Energy giant Encana, B.C. accused of skirting water laws for fracking

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

Environmental groups demands judge review whether short-term licences are breaking Water Act. (FILE PHOTO)

Environmental groups demands judge review whether short-term licences are breaking Water Act. (FILE PHOTO)

Energy giant Encana and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission were in court Monday after environmental groups launched a lawsuit accusing them of violating the province’s Water Act.

The Wilderness Committee and Sierra Club of B.C. argued Victoria is skirting its water protection laws by granting repeated short-term licences to the same companies to use water for gas fracking.

Encana spokesman spokesman Jay Averill told 24 hours the company opposed the judicial review case because there’s “no proper basis to quash the subject approvals” of its water licences under the Water Act. In addition, the Calgary-based company was granted permits through the commission's “full application process in accordance with the applicable statutory requirements.”

“Encana responsibly uses water in a number of ways to produce natural gas and oil in which all British Columbians rely,” Averill said in a statement. “Encana is open to discussions about water use and we continuously consult with First Nations groups, local communities, landowners and other stakeholders to determine sources of water that we can use in our operations.”

The disputed section of the Water Act states that “if diversion or use of water is required for a term not exceeding 24 months,” the government may grant a short-term permit “without issuing a licence, grant an approval in writing, approving the diversion or use, or both, of the water.”

In the case's opening arguments, a lawyer representing both environmental organizations said that short-term approvals are not the proper process for long-term industrial water use, and that it lacks accountability or public input.

“This case is about ensuring that when government, in this case the Oil and Gas Commission, allocates those rights it does so within the law,” EcoJustice lawyer Karen Campbell told the court.

“By granting repeated short-term approvals, the commission is authorizing water use for more than one term, and more than the 24-month limit set out in the section – short-term approvals are routinely granted over multiple years to the same company, for the same purposes, at the same locations.”

The B.C. OGC declined to comment as the case is before the courts.





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