By Ben Parfitt

On October 14, 2010, POWI released a discussion paper and held a conference on Fracture Lines:  Will Canada’s Water Be Protected in the Rush to Develop Shale Gas?  The conference and the discussion paper were the first major formal public discussion in Canada of the shale gas issue. As supplies of fossil fuel dwindle, oil and gas companies are increasingly looking to unconventional sources such as shale gas to supply energy needs. The Fracture Lines paper outlined the potential impacts of shale gas exploration and production on groundwater resources, and described the paucity of groundwater mapping and lack of effective regulatory oversight. With possible shale gas deposits in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick and a loud public outcry against shale gas drilling in Quebec, the conference attracted a wealth of attention.  Because of its availability in both languages and its timeliness, the conference received extensive media coverage and over 500 logins to the webcast.

In the wake of the conference, the research contained in the Fracture Lines report was determined to be a major factor in the decision to expand the terms of reference for a Parliamentary Committee studying offshore drilling issues in Canada. The Committee opted to include shale gas in its deliberations.

The issue of how to protect groundwater resources from the impacts of shale gas exploration continues to be a burning issue, across Canada and around the world.

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