Fracking impacts on water, hydro power and climate

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A new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) raises concerns about the impacts of BC's growing shale gas industry.

CCPA argues that hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the process used to extract unconventional natural gas from shale formations in northeastern BC, will put significant stress on the province's water resources and jeopardizes its climate change policies.

The study, undertaken in partnership with the Wilderness Committee, argues unconventional gas is not a green alternative to other fossil fuels because the escalation of fracking activities will result in the doubling of the industry's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

This increase would mean other industries would have to make deeper emissions cuts if the government is going to meet its climate action targets. The study also notes that there are concerns because shale gas is primarily shipped to Alberta to power oil sands extraction. Conversely, if shale gas was used to displace coal fired power generation, it could have a significant impact on emissions reductions in North America.

This study follows a report from the Pembina Institute published in September looking at the risks shale gas poses to BC's climate action objectives.

While both reports were prepared by NGOs with a strong position on climate policy, they consulted widely, and make a number of recommendations: develop a management strategy (with a potential cap on annual production); update the Climate Action Plan to account for increases in shale gas extraction; end subsidies to the industry; require carbon capture and storage technology to be implemented; and broaden the application of carbon pricing to cover process emissions.

According to the CCPA study, these, and other, polices recommendations would create a more environmentally responsible industry that doesn't undermine BC's climate action objectives. What the report doesn't say is whether there is the political will to make such changes.

The natural gas industry in BC generated $365 million in revenue to the province in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, a number expected to rise rapidly as prices rise and extraction expands.

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