We have been asking questions of Minister Michelle Mungall about oil and gas activity in the British Columbia north. There have been responses but few answers. We asked about leaking wells, orphan wells, the purchase of wells by a Chinese company with close ties to the Communist Party of China, and the impacts of fracking on the environment.
In my attempts to get clear answers I focus on the impacts of fracking and gas exploitation on agriculture. Further, I ask Minister Mungall to address the obvious contradiction that even as the BC NDP claim to be standing up for the coast when it comes to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion and the real threat of diluted bitumen on coastal communities, our highly publicly subsidized gas industry is producing the condensate that dilutes the bitumen that her government opposes.
It is mind-numbing.
My colleagues have been asking concerning questions this week about natural gas exploitation — highlighting leaking wells, bankrupt companies, enormous environmental liabilities. Our lax regulation combined with excessive public subsidy is not just a bad policy, but it’s also negatively impacting those who live in the area. Today I’ll focus on the farmers.
In their final report, the ALR revitalization committee stated that the impacts of oil and gas extraction on agricultural land and farm businesses are reaching “a breaking point.” The exponential increase in oil and gas infrastructure has exceeded our current regulatory environment’s ability to protect farmland. The government’s own reports highlight the increasing infractions and the liabilities.
Additionally, there are many unknowns with respect to the impact of fracking on land and communities. We know the industry is causing earthquakes, environmental contamination and a growing financial burden on the public, but the government continues to barrelhead.
So my question is to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Will the minister provide tangible examples of how she and her government are addressing how the natural gas industry is negatively affecting sectors such as agriculture?
Hon. M. Mungall:
You know, it wasn’t just child care that was neglected by the previous government for 16 years. It was also regulatory responsibilities in the oil and gas sector. That’s exactly why this government came out of the gate right away, looking at ways that we can actually fulfil our responsibility, our duty to British Columbians to be appropriate regulators. Part of that was making sure that we had the information necessary about what was happening on the land base so that we can ensure that it’s regulated for British Columbians now and well into the future.
That’s why we commissioned a report with three scientists on hydraulic fracturing. That’s why we also asked the advisory committee for revitalizing the agricultural land reserve to look at this very issue in terms of how agricultural land which is living right next to oil and gas production — sometimes oil and gas production right on agricultural land…. How is this taking place, and how can we do better?
We’ve received that report. We take it very seriously as a government. So does the Oil and Gas Commission. So does the ALC. We are moving forward with those recommendations.
Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
Despite all the clatter and caterwauling while in opposition, it appears that this government is as willing to embrace neoliberal principles, in perpetuating this petro province, as the former government was. But in doing so, they’re not being honest about the tremendous social, environmental and economic costs paid by British Columbians from this industry.
In 2017, B.C. produced a record 19.7 million barrels of condensate, a by-product of fracking for natural gas. The number was expected to rise significantly by the end of 2018. As it turns out, we’re learning that companies are fracking not solely for the gas, but for the condensate. Here’s the problem. These by-products are valuable because they create the chemical cocktail to make bitumen flow. Without it, bitumen is a sticky tar that needs to be diluted by condensate to create diluted bitumen, or dilbit, the very substance that the government has rightly said threatens coastal communities.
On one hand, this government opposes the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline and the increased shipping of diluted bitumen on our coast, while on the other hand, they’re giving massive publicly funded handouts to an industry whose primary products are used to create the very substance we’re trying to keep off our coast.
My question, again, is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Can she please explain this obvious contradiction?
Hon. M. Mungall:
Once again, let me just state very clearly for the record that this government takes its regulatory responsibilities very seriously. I’m happy to sit down with the member to go over, in detail, all the activities that we have undertaken since becoming government to fulfil our duties as regulators.
There is no subsidy, but there is also no secret. The reason that the member has this information about the condensates being produced here in British Columbia is because we require all facility operators to report publicly on the volumes for all products that they produce. So, yes, condensates, and the use that they have, are produced here in British Columbia. Once again, there is no secret to that, that we are producing condensates, and yes, they are being used in diluted bitumen.