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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Subsidies and Other Concessions to Big Oil and Gas

Sackville Tribune-Post    
28 November 2013 

Every year the Federal Government gives $1.4 billion in tax subsidies to Oil and Gas Corporations in Canada.  Globally, subsidies for the industry are estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year.  (From a report by the International Energy Agency, 28 countries offering advice and analysis of energy practices).  

BlueGreen Energy, an organisation dedicated to bringing unions and environmentalists together believes that investing oil and gas subsidies in renewable energy would result in a healthier economy, a cleaner environment and would give Canada credibility at home and abroad that it presently lacks.  Out of 58 developed countries, Canada ranked 55th for its efforts (or lack thereof) to create strategies to lower carbon and methane emissions. Last year  over 5 million people world-wide were employed in jobs that promote renewable

Other government concessions to the industry include assurances of "best practices" with regard to regulations that are not necessarily safe or scientifically sound practices.  The N.B. regulations to protect Municipal Water Supplies are a case in point:

N.B. Best Practices To Protect                        What Scientists Have Reported
Municipal Water Supplies                                 In Peer-Reviewed Studies
                                     Concerning Water Contamination 
                                                                             and Proximity To Gas Wells

500 m    Distance from public water       1.0 km     Distance from gas wells   
              supply to gas wells allowed                       where elevated levels of
              by N.B. regulations                                          methane, ethane and 
                                                                                       hydro-carbons were found

250 m    Distance from shoreline of a       3.0 km     Distance from gas wells           
              reservoir to gas wells allowed                          where the levels of                
              by N.B. regulations                                           arsenic, selenium,                
                                                                                       strontium and dissolved
 250 m   Distance from water supply                             solids exceeded the U.S.
              (surface intake) to gas wells                            EPA's drinking water
              by N.B. regulations                                          max. contamination limit.*
                                                                                                                               Best practices are determined by what industry can afford, they are not a standard for judging health and environmental safety.

Air pollution is exacerbated at every stage of shale gas production.  State and Provincial governments are absorbing the increasing cost to the health care system that results from chronic exposure to high levels of ozone in the atmosphere.  The American Lung Association measured the associated health costs of air pollution from nitrogen oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC's), which produce ozone.  

The following are the increased health care costs extrapolated from the annual amounts of NOx and VOC's found in the air near shale gas wells in the U.S.:

State/Shale Gas Field                  NOx & VOC Emissions              Increased Annual 
                                              Health Care Costs

Texas (Barnett shale)               44,165 tons/year                     $73,000,000
Arkansas (Haynesville shale)        20,347 tons/year                     $33,500,000
Pennsylvania (Marcellus shale)    19,300 tons/year                       $32,000,000**

In the past four years the provincial government has granted leases for gas exploration in N.B.'s top tourism areas.  Exploration has begun in and around some of our most popular coastal and river regions:

-Miramichi River-  heart of salmon fishing in N.B.
-GrandLake/Grand Meadows-  one of the largest Atlantic wetlands
-Kouchibouguac National Park- warm beaches and the Atlantic Coastal Drive
-Shediac beaches-  draw out province tourists every summer
-King's Landing/Mactaquac Provincial Park-  signature destination in N.B.
-Nashwaak, Petticodiac, Kennebecasis Rivers-  provide recreational activities for local residents and tourists

The shale gas industry, a source of short-lived jobs and royalties could ruin the tourism industry that provides jobs for 35,000 people in N.B. annually and which is entirely sustainable, not to mention the potential loss of some of the loveliest rural landscapes in the province.

Donna Mclellan for the 
Tantramar Aliance Against Hydro-Fracking

*  "Increased stray gas abundance in a subset of drinking water wells near Marcellus shale gas extraction", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

**Emission figures from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

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