There are reported to be at least 51 unregulated and unapproved dams in Northern BC built by oil and gas companies for their fracking operations. The two largest facilities, Lily Dam and the Energy Town Dam, both over 15 meters tall, are operated by PETRONAS subsidiary, Progress Energy Canada Ltd. The scale of these dams means that they should be classified as ‘major projects‘ under BC’s Environmental Assessment Act. requiring that they be assessed by the Assessment Office (EAO) prior to construction. On Oct. 31 2017 the provincial Environmental EAO rejected an application by the company seeking to exemption for these structures from an environmental assessment.The dams have reportedly been operational for many years under the watch of the previous Liberal government and the new NDP Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall is reported to have stated that their government is “reviewing the details in order to strengthen oversight going forward,”
On Oct 10th this year, while the Progress Energy application for exemption was still in progress, Okanagan Indigenous leader, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives wrote that “If the EAO grants Progress’s request, it sends a terrible signal that BC really is the Wild West. Rules and regulations are simply there to be ignored.” While the EAO has finally applied its own rules, saving us from the Wild West designation, this decision leaves us wondering, how well the authors’ terms, applied to our province in the preceding years of Liberal rule. More pertinently, it leaves us wondering if, under the new NDP/Green regime, we will finally get the proper oversight of such dams and if in future there will be prior consultation with the First Nations on whose traditional lands they are being built.