Fracking Company Ordered to Drain Two Unauthorized Dams in B.C.’s Northeast
DeSmog Canada | Ben Parfitt | November 10 2017
This article was originally published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The provincial government has ordered Progress Energy to drain virtually all of the water trapped behind two massive dams the company built in violation of key provincial regulations.
The company was told on October 31 to drain all but 10 per cent of the water stored behind its Town and Lily dams near the Alaska Highway north of Fort St. John by Chris Parks, assistant director of compliance and enforcement with B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).
The order comes after Progress Energy filed an extraordinary application this summer with the EAO asking the provincial environmental regulator to retroactively “exempt” the two dams from required environmental assessments. Both dams are higher than five-storey buildings.
By law, Progress should have filed its exemption applications well before the projects were built, not after. Progress built its Town dam in 2012 and its Lily dam in 2014.
Both are part of a vast network of unlicensed dams that the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) first reported in early May have been built across northeast B.C. by fossil fuel companies to trap massive amounts of freshwater used in gas drilling and fracking operations.
Numerous organizations, including the Blueberry River First Nation (BRFN), on whose traditional territory the dams were built, have written to the EAO objecting to Progress’ exemption request.
“BRFN has been repeatedly sounding alarm bells to the Crown (including through affidavits filed in court) about the diminished water quantity in our territory,” wrote Blueberry River First Nations lands manager Norma Pyle. “We have been watching lake levels drop, muskeg disappear, mineral licks dry up and streams reduce to small versions of their former selves.”
“Blueberry’s concern goes beyond these two dams to the failure of regulatory oversight in their territory — it’s not just these two dams, but dozens of them,” Blueberry River legal counsel Maegan Giltrow added in a separate e-mail statement.
“This is in the face of Blueberry’s repeated concerns to the Crown about the diminishing water quality and quantity they are seeing. This September the Blueberry River itself ran dry — Blueberry members haven’t seen that before. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of freshwater in their territory is being illegally impounded for oil and gas operations.”
“And Blueberry had to learn about the problem from media reports — where was the regulator? The Nation still doesn’t have answers to the questions it has put to the Oil and Gas Commission about all the illegal dams and water use.”