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Energy Minister approves fracking review, but effectively scraps moratorium

Energy Minister Michelle Mungall answers a question by Skeena MLA Ellis Ross in the Legislature in November. Photo by BC Legislature
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VICTORIA, B.C. — Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall says that the government will be conducting a review of hydraulic fracturing next year, but essentially ruled out a moratorium on the practice during a debate in the Legislature earlier this week.

During a debate on her Ministry’s budget, Mungall was asked by Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, who served as Natural Gas Development Minister under former Premier Christy Clark, whether the government intended to impose a moratorium on fracking either during or after a review. Mungall responded by saying that the scientific review, which will begin early next year and would be complete by the fall of 2018, will look the best practices in place to reduce environmental impacts. When pressed again by Ross, Mungall essentially ruled out a moratorium, saying,

“A moratorium — let’s think about what the consequences of that would be. My home is heated by natural gas. I would be surprised if the home of the member opposite wasn’t heated by natural gas. His is. Most of our homes are heated by natural gas in B.C. That natural gas comes from the northeast, for the most part, and it is pulled up from the ground using hydraulic fracturing. The idea that suddenly in B.C., in a Canadian province, we would turn off the switch to the way in which we heat our homes…. Who would do that, right? Who would do that? No government that wants to get re-elected would ever do that. No government that believes in being responsible and being representative of the public would do that.”

Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier asked Mungall about the need for a review since he said that the industry has already been the subject of a number of reviews. “As soon as people start hearing that, it raises expectations and concerns all around on what the intentions of that review would be,” explained Bernier. He also asked Mungall how many times fracking had caused contamination of a water aquifer in B.C. In response, the Minister said that,

“A very short answer to the member’s question is zero, and we want to keep it that way.”

Bernier said today that he wanted to ensure that no moratorium result from a review of fracking, and that the intent of the government’s review was to look at best practices. “I agreed that I have no problem making sure that we’re always investigating, that we’re always reviewing, and always trying to make the system better and learning as technology advances. But that she should be very specific that it would not lead to any downgrading or moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.”

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