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Ban fracking? Not a chance, says Northern Rockies mayor

After Bill Woollam asked Northern Rockies Regional Municipality to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, British Columbia's northernmost municipality did the opposite - it issued a letter in support of the controversial procedure.


After Bill Woollam asked Northern Rockies Regional Municipality to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, British Columbia's northernmost municipality did the opposite - it issued a letter in support of the controversial procedure.

The NRRM's letter, issued by Mayor Bill Streeper last week to federal and provincial governments, said that prohibiting fracking "doesn't make practical sense" and is "a knee-jerk reaction to public confusion about the process and a lack of information about its effects."

The letter concluded: "Using scientifically proven and quantifiable data to ensure industry accountability, we believe unconventional natural gas development will build a balanced and sustainable economic future for the benefit of all British Columbians."

Moratoriums on fracking have been imposed the provincial governments in Newfoundland and Quebec, while municipalities in at least 12 American states have adopted similar measures, according to Bracewell & Giuliani LLP.

Last year, Burnaby City Council imposed its own (symbolic) ban on fracking "until senior governments give full consideration to the potential human and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, and undertake a comprehensive public consultation process."

Woollam's letter opens by asking the mayor, council and administrators, "Is it not vital to look into the future and envision the environmental impact on our land and water systems for our children and fellow citizens?" before requesting they ban the procedure.

Streeper said Woollam's letter and Burnaby's moratorium are symbolic of a lack of awareness that prevails in the province's Lower Mainland when it comes to energy production and economics in general - notably in a failure to distinguish between the significant regulatory differences amongst the continent's jurisdictions.

"Right now, a lot of people in the lower part of British Columbia are not being given reliable information to make decisions on oil and gas industries," he said.

Woollam's letter cites incidents and concerns in various places of North America detailing alleged freshwater contamination, earthquakes, water volume usage and cement casing failures.

Streeper isn't concerned with groundwater contamination, he said, because there has never been a documented case of groundwater in British Columbia being contaminated by fluids used in fracking, according to the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission.

"Fracking is something that's been happening for 60 years. Fracking is not new," said Streeper, adding that modern fracking technology has adapted to necessity.

"Oil companies electronically measure the length of the fracks. It's not to their benefit to frack outside the producing zone. You don't want to frack into rock that has no gas in it. This gas is there because there is a layer of rock on top of it. That is preventing any migrating of that frack outside that zone."

The Horn River, Cordova and Liard basins-all in the vicinity of Fort Nelson-are believed to contain some of the biggest shale gas deposits on the continent.

There are currently 17 projects that aim to produce, liquefy and ship natural gas produced in British Columbia and Alberta to markets in Asia. Earlier this week, Quicksilver Resources Canada applied for a permit to export gas from its Horn River basin holdings.

NRRM said its economic future is linked to natural gas production, particularly since the forestry industry collapsed there in 2008.

Streeper said a ban on fracking is essentially a ban on natural gas production, and that would have a devastating impact on the economy of Northern British Columbia.

Therefore, "a (fracking) ban would end our economy completely," he said.

Burnaby's mayor did not return calls for comment. Bill Woollam also could not be reached.

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