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Gas wells like this one dot the landscape of northeastern B.C. (CBC)

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is calling on B.C. to slow down its shale gas development.

The centre says gas fracking is placing unsustainable demands on the province's water and power resources.

Fracking — or hydraulic fracturing — extracts natural gas by injecting pressurized water and chemicals into shale rock formations, allowing the gas to escape through cracks or fissures in the rock.

Report author Ben Parfitt says increased gas drilling will also raise B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions.

"What we're dealing with in northeast B.C. today is the natural gas equivalent of the tar sands.  If the industry expands the way people believe it will, we're going to see a doubling in greenhouse gas emissions."

What is fracking?

  • Fracking extracts natural gas by injecting pressurized water into shale rock formations.
  • A fluid mixture of water and chemicals is injected under high pressure deep underground.
  • This creates or widens fissures in the rock.
  • Then sand or other solids are pumped in to keep the fissures propped open.
  • That allows methane gas to escape from pores and fractures in the rock.

 

The report finds industry greenhouse gas emissions could double by 2020, if gas drilling in northeastern B.C. continues at the current rate. It says if B.C. is to meet its legislated greenhouse gas targets, every other sector of the provincial economy will have to cut their emissions in half.

"We need to be looking at capping and reigning in this industry if we have any realistic shot of meeting our climate change goals," said Parfitt.

The report makes 18 recommendations for managing the shale gas industry's use of natural resources. Those recommendations include:

  • Placing caps on annual natural gas production.
  • Declaring a moratorium on shale gas developments in undeveloped watersheds.
  • Ending industry subsidies.
  • Appointing an official inquiry under the Health Act.
  • Requiring shale gas companies submit five-year and possibly 10-year development plans.