Premier Christy Clark has no concerns about the method used to get natural gas out of the ground in northern B.C.
Clark's Liberal government is banking on the creation of a liquified natural gas (LNG) industry in the province to eliminate B.C.'s debt within 15 years. In order for that to happen planned pipelines to the north coast must be built along with liquefaction plants and export facilities.
At the same time natural gas production will have to increase using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to get the gas to the surface. Fracking involves injecting a high-pressure water and chemical mixture into the ground to free the gas from the rocks its trapped in.
Environmental groups have concerns that ground water could be contaminated by the fracking fluid, but Clark insisted on Wednesday there's nothing to worry about.
"We've been doing it for 50 years in British Columbia, it is absolutely safe," Clark said during a conference call after meeting with New Brunswick Premier David Alward in Toronto.
"We lead the world, in Canada, in the safe process of extracting shale natural gas. We have never had a single incident of water contamination reported in British Columbia after doing this for 50 years."
A June 2013 editorial in the B.C. Medical Association Journal written on behalf of the Council on Health Promotion cited water contamination at U.S. fracking operations and called for an independent review in B.C.
"Surface spills and improper disposal are highly feasible in B.C., especially given the vast amount of waste fluid that is transported and disposed of mainly in cement-lined underground reservoirs," UBC medical student Michael Benusic wrote in the editorial. "However, it is unclear if injected fluid is of concern in B.C. as fracking wells are much deeper than in the tested area, and tightly packed overlying rock formations are thought to act as an impermeable barrier."
Skeena Bulkley-Valley MP Nathan Cullen said more discussion is needed about the future of the LNG industry in B.C. He's planning to attend a summit hosted next week by the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council in Prince George and will embark on a tour of his riding in November to talk about the issue.
With so many projects on the table, Cullen said it's difficult for the general public to sort through them all.
"People can't tell which ones are good, which ones are bad, which ones are serious and which ones are not," Cullen said.
Expanding natural gas development was a key plank in Clark's winning election platform in the spring and she said it's important to push forward on the LNG file.
"If we want to build the country we have to say yes to economic development," Clark said. "That means yes to shale gas extraction and it means yes to other sorts of resource development, that's what's going to build this country."