Ordinarily, the regulation of natural gas drilling (including shale gas) would be considered a provincial responsibility.
But in an exchange in the House of Commons last week with the NDP member of parliament for Halifax, Megan Leslie, Environment Minister Peter Kent hinted that the federal government is looking more carefully at shale gas extraction, and in particular hydrofracking techniques, and considering whether such techniques might fall within federal jurisdiction:
From the June 16th Question Period:
Mr. Speaker, companies are becoming increasingly interested in unconventional energy sources such as shale gas. However, the public knows very little about how shale gas is extracted. For example, hydraulic fracturing is very controversial and has not been thoroughly studied. Can the Minister of the Environment tell us if he has any studies on this and what its environmental impact is?
Mr. Speaker, hydraulic fracturing is a rather old technique in terms of conventional oil production, but it is relatively new with regard to shale gas. Provincial and federal governments share in the responsibility of regulating the oil and gas sector. The regulation of shale gas is mainly a provincial and territorial responsibility, except on federal lands. Research is being conducted.
Mr. Speaker, fracturing uses massive amounts of water mixed with very toxic chemicals. Yet the government does not require that companies disclose the nature of the products used. The mixture that is injected into the ground can contaminate the groundwater and waterways. Will the federal government finally require companies to report what they are putting into our soil, as the Americans have done?
Mr. Speaker, as I said, the principle responsibility rests with the provinces and the territories. The federal government has an interest and can involve itself when a threat is perceived and reported. As my colleague knows, Environment Canada is responsible for regulating toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and where required, we will intervene.