First Nations rights violated, says study

Natural gas drilling and fracking operations have devastated local First Nations.

The fracking industry has an insatiable thirst for water, says a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), which violates First Nations rights. 

The study, which follows an investigation into unauthorized dams being built in the northeast, looks at the larger problems with water management practices in the region. 

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“Natural gas drilling and fracking operations have devastated local First Nations, steadily eroding their ability to hunt, fish, trap and carry out other traditional practices, which are supposed to be protected by Treaty 8,” says Ben Parfitt, policy analyst with the CCPA and author of the study, which finds a sharp increase in water-intensive, natural gas industry fracking operations has been happening over the last few years. 

First Nations who are the most directly impacted by such activities have little say in shaping how, when and where fossil fuel companies operate on their traditional lands, says the study, released today, June 29. 

“At best, First Nations receive advanced notice of fossil fuel industry developments slated to take place in their territories,” says the study. “But they have little ability to influence the timing, rate or location of company operations.”

Nor do First Nations have many avenues to engage with the provincial government or energy companies on broader issue of cumulative impacts, and what constitutes a reasonable amount of industrial activity within given watersheds or sub-regions.

“If you look historically how development occurs in other sectors, logging companies had a duty to tell members of the public exactly where they were planning on building roads, and where they were going to log,” says Parfitt. 

“They had to submit twenty year development plans. The report recommends that oil and gas companies detail in advance where they are planning on putting well pads, where they are putting roads, where they will draw water on a watershed basis, so the First Nations can see what watersheds will be impacted by development. That’s the kind of information needed so First Nations can plan.” 

The report advocates overhauling the system currently in place to give First Nations the ability to influence what happens on their land base.

“Again, if you look at the logging industry, one of the fundamental principals is the Province plays a significant role in capping how much logging is done in a certain area. If we are capping a renewable resource, why are we not doing the same for a non-renewable resource? We have precedent in our province with the government placing reasonable caps on things like the logging sector, I think it’s time for that to happen with the oil and gas system.”

Water use in the Monteney basin is trending upwards very sharply, says Parfitt, which is going to have implications across the region. 

 

Parfitt says it’s only getting worse. According to Woods Mackenzie, daily gas production in the Montney is expected to climb to 7-billion cubic feet by 2019, up from 4.9-billion cubic feet now, This means over the next few years, the amount of water used in fracking will potentially nearly double. 

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