Common Sense Canadian

Regulator, Encana sued over fracking, water

PostedNovember 13, 2013 by in BC

Vancouver-based environmental law firm ecojustice announced a lawsuit Wednesday in BC court against the province’s oil and gas regulator over its allegedly unlawful issuance of water permits for fracking.

The suit, which also names energy giant Encana, is being brought on behalf of the Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club BC over increasingly controversial shale gas operations in northeast BC. It contends that the Oil and Gas Commission is violating the province’s Water Act.

Fracking is enormously water-intensive, which is of particular concern given recent drought conditions in the region and plans to dramatically increase fracking to supply proposed liquefied natural gas terminals on BC’s coast. Noted Sierra Club BC’s Caitlyn Vernon:

Any push for LNG will result in a rush on our water and we need to make sure that we’re managing it carefully.

The case comes on the eve of Friday’s deadline for public feedback for the updating of BC’s century-old Water Act. The Wilderness Committee’s Eoin Madden is concerned that discussion around the new Act is largely avoiding avoiding the elephant in the room – fracking. “We’re very eager to see that the oil and gas industry is covered by the Water Sustainability Act, but there’s been a conspicuous non-reference to [water].”

Lead counsel on the case, Karen Campbell, believes this legal action could help shape shale gas policy in the new Act.

This is the opportunity to raise the question of whether or not the Oil and Gas Commission should be overseeing water use by industry or whether maybe the industry of environment should get that job back.

The OGC and Encana have 21 days to file a response to the case. Said Campbell, “Beyond that, we’re hoping to get this case in for a court hearing as soon as possible, but likely it’s going to be sometime in the new year.”


About the Author

Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.


    Douglas Francis Mitchell

    This is the result of governments catering to corporations. Since government won’t take a stand, we must. This song conveys my perspective on fracking.

    Fracking D. F. Mitchell Feb. 2014

    Your water’s on fire, your foundation’s cracking
    You can’t blame us, it’s not because of fracking
    Everything we do is government approved
    You can’t blame us, you’ve got no proof.

    Your cattle are dying, your hair’s going grey
    Every breath you take smells like rotten eggs
    It’s a small price to pay for prosperity
    Be thankful you’re living in the land of the free.

    Chorus: We’re fracking Alberta, and northern BC
    We’re fracking in your back yard for cheap energy
    We’re fracking in Texas and Uzbekistan
    We’ll frack the whole world if you don’t take a stand.

    We practice safe fracking, we’re fracking experts
    With toxic chemicals we penetrate the earth
    We don’t pull out ‘til we get what we need
    We’re frackin’ addicted to profit and greed.

    Chorus: We’re fracking Alberta, we’re fracking BC
    We’re fracking in your back yard for cheap energy
    We’re fracking in China and the Netherlands
    But not in France where fracking is banned.

    Don’t you worry about contaminated water
    Twenty billion barrels of salt and metals
    We pump waste water down 10,000 feet
    But that doesn’t cause seismicity.

    Chorus: We’re fracking Alberta, we’re fracking BC
    We’re fracking in your back yard for cheap energy
    We’re fracking in Texas and Uzbekistan
    But not in Vermont cause fracking is banned.

    You can’t blame fracking for all the earthquakes
    You can’t blame fracking for every headache
    There’s plenty of blame to go around
    Blame the politicians – who elected those clowns?

    Chorus: We’re fracking Alberta, we’re fracking BC
    We’re fracking in your back yard for cheap energy
    We’re fracking in Texas and Uzbekistan
    We’ll frack the whole world if you don’t take a stand
    We’ll frack the whole world if you don’t take a stand.

    farmers with a voice

    Wy is it that this industry that preaches science and a perfect track record, will not back that science and record with environment and public liability.

    Rural Alberta

    “The suit, which also names energy giant Encana”

    Good idea, I expect Michigan will be happy to hear it.

    “A Canadian firm has laid out plans to drill 500 new natural gas wells in Northern Michigan, using a technique that could consume more than 4 billion gallons of groundwater — or about as much water as Traverse City uses in two years.

    The firm, Encana Corp., will rely on hydraulic fracturing … Encana, for example, used 8.5 million gallons of groundwater earlier this month to frack a single gas well, the Westerman in Kalkaska County, east of Traverse City.

    … The company’s plan to drill several new gas wells near Kalkaska will entail pumping about 300 million gallons of water out of the ground, injecting that water into several gas well bores and then leaving nearly all of the contaminated water in the ground when the fracking is completed, according to state records.

    The result: A net loss of up to 300 million gallons of groundwater to the North Branch of the Manistee River, a blue-ribbon trout stream fed almost entirely by groundwater. One of Encana’s drilling sites is a half-mile from the Manistee River’s North Branch, according to company records.

    … Fracking critics said recent problems at the Westerman gas well in Kalkaska County — where water wells didn’t produce as predicted and drillers had to truck in 3 million of gallons of water from Kalkaska and Mancelona to complete the fracking process — highlighted flaws in the water assessment tool.

    Encana’s Hock and DEQ officials blamed the problem on ‘geologic conditions’ unrelated to the water assessment tool.

    … Encana spokesman Doug Hock, however, is optimistic: ‘Can we access the (deep shale gas) and still protect the environment? Absolutely.'”

    “As Encana’s fracking operation continues in Rapid River Township, local residents are losing water pressure and water coming out of the tap looks like milk.

    … fracking operations at the Westerman 1-29 HD1 continued, despite ongoing issues with the water supply on the pad. The additional water wells installed on and off the well pad failed to yield sufficient volumes to complete the well and Encana continued to obtain water from the Kalkaska Village municipal system until June 8, when the gas well was finally completed.

    … Bernard and Phyllis Senske, who live adjacent to the well site, started experiencing a drop in water pressure and discolored water.

    ‘It looks like milk coming out of the faucet,’ …

    … His initial report, … , found that ‘the static water level within the Senske well has been lowered by 11 feet.

    … This is not the first fracking operation to experience issues with insufficient water. Attempts to complete the Yonkman 1-29HD1 well in Missaukee County between December 2012 and February of this year were unsuccessful, despite construction of eight water wells in an effort to do so. Devon Energy approached nearby municipalities for water, and the City of McBain agreed—for $34,000.00. …

    Similar issues were also experienced at the State Richfield 1-27 well where four water wells failed to provide the quantity of water required to frack the well (4.8 million gallons), and two additional wells were required.”

    Rod Stuart

    Total nonsense. The quantity of water on planet Earth is constant. This is nothing but Fascist propaganda, encouraged by the totalitarian UN and its Agenda 21 and ICLEI.

      Damien Gillis

      Pumping contaminated water underground via deep oilfield injection is not part of nature’s water cycle, Rod. I promise you that.

      Moreover, quantity and quality are two very different things. Just ask this Alberta farmer who believes – with good reason – that his cows are dying of radiation connected to local fracking operations.

      Rural Alberta

      “The quantity of water on planet Earth is constant.”

      Doesn’t seem too “constant” in areas of Texas, where oil and gas companies have their “fingers” in the water supplies.

      “Barnhart, a small community in West Texas, has run out of water.

      John Nanny, an Irion County commissioner and an official with Barnhart’s water supply corporation, said on Thursday that the situation was serious. When reached by telephone, he was working on pumping operations and hoped to have a backup well in service Friday morning. A load of bottled water was on its way to the community center, he said.

      Nanny said he had checked for a leak but had not found one. The Barnhart area has been hard-hit by drought, he said, just as surging oil and gas drilling activities have increased local water demands.

      … At Barnhart’s volunteer fire department, fire chief Jimmy Baker said there wasn’t any water from the tap. But he said the fire station had a full tank for fighting fires and firefighters are drinking bottled water.

      Barnhart is not the first Texas community to run short of water. Early last year, wells failed for the community of Spicewood Beach, near Austin, which then began trucking in water.

      … About 30 communities statewide could run out of water by the end of the year, according to a list compiled by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.”

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