GOVERNMENT STAND ON SHALE GAS STILL AT ODDS WITH RESIDENTS CONCERNS
19 February 2014
In July of 2013, Corporate Research Associates posted the results of a poll for and against shale gas exploration on the CBC website. Among the 400 hundred people polled:
- 48% said shale gas is critically important or important, but not critical to the province's economic future.
- 44% said shale gas is not very important or not at all important to the economy.
As we head toward spring of 2014 those opposed to the establishment of a shale gas industry have some daunting realities to face. The provincial government remains intransigent regarding it's plan to allow fracking to expand across the province.
Three companies are at varying stages of development already. Corridor Resources plans to contract out their oil and gas leases and continue drilling in Penobsquis. Contact Exploration has announced that they will be in Hillsborough this spring to commence fracking an undeveloped oil pool which represents, to them, an opportunity for economic development in the area. And SWN Resources has yet to announce the results of the seismic testing they did in Kent County and what their future plans might be.
Many residents in these three areas and throughout the province are determined to prevent the industry from coming into their communities and are pressing government to, at the very least, put in place a 10 year moratorium.
Presently, the provincial governments in Canada have at their disposal and overwhelming amount of information gathered during the last decade of shale gas development in the U.S. Cautionary tales from Pennsylvania,
Arkansas, Colorado and Texas detail the devastating results that fracking has had on the ecology and public health. Fracking in the U.S., which has some of the largest reserves of gas in the world, has soared in recent years, but so too has the controversy surrounding the environmental, public health and social impacts resulting from how this fuel is obtained.
The N.B. government continues to emphasize the benefits of a shale gas industry, but U.S. government statistics and scientific research paint a much grimmer picture.
THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT CLAIMS:
1. SHALE GAS DEVELOPMENT WILL CREATE JOBS AND BRING ECONOMIC GAINS
When costs to repair road damage from shale gas development exceed the revenues produced, the industry is neither profitable or sustainable.
Government statistics in three U.S. states report:
- Texas had revenues of $3.6B in 2012, road damage cost the state $4B to repair.
- Arkansas had revenues of $182M, road damage cost the state $450M to repair.
- Pennsylvania had impact fee revenues of $204M, ongoing funds to maintain the roads are 3.5B.
How then does fracking provide economic benefits?
2. WE HAVE BEEN FRACKING FOR OVER 50 YEARS WITH NO ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS
Unconventional shale gas drilling or fracking is vastly different from the conventional drilling of the past. Fracking drills vertically 2-3 miles, then directs the well bore horizontally and blasts the rock formations with a combination of water, toxic chemicals and sand. This technology has only been in existence for the past dozen years.
Conventional gas production of the past targeted soft sandstone relatively close to the surface using less water and no toxic chemicals.
Why then do governments insist that we have been fracking for 50 years?
3. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT FRACKING POLLUTES AIR, WATER AND LAND
Tests are routinely carried out by scientists to monitor the air quality in areas where shale gas is actively mined.
Levels of C02, methane and other air borne chemicals associated with the fracking process are substantially higher near gas wells than they are in areas that are not subject to gas exploration. Inhalation of air pollutants in excess of government standards is associated with many health problems, C02 and methane are a major cause of climate change.
How then does fracking not pollute the air?
In 2011 the New York Times reported that between 2008-2010 more than 1.3B gallons of waste water was sent to treatment plants in Pennsylvania not equipped to remove hazardous chemicals. Those treatment plants subsequently discharged the untreated waste water into the states major river basin which connects to waterways that are a water source for millions of residents.
How then does fracking not pollute water?
Between 20%-40% of the water used to frack a well returns to the surface forming pools of toxic waste water. As a result of the problems involved in treating this effluent, approval to allow construction of open pits containing flow back has been granted in several states despite the hazards they represent in the event of flooding and potential human and animal exposure.
How then does fracking not pollute the land?
4. THERE ARE NO KNOWN HEALTH RISKS TO HUMANS FROM FRACKING
Air pollution is evident at every stage of shale gas production. Exposure to nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, two of the chemicals released by shale gas drilling, leads to asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The increase in N02 and VOC emissions is directly associated with increased health care costs, that have recently skyrocketed, in Texas, Arkansas and Pennsylvania. With so many toxic chemicals in our air and water, can cancer clusters be far behind?
How then is human health not negatively impacted by fracking?
5. WE NEED TO EXPLOIT ALL OF OUR FOSSIL FUEL RESOURCES REGARDLESS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Between 1991-2012 there were 13,926 peer reviewed scientific papers that supported the existence of climate change. Scientists have confirmed that to keep the planet in balance we should allow no more that 350ppm of C02 to enter the atmosphere. We reached 400ppm in May of 2013. Although C02 levels vary from year to year due to plant growth and death
there has been a steady increase in these greenhouse gases through the late 20th and early 21st centuries, driven by fossil fuel use.
How then does the mining of oil, gas and coal not impact climate change?
With the stability of our climate already compromised, we need to reduce current oil and gas exploration projects and place moratoria on all other plans to drill in the future. We don't have to accept without question the misguided notion that promoting a shale gas industry in N.B. is the most desirable use of the natural resources available to us. From now on our mission should be to "Keep it in the Ground".
Donna Mclellan for the
Tantramar Alliance Against Hydrofracking