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Clark's fracking website not enough, says enviro group

The B.C. government has announced plans to improve "transparency around hydraulic fracturing practices" with the creation of an online registry for fracking-related data -- but one environmental advocacy group says the new proposal doesn't push industry hard enough.

The registry, heralded yesterday by Premier Christy Clark at the 2011 Oil and Gas Conference held in Fort Nelson, will make certain details about B.C.-based hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," available on the government website.

According to a government news release, information made publicly available on the registry will include fracking locations throughout British Columbia, the specific techniques being employed at those locations, and the various chemical additives being used in the extraction process.

Current regulations require that oil and gas companies disclose this information to the BC Oil and Gas Commission upon request. When the registry goes online next January, says a government spokesperson, all of that information will be pooled in one place, easily accessed by the public.

But Tria Donaldson, a spokesperson for the Wilderness Committee, is unconvinced by the government claim to be improving transparency.

"It's not actually making any more information available," says Donaldson. "There are a lot of other issues at stake. They're not talking about what the company's are paying for our water resources or how much of our water they're using."

As reported late last month by The Tyee, Talisman Energy Inc. was recently granted the right to pump 10,000 cubic meters of Williston Reservoir water per day for the next 20 years for the purposes of natural gas extraction.

Hydraulic fracturing is a drilling process by which a highly pressurized mixture of water, particles, and other chemicals is used to break apart rock to aid in the extraction of oil or natural gas. Critics of the technique claim that fracking can contaminate water supplies with toxic chemicals and therefore poses a serious threat to both the environment and public safety.

While a government spokesperson says that details regarding water use and groundwater protection will be included on the website, no additional details were provided.

For Tria Donaldson, however, transparency is not the primary issue.

"Jurisdictions around the world are recognizing the serious environmental and health risks of fracking," she says. "The B.C. government's plan to put up some information on a website just isn't enough."

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