ARCHIVED - A Statement on Hydraulic Fracturing from Indian Oil and Gas Canada
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What is hydraulic fracturing?
Hydraulic fracturing technology – commonly referred to as fracking or fracing – is a process, used since 1947, to enhance oil and gas production. It involves injecting fluid and sand at high pressure into rock formations to create and prop open cracks ("fractures" or "fracs") in petroleum bearing rock. The fluid can contain additives used to perform specific functions. For example, one ingredient ensures that operating equipment remains sterile and free of unwanted bacterial growth that could clog up sensitive equipment and instruments. After a fracking operation is completed and the sand has been placed in the formation, about 40% of the carrying fluids flow back through the well where it is collected, and either reused or processed for safe disposal.
How is hydraulic fracturing regulated on First Nations reserve lands?
- The division of powers between federal and provincial governments in the Canadian Constitution results in cooperation between both levels of government to ensure First Nations reserve lands are regulated in a manner consistent with off-reserve jurisdictions, but within the boundaries of federal law.
- Section 3 of the existing Indian Oil and Gas Act specifies that Canada's Governor in Council "...may make regulations ... for carrying out the purposes of (the Indian Oil and Gas) Act and for the exploitation of oil and gas in Indian lands."
- Section 4 of the Indian Oil and Gas Regulations, 1995, established according to the Indian Oil and Gas Act, further specify that "It is a condition of every contract that the operator will comply with ... all provincial laws applicable to non-Indian lands that relate to the environment or to the exploration for, or development, treatment, conservation or equitable production of, oil and gas that are not in conflict with the Act or (the) Regulations."
- Technical operations of oil and gas companies are primarily regulated under provincial law and provincial regimes are primarily designed to protect both people and the environment.
Though research and data collection are on-going, to date none of the major oil and gas producing provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and BC) have placed a moratorium or ban on hydraulic fracturing based on evidence currently available.
The Federal Government and Environmental Protection on First Nation Lands
The federal government is ultimately responsible for environmental protection on reserve lands as well as the health of First Nations citizens living on reserve. Thus, IOGC is responsible for safeguarding both the environment on reserve, as well as protecting First Nations citizens from adverse effects of oil and gas activities on reserve lands. To effectively fulfill federal government responsibilities, IOGC ensures that:
Prior to oil and gas activities taking place:
- an environmental review is conducted;
- when hydraulic fracturing is proposed IOGC ensures companies conduct baseline water testing for water wells located within 500 meters of any oil or gas well prior to drilling; and,
- all applications, regardless of whether hydraulic fracturing is proposed, demonstrate that the environment will be protected.
During oil and gas activities on reserve, IOGC monitors:
- environmental performance through auditing and inspections; and,
- all aspects of oil and gas production.
New Indian Oil and Gas Regulations currently under development will provide IOGC with the necessary tools to require, at any time, operators to correct any impacts of an oil and gas activity.
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