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Fears feed fracking lobby

Bill Woollam brings his anti-fracking message to downtown Duncan Saturday in front of the Duncan Garage. - Peter W. Rusland
Bill Woollam brings his anti-fracking message to downtown Duncan Saturday in front of the Duncan Garage.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Fracking may be the next big concern cresting on B.C.'s environmental radar.

But lack of any pending projects in the Cowichan region has kept it largely out-of-sight and out-of-mind to the average local resident.

Bill Woollam wants to change that. The Cowichan resident believes the practice — injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas — is a huge threat.

And against a backdrop of B.C.'s stated focus on the development of its natural gas resources, he thinks it will be here sooner, rather than later.

He is preparing a delegation to the Cowichan Valley Regional District Environmental Commission asking for a bylaw to ban hydraulic fracturing (the practice's formal name) in the Cowichan region.

"Fracking for natural gas is hazardous and harmful," he writes in a letter to the CVRDEC. "This is relevant to valley residents because according to geologist David Hughes our provincial government is on the hook for 65,000 fracking sites over the next 25 years, to meet its export licenses granted by the National Energy Board."

According to a 2013 report by the BBC, fracking has divided observers.

Supporters like how it has allowed drilling firms to access difficult-to-reach resources of oil and gas.

"In the U.S. it has significantly boosted domestic oil production and driven down gas prices. It is estimated to have offered gas security to the U.S. and Canada for about 100 years, and has presented an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal," the report reads.

However, critics say fracking uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost and puts area water supplies at risk.

"(They) worry that potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site," the report reads.

The practice has been used on a significant scale throughout parts of North America since the late 1970s. The industry suggests any pollution incidents are the results of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique.

Woollam disagrees.

"Those whose sights are set on the big bucks of the natural gas industry are ignoring the detrimental effects on our limited, freshwater systems that exist in our province," he writes.

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