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The Quake Threat to Dams Posed by Fracking Was Long Warned

The Quake Threat to Dams Posed by Fracking Was Long Warned

A new trove of internal exchanges shaken loose by Ben Parfitt amplifies decades of safety urgings.

F3CBA861-9E63-4AF0-8300-138E5879B955.jpeg
A ‘shake map’ shows a magnitude 4.5 earthquake that hit northern BC late in 2018, likely caused by fluid injection. The map was created by Gail Atkinson, an expert who called for ‘no frack zones’ around dams. Illustration created by Gail Atkinson. Additional labels by The Tyee.

“Why is this so difficult?” a BC Hydro dam safety engineer plaintively asked his superiors seven years ago.

He’d been stymied again in proposing that because the risks of earthquakes caused by fracking were clear, preventing disaster required creating “no frack” zones around dams.

His sense of urgency runs through a long thread of discussions within BC Hydro and the Oil and Gas Commission surfaced by investigative researcher Ben Parfitt.

For years now the two crown agencies have been reluctant to publicly talk about the risks earthquakes triggered by the oil and gas industry pose to critical dam infrastructure throughout northeastern B.C.

But a freedom of information request by Parfitt at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has shed new light on what has been a long and often acrimonious internal debate.

Hundreds of emails, letters, memos and meeting notes released by the utility in response to Parfitt’s request and his just published investigationmake the following important revelations:

Officials at BC Hydro have been concerned about the shale gas industry since 2007 when coal bed methane extraction resulted in seismic activity at the Peace Canyon Dam near Hudson Hope. 

The Peace Canyon Dam, which provides six per cent of the province’s electricity, is built on fragile shale rock and wasn’t built to withstand even modest earthquakes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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