B.C. water permits for natural gas fracking illegal, lawsuit alleges

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VANCOUVER - Environmental advocates say the B.C. government has been illegally granting natural gas companies repeated short-term approvals, allowing them to use large quantities of fresh water for years without obtaining full water licences.

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the Sierra Club of B.C. are in a Vancouver court today asking it to throw out the short term approvals granted for water use for natural gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Under provincial legislation, the Oil and Gas Commission has the power to grant short-term water approvals for up to 24 months.

The groups' lawyer, Karen Campbell, says the commission grants such approvals numerous times in a row, in some cases allowing the companies to use the same short-term approval for several years without the need to obtain a full water licence.

The government says there is nothing in the law that prevents repeated short-term water licences, and it insists its officials acted within the law.

The B.C. government recently unveiled proposed changes to its water laws that specifically permit repeated approvals, though the law hasn't yet passed.

Organizations: Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Sierra Club of B.C., Oil and Gas Commission

Geographic location: VANCOUVER

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