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CAPP announces new fracking guidelines to boost environmental performance

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CALGARY - An energy industry group has developed a set of rules that it says could improve the environmental performance and transparency of hydraulic fracturing, an extraction method that has attracted a great deal of controversy.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says the "operating practices" unveiled Mionday apply to all of its members that explore for and produce natural gas in Canada.

"Applying these new operating practices will contribute to improving our environmental performance and transparency over time, both of which contribute to stronger understanding of industry activity and better relationships with the public, stakeholders and government," said CAPP President Dave Collyer in a statement.

Hydraulic fracturing — often called "fracking" — involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into shale rock formations deep under the surface of the earth in order to unleash oil and natural gas.

Fracking has been blamed for water contamination and even earthquakes in some areas, and has become a major political issue in the Maritimes and Quebec, among other places.

CAPP's operating practices include:

— Publicly disclosing chemical ingredients used in fracking fluid.

— Better identifying and managing the risks associated with the fluids and ultimately increasing the market demand for safer fluids.

— Developing domestic water-well sampling programs and participating in regional groundwater monitoring programs.

— Designing and installing wellbores in a manner that maintains integrity before fracking begins.

— Ensuring water withdrawal limits are not exceeded, monitoring water sources and collecting and reporting water use data.

— Identifying, evaluating and mitigating potential risks of transporting, handing, storing and disposing of fluids used in fracking.

The operating practices follow a set of "guiding principles" CAPP released in September, and are meant to "inform and complement" regulatory requirements. The group didn't say what, if any, rule enforcement there would be.

Collyer says shale gas can be is produced responsibly every day across Canada and the United States, with almost 200,000 wells fractured in Western Canada over the last 60 years.

"With increased focus on fracturing from coast-to-coast, the Canadian industry wants to be at the forefront of transparency and to establish clear and consistent practices across the country," Collyer said in a statement.

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