As the BC government continues to push forward with its plans to develop a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry – which will require thousands of new fracking wells to feed new LNG plants – The Wilderness Committee, Sierra Club BC and lawyers at Ecojustice, are challenging the BC Oil & Gas Commission’s common practice of granting of repeated short-term water permits for oil and gas companies – a practice that violates BC’s own Water Act.
In addition to its many environmental and climate impacts, fracking for gas uses a massive amount of water from BC's lakes, rivers and streams. In BC, companies using water resources for this kind of industrial activity are supposed to apply for a long-term license. But instead, the Oil & Gas Commission has allowed companies to bypass the public process that comes along with a water licence by offering back-to-back short-term permits with no community consultation or additional oversight.
These short-term approvals are intended for short-term projects like roadwork or construction, not to access huge quantities of freshwater. Under B.C.’s Water Act, there is a two-year limit to these approvals, but the Commission’s practice of repeatedly granting approvals has allowed oil and gas companies to, in some cases, use water for as long as five years without getting a water licence. - See more at: eco justice update.
This means they can repeatedly “top up” their water supply without any hassle, and communities don’t have the opportunity to object or raise concerns over how the industry’s water use could impact the environment or drinking water resources.
So how much water are oil and gas companies allowed to take? Well, with just one short-term permit from the Oil & Gas Commission, a company is allowed to draw from over 100 different sites, which in total gives them access to the equivalent of 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools of BC’s fresh water. And that one permit is just the tip of the iceberg.
After two days in Supreme Court, the organizations now await the decision.