panel consists of Prof. Diana Allen, a hydrogeologist in the department of earth sciences at Simon Fraser University; Prof. Erik Eberhardt, director of the geological engineering program at the University of British Columbia; and Amanda Bustin, a geological engineer and geophysicist who is also a research associate at UBC and president of Bustin Earth Science Consultants.