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NEWS RELEASE · 14th September 2011
Pembina Institute
Two new reports released today by the Pembina Institute call on the government of British Columbia to keep a closer eye on the shale gas industry. The reports found ensuring the sector does its fair share to reduce B.C.'s greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, and getting a better handle on the sector's demand for fresh water resources in northeast B.C., should be top priorities for the province.

The first report, Risks to B.C.'s Climate Action Objectives, concludes that the anticipated development of shale gas reserves will make achieving B.C.'s legislated climate change targets all but impossible, without a significant increase in government action.

Even with full implementation of the provincial government's Climate Action Plan, the sector's GHG pollution would increase to 15% above 2007 levels — even though the province's legislated target is 33% below 2007 levels.

"There is a stark contrast between the level of GHG pollution we would reach in this province if shale gas development goes ahead as planned, and the goal that the B.C. government has legislated," said Matt Horne, director of B.C. Energy Solutions at the Pembina Institute. "To close this gap, the province needs to update its climate change plan and make sure the natural gas sector is part of an overall strategy that will meet the province's obligations."

The second report, Risks to B.C.'s Water Resources, documents the stresses the sector will place on B.C.'s water systems. The rapid increase in hydraulic fracturing needed to extract shale gas has resulted in a growing demand for water — most of which comes from freshwater systems.

The Institute's analysis suggests that the province has not yet adequately assessed, monitored or mitigated the cumulative impacts of increasing water demands, the potential conflicts between industry's water use and demand from other users, and the ways that growing water use affects the ecosystems and wildlife that depend on B.C.'s freshwater systems.

"There's a clear need for proactive regional planning to ensure wise decisions are being made about how much water can be used, where it can be taken from, and how it should be treated and disposed of," Horne said. "To make informed decisions on acceptable levels of development, the province needs more comprehensive and transparent water allocation and monitoring systems."

If fully developed according to industry forecasts, B.C.'s shale gas extraction from the Horn River and Montney Basins in northeast B.C. would be significant on a continental scale. In light of the potential rate and scale of development, both the B.C. government and the shale gas industry will need to demonstrate foresight and leadership to ensure the resources are developed responsibly and with appropriate safeguards for communities and the environment.

"Ultimately, the provincial government should proactively manage the natural gas sector to ensure responsible development, rather than getting locked into a development path that compromises important environmental objectives," Horne said. "Alberta let oilsands development drastically outpace adequate regulation and planning oversight, with negative consequences both for the environment and the economy. B.C. can and should avoid making the same mistakes with shale gas development."