Fourteen energy companies have been ticketed by B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission for failing to report how much water they used for fracking operations in northeast British Columbia this year.

Even though each fine was under $1,000 — small potatoes in the enforcement world — we think the Commission has taken a step in the right direction by holding these companies accountable.

The “not particularly happy” response from the ticketed companies is telling. Although these minor fines amount to no more than a drop in the bucket for energy companies, they signal to companies that they’re being watched more closely and will be held responsible for their actions.

The offence targeted — failing to report water use — is administrative in nature and relatively minor, as reflected by the low fines. But since enforcement of more serious infractions, such as exceeding water-use limits and emission allowances, is still lacking in B.C., these minor offences play an important role. Repeated bad behaviour can lead to greater fines and harsher crackdowns, sending a clear message to industry to play by the rules.

In this case, the tickets will probably barely register as a slap on the wrist for most energy companies, and simply be written off as the “cost of doing business.” But for people who care about how industrial development is impacting our communities and the environment, they are an encouraging step towards a more responsible and transparent energy industry in B.C.

by Jennifer Agnolin