British Columbia

BC Hydro officials expressed concerns about fracking, information request reveals

A new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives claims that officials at BC Hydro has expressed concerns their dams might collapse due to natural gas fracking operations.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives obtained documents discussing the threat of hydraulic fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing — fracking — involves pumping water, sand and chemicals under very high pressure deep into shale rock to release natural gas. Fracking is occurring primarily in northeastern B.C. (Andrew Cullen/Reuters)

A B.C. researcher says BC Hydro has been privately concerned for years about the risk of dam collapse due to fracking and is simply relying on a private understanding with the oil and gas industry that it not occur near its dams.

Through a freedom of information request, Ben Parfitt with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives obtained documents in which he says BC Hydro expressed concerns that fracking near major dams could cause stronger shaking than they were designed to withstand.

Speaking with On the Island's Khalil Akhtar, Parfitt says that documents go back to 2009 and claimed BC Hydro has no interest in seeing fracking near its dams.

"Since 2009, Hydro has been talking behind the scenes with the oil and gas commission to express its concerns and say hey, we don't want this to be happening," he said.

Parfitt says BC Hydro was able to come to a "gentlemen's agreement" with the commission that there will be no fracking within five kilometers of its existing Peace River dams and future Site C dam.

"It's an understanding, it's not a regulation. I think that's a big problem."

Parfitt says he would prefer if this discussion was open to public scrutiny and oversight.

"It's quite clear that the government is in a conflicted position here. On the one hand, it is promoting a $9 billion dam on the Peace River. On the other hand, it is promoting LNG," he said.

"I think that creates a certain tension within the provincial government and that explains why this thing has not been more public." 

BC Hydro: public safety is our highest responsibility

In a statement, BC Hydro deputy CEO Chris O'Riley says the discussions with the oil and gas industry were only  "precautionary in nature."

"Our dams are built to withstand much larger ground motions associated with higher magnitude events that are much longer in duration than fracking."

O'Riley points out the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission has put in place restrictions on fracking within five kilometres of BC Hydro's dams.

"Our highest responsibility is public safety."

With files from On The Island


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled BC Hydro officials expressed concerns about fracking, information request reveals

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