How Politicians Dissemble
23 October 2013
On Oct 3, 2013, the Times and Transcript ran an article quoting the Premier of B.C. after a discussion with David Alward and community business leaders in Toronto. "We have been doing hydro-fracking for fifty years in B.C., it is absolutely safe. We have never had a single incident of water contamination reported in British Columbia."
Both statements are intentionally misleading, this becomes clear when comparing gas exploration as it was fifty years ago and fracking as we know it today, and there is no scientific evidence to indicate that groundwater is safe from contamination when it is located near fracked wells. The very nature of drilling deep underground using toxic chemicals prohibits any such assurances.
"Conventional" gas exploration has been in existence for most of the 20th century. This practice involves drilling vertically to claim the "free gas" found in porous zones of sandstone relatively near the surface. Conventional mining does not require the use of large quantities of fresh water, sand or toxic chemicals.
"Unconventional" shale gas drilling or fracking directs the well bore vertically two kilometers or more; it then deviates horizontally, blasting the hard layers of shale with chemical laden water to release available gas. Most significantly, hydro-fracking has been an established practice during the last twelve years only, the earliest wells having been fracked in 1999 in Texas.
In Dec. of 2010 British Columbia's auditor general issued a report focused on the province's groundwater and noted: "the provincial government is not effectively ensuring the sustainability of B.C.'s groundwater sources." This references both the issue of the vast amounts of fresh water required to frack and the threat to groundwater that thousands of gas wells represent.
Energy Corporations have the ability to hide untold incidents of groundwater contamination through the use of confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements, hence the lack of "documented evidence" of harm done.
Earlier this year the gas industry and the government of B.C. heard a research team from the University of Texas tell them just what they wanted to hear at the Vancouver Convention Centre. A scientist with the Energy Institute U. of T., Charles Groat claimed: "the bottom line is that we found no direct evidence that hydro-fracking itself had contaminated groundwater or was causing concerns."
Eight months later a review panel found that not only were the findings of this report suspect, but the lead scientist was in a troubling conflict of interests with ties to a gas corporation (sound familiar?).
The Globe and Mail and other media reported that there was no evidence that fracking contaminates groundwater, now they were told that they had been mislead and that the science was not credible.* In B.C. where the gas industry is drilling relentlessly in remote northern areas, with little apparent oversight, the government continues to insist that fracking is safe and groundwater is safe even though studies that once made this claim have been discredited by subsequent academic scrutiny.
Donna Mclellan for the
Tantramar Alliance Against Hydro-Fracking
* Hume, Mark, "Fissures Appear in Scientist's Assurances about Fracking". Globe and Mail, Toronto, Ontario Dec 2012-Aug. 2013