Antifracking candidate makes for lively debate, Heyman contradicts NDP energy critic on expansion

Antifracking candidate makes for lively debate, Heyman contradicts NDP energy critic on expansion by Vaughn Pamer, October 23, 2012, Vancouver Sun
B.C. New Democrats have nominated a leading critic of expanded natural gas production as a candidate for the next election, setting the stage for a showdown over the practice known as fracking. George Heyman, who won the party nomination in Vancouver-Fairview Sunday, has been one of the leaders in the fight against hydraulic fracturing, the growing practice of extracting natural gas from shale deposits by injecting the rock with water at high pressure. … But as executive director of Sierra Club B.C., Heyman has challenged the “rapid expansion of fracking, without sufficient oversight and scientific review to address the long list of threats and risks.” During his tenure, the club toured the province with Gasland, a U.S.-made anti-fracking documentary that illustrates concerns about gas contamination of groundwater with sensational footage of tap water being set on fire as it flows from a faucet in somebody’s home.

“Fracking is referred to by some as ‘the Tarsands of Natural Gas’ in terms of the water and energy resources needed to extract the hard-to-reach shale deposits,” declared the club in calling for a moratorium on the practice. “The B.C. government needs to take a huge step back from their aggressive pursuit of unconventional gas and fracking to allow time to better understand the impacts, keep B.C.’s northeast from becoming a fragmented wasteland of gas wells, respect indigenous rights and protect the health of northern residents.” Heyman reiterated the call on the eve of the NDP nomination meeting in Fairview. “I’m not proposing that we don’t sell any gas,” he told reporter Carlito Pablo from the Georgia Straight. “I am proposing that we stop the expansion of new frack wells until we have an appropriate public study on the health impacts, the community impacts, the water impacts, and the climate, greenhouse-gas-emissions impact.” Nor did he retreat from his hard-line stance against fracking on the morning after his narrow victory over Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs. “My positions on fracking are well-known and people can expect that I will voice those vociferously and assertively within any caucus discussion,” Heyman told host Bill Good during an interview on radio station CKNW

Heyman’s undisguised hostility to fracking is not reflected in the public pronouncements of John Horgan, the party’s energy critic and likely the energy minister if there’s an NDP government. Horgan has defended the natural gas industry in B.C. against the wildest charges of the critics, from flammable tap water to complaints about possible surface pollution from deposits that are several kilometres deep in the earth. “We’ve been fracking in British Columbia for a long, long time – decades, in fact – and we do it fairly well,” he told me during a June interview on Voice of B.C. on Shaw TV earlier this year. “I’ve been to a number of frack sites, and I’m comfortable with the technology.” He’s lately been emphasizing the need for the New Democrats to act expediently if they become government to exploit the window of opportunity on development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals. “Our objectives, as a new government, would be to facilitate, as best as we can, negotiations to achieve one, and then we’ll worry about the second and the third and the fourth after that,” he told me earlier this month. “That’s not to shortchange the environmental approval processes; that’s not to cut corners in terms of our consultation processes with First Nations on unceded territory. But we are in a hurry – it’s a foot race and we need to be nimble.” [Emphasis added]

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