British Columbia

Damaging audit of fossil fuel fracking in northern B.C. surfaces after 4 years

An audit looking into the practices of gas drillers in northern British Columbia has only just come to light since it was conducted more than four years ago.

The report about caribou protection was sent anonymously to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

The audit, conducted in 2014, looked at whether oil and gas companies near Fort Nelson were following provincials rules put in place to protect declining caribou herds. (Brennan Linsley/The Associated Press)

An audit looking into the practices of gas drillers in northern British Columbia has only just come to light since it was conducted more than four years ago.

The report, put together by biologist Dan Webster in April 2014, found that oil and gas companies near Fort Nelson were not consistently following provincial rules to protect declining boreal caribou herds in the area.

The Oil and Gas Commission suppressed those findings, alleges the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives who recently received a copy of the report.

"This audit was submitted to the Oil and Gas Commission," said Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the CCPA.

"That was the last that anybody heard of it until we received a copy anonymously and started to look into the audit's findings."

The report was not released to the public or to the Fort Nelson First Nation who had requested a copy.

In British Columbia, boreal caribou herds are listed as threatened. (Getty Images)

Alleged violations

Parfitt said the audit found companies were "systematically" failing to abide by rules set in place by the provincial government in 2011, part of a recovery plan in response to the federal government officially listing boreal caribou as a threatened species in Canada.

"They were building gas well pads that were far larger than the rules said they should be," Parfitt told Carolina de Ryk, the host of CBC's Daybreak North.

"They were building long road corridors and pipeline corridors in straight lines that allowed wolves to very easily spot caribou — they did a number of things that violated the rules." 

The commission, a Crown corporation, said in an emailed statement there were concerns with the audit that prevented it being finalized in 2014.  

A spokesperson said, for example, that some of the activities audited predated the establishment of the rules and that field inspections didn't differentiate between multi-well pads and single well pads regarding size.

Hope for change

Parfitt said not releasing the report "is an indication that there was a lack of zeal on the commission's part to prosecute companies for violating those rules."

Highlighting the audit, he said, will hopefully change how environmental enforcement is conducted.

"Our hope would be that there would be a formal separation of the powers of permitting from enforcement," Parfitt said.

"The Oil and Gas Commission should continue doing what it has been doing since the outset which is to review and issue permits, but the environmental policing, if you will, ought to be done by a stand alone operation."

With files from Daybreak North.

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