Holding Frackers Accountable for Groundwater Pollution: An Analysis of Canada’s Liability Regimes for Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a fast-growing and controversial method of extracting petroleum or natural gas from wellbores drilled into reservoir rock formations. Tonnes of sand, water, and chemicals are injected at a high pressure into rock, resulting in fractures that enable the extraction of the oil or gas.

There are many environmental concerns related to fracking, including high water use, disposal of wastewater, the potential for surface water and groundwater contamination with fracking fluids or hydrocarbons, the potential to cause seismic events, and the potential for air pollution. Several jurisdictions, including France, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, have temporary moratoriums on various forms of fracking, while New South Wales, in Australia, is coming to the end of its ban. In-depth studies have been ordered to investigate the environmental effects of fracking in both the USA and Canada.

This paper, by University of Toronto Law School student Adam Shedletzky, focuses on the legal provisions governing groundwater pollution due to fracking for shale gas. It examines the liability regimes (statutory and common-law) in Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta. It concludes with recommendations for strengthening the regulatory regime to enhance frackers’ incentives to take care and to ensure that those who are adversely affected by fracking can be “made whole.”

To read the full paper, click here.

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