BC Government Withheld Information on Dangers of Unregulated Fracking Dams
The Tyee | Ben Parfitt | April 2 2018
Early last spring, provincial civil servants cut off virtually all communication about what the government knew about a sprawling network of potentially dangerous and unregulated dams in northeast B.C. on the pretext they could not comment because of the impending election.
The co-ordinated effort meant there was virtually no comment until months after voting day from frontline agencies on how 92 unlicensed dams were built on the BC Liberal government’s watch.
Details about muzzling government communication on the dams — which were built to trap freshwater used in natural gas industry fracking operations — are contained in some of the 8,000 pages of documents released by the BC Oil and Gas Commission in response to Freedom of Information requests by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which was the first to report on the dams early last May.
The initial CCPA report, published one week before the election and widely covered by media outlets, exposed how fossil fuel companies had built “dozens” of unlicensed fracking dams.
The FOI documents include internal emails between senior OGC staff and the Ministry of Natural Gas Development, in which the two organizations agree to refuse to release information on the dams on the grounds that doing so would violate rules on managing government records during the “interregnum” (the time between the call of the election and the swearing in of a new government).
“Guidelines on ‘managing records during an election’ cannot trump the law,” said Colin Bennett, a University of Victoria political scientist. “If there is a public interest in disclosure, then the election period is irrelevant.”