Canada nor its provinces have adequate regulations in place to address the scale or cumulative impact of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) on water resources, according to a report issued on Thursday by the water program at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.
The federal government is absent from the discussions, and the provinces are issuing individual water-use permits without understanding the cumulative impacts of increased drilling activity, said Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the British Columbia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The 62-page report, "Fracture Lines: Will Canada's Water be Protected in the Rush to Develop Shale Gas?" examines the implications of shale gas production on Canada's water supplies.
"Unlike the United States, where the U.S. Congress and state regulators are fully engaged in public policy debates, neither the National Energy Board nor Environment Canada have yet raised any substantive questions about 'the shale gale' or its impact on water resources," Parfitt said.
"To date Canada has not developed adequate regulations or public policy to address the scale or cumulative impact of hydraulic fracking [hydrofracking] on water resources or conventional oil and gas wells. Moreover the country has no national water policy. In the absence of public reporting on fracking chemicals, industry water withdrawals and full mapping of the nation's aquifers, rapid shale gas development could potentially threaten important water resources if not fracture the country's water security."
Parfitt's analysis concluded that Canada's shale gas production should be taxed to reflect "the cost savings that companies in the natural gas industry have (a) secured through more efficient production techniques, and (b) enjoyed through lower royalty rates set by governments to encourage gas developments."
Also to be considered by authorities, he wrote, are "no-gas zones" where hydrofracking operations "are banned outright or subject to more stringent reviews and approvals. Water is more vital than natural gas." The report also concluded that:
"The pace of the shale gas revolution demands greater scrutiny before more fracture lines appear across the country," Parfitt said.