Join the Crowd: Vote for a Moratorium

Newfoundland has put a moratorium on shale gas exploration into effect, primarily over fears about effects on tourism around Gros Morne Park.

hopewellrocksAs we have pointed out, much of the expected shale gas extraction in NB is around our biggest tourist attractions….including our own UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve and the Hopewell Rocks.

A resolution from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities is supporting a province-wide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and calling for a dialogue about the practice of hydrofracking between First Nations, federal, provincial and municipal governments on potential impacts.
In the PEI Legislature, on November 26th 2013, the Standing Committee on
Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry recommended a Moratorium on
High Volume Hydraulic Fracking on PEI.
With existing moratoria in Quebec and New York, New Brunswick is now the
only jurisdiction in our region pushing ahead with shale gas development.
Voters in the Colorado cities of Boulder, Fort Collins and Lafayette approved
anti-fracking initiatives by wide margins in early November, despite an industry
campaign against the measures that cost at least $875,000.
Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union (300,000 with 40,000 in the energy
sector), called for a Canada-wide moratorium on all new oil and gas fracking.
Unifor raised concerns about safety and environmental risks as well as the lack of
informed consent by First Nations about fracking activities on traditional lands.
Click here for our list of the New Brunswick municipalities and Provincial groups of all kinds that have called for a moratorium.

A “small special interest minority”?  We think not.

License vs Lease

Our government downplays citizen concerns, saying not to worry about seismic testing, because it is only exploration.

thumpertrucksAre exploration licenses and production leases of shale gas really separate things?

NB’s Oil and Gas Act – 26(3), explains how to change from exploration to production.

“A license to search may be converted to a lease in its entirety at the end of the license term, if in the opinion of the Minister, all exploration commitments under the license have been met.”  

So, as long as a company simply spends a required amount during exploration, it is guaranteed a production lease – there is no process in between.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs…

Every night, during the evening news, we are treated to heartfelt government advertisements about separated families.  Let’s bring those boys home so they can work here.  We’re all for that…however…the facts do not support the promises.

First, let’s look at worker safety:  In the States, oil and gas industry has 7 times more fatalities than any other industry.  Are things different here?

In Alberta, between  2000 and 2010 – 1,285  workers were killed on the job.  In three subsequent years, between 123 and 154 died each year.

What about job numbers?  The Business Council study promoted by govt and industry promised us 21.5 jobs per well, or three times the number actually produced in Pennsylvania. The researchers did not even look at existing well fields in Penobsquis (6 employees) or Stoney Creek (2 employees).

Let’s take a look at Pennsylvania, where they claim the industry created 30,000 and 50,000 jobs. To accomplish this they drilled 7,200 wells. Do the math:  This means that the industry created a maximum of 7 jobs per well.

jobs2013slideCompare this to the state of Massachusetts, which produced 80,000 clean energy jobs in 5,500 different companies in less time than it took oil and gas to destroy the Pennsylvania countryside. These jobs were distributed throughout the entire state – unlike shale jobs, which are concentrated where the gas is being drilled.  It also found that the jobs crossed all sectors of the economy – construction labor, skilled tradesmen, business managers, and professionals such as architects and engineers. These permanent jobs are in contrast to truck driving and retail that disappear when the shale gas workers are gone elsewhere.

So, we ask…considering the imminent danger climate change, why isn’t our government looking at clean energy options?

Let’s drill instead. Our government assures us that will be only drilling between 50 and 100 wells per year, while in PA they drill between 1200 and 1500 per year.  So how exactly will we supply all our energy needs with cheap gas, supply cheap gas to our industries including big users like potash and fertilizer plants, supply cheap gas to the Irving refinery to refine tar sands oil and export expensive gas over seas on 50-100 wells per year?

Other benefits Pennsylvania has received from the oil and gas craze: 

Community Division:  Because landowners get royalties, local populations have been severely divided against each other, as neighbors without wells undergo all the risks of shale gas with none of its benefits.  The opposition in PA is growing and the Democratic Party now calls for a moratorium on future drilling in their official party platform.

Water Contamination:  Northeast PA is the site of 2 different peer-reviewed studies by Duke University that verified methane contamination of water wells in proximity to shale gas drilling.

Radioactive Wastewater:  Another recent Duke study found dangerously elevated levels of radioactivity and toxic chemicals downstream from a water treatment plant processing fracking wastewater. The streams feed public drinking water sources.

Violations and Fines:  PA keeps its shale gas enforcement actions online – even with its questionable enforcement agency, the database shows thousands of violations. It has levied millions of dollars in fines, but with no decrease in the number of violations.

Fracking Health Secrets: PA law forbids physicians from telling a patient what fracking chemical is making them sick if that chemical has a trade secret designation. Court cases of health problems and contamination have been settled by agreements that include gag orders on the plaintiffs, including last year’s infamous attempt to put lifetime gag orders on two children involved in a case.

(with notes from Jim Emberger)

Let’s talk about traffic…

We understand that Contact Exploration will be resuming operations this year in Stoney Creek and Edgett’s Landing. As far as we know, they will be drilling and fracking for oil on existing well pads. This may mean fewer construction vehicles and water tankers than for new gas operations, but we know that gas exploration and development is coming soon.  We wonder how Route 114 will hold up.

So, what can we expect?  Here are three eye-opening videos:

Now…enough of those polished, high-priced sales videos…tell us what it’s really like…

Or one real life drive along a Pennsylvania highway one week after a fracking operation began.

Accountability

When will we start holding our politicians accountable for their words?  September 2014?

This video clip from the New Brunswick Legislature, April 2010…5 months before David Alward was elected premier of NB; and Bruce Northrup was appointed Minister Natural Resources.

As opposition leader, David Alward wants assurances from Natural Resources Minister Wally Stiles that New Brunswickers’ drinking water will be protected in the hunt for natural gas. During this made-for-tv comedy show, the PCs want to know what the Liberals will do if water contamination takes place – cause, you know….it has elsewhere.

The Liberals repeat over and over again:  We have an EIA. We have rules. Companies will follow them. (sound familiar?) They say if you hear something 7 times, you will remember it. Apparently, the PCs learned the response well.

5:15:  David Alward (PC): “You can have all the regulations in the world, but if the companies are not doing what they are supposed to do, it’s not going to help anybody.”

5:43:  Wally Stiles (LIB): “Southwest Energy has a very good track record, an environmentally friendly company. They have public meetings. They deal with regulations on a professional basis.”

6:45: Bruce Northrup (PC): “…tell that to the people of Penobsquis who went for 5 yrs without water….As far as this side of the house, Mr. Speaker, we will stick up for the people of New Brunswick….we’re here for the people of New Brunswick. All 55 of us should be here for the people of New Brunswick.”

Really? Wouldn’t that be nice?

Get to the truth of the matter.

fred_nofrackThe people of New Brunswick deserve to know the truth behind our government’s repeated statements on ‘fracking’. Our top level of government assumes that most people will blindly accept what they have to say, without researching the facts for themselves.

Researcher/writer Carla Gunn answers the most pressing fracking questions on the minds of New Brunswickers and provides the counter-arguments, with links.

Examples….

1. Q: For what areas of New Brunswick do oil and gas companies have licenses to explore?

A: An interactive map of licensed areas – encompassing roughly 1/7 of NB’s land mass –  can be found here. 

2.  Q: Both NB’s Premier and Minister Energy and Mines, Craig Leonard, have stated that this type of fracking has been done safely in Alberta for years. Is this true?

A: No. Alberta has been mined for conventional gas –  not unconventional gas.  The Government of Alberta’s  website clearly states that  high-volume, multi-stage slickwater hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for unconventional shale gas, like that found in the hard shale formations in N.B.,  had not occurred up to July 2011.  Since then, there have been some exploratory and experimental wells drilled. However, “Alberta, though Canada’s largest oil and gas producer, has been behind many other jurisdictions in identifying and tapping many of its shale prospects, so development is still in early stage.” See this article. [See below for further explanation of what fracking entails].

3. Q: N.B. Minister of Energy and Mines, Craig Leonard, has repeatedly stated that most New Brunswickers want a fracking industry. Isn’t this true?

A. No. As revealed by a MQO research poll in June 2012, the majority of New Brunswickers oppose fracking (56 per cent opposed, 28 per cent in support and 16 per cent  undecided).  Then, in a June 2013 poll, when asked to rate the safety of shale gas exploration on a scale of one to 10 – with 1 being not safe at all and 10 being extremely safe – the average rating was 3.8.  In addition, over 20,000 New Brunswickers signed a petition calling for a ban on fracking and First Nations communities along with many service districts, municipalities and organizations are calling for either a ban or a moratorium.

Nationally, Canadians want a halt to fracking. A October 2013 Environics poll reveals: ”B.C. residents, at 67 per cent, were most likely to support a moratorium on fracking. B.C. was followed by Atlantic Canada, where 66 per of those polled supported a moratorium, then Ontario (65 per cent), Manitoba/Saskatchewan (64 per cent), Alberta (57 per cent) and Quebec (55 per cent).

For the answers to more questions, including the biggie:  Won’t fracking create lots of jobs? visit her website.

New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance Calls for Public Inquiry into October 17 Raid

Open Letter to David Alward
Premier of New Brunswick

Dear Premier Alward:

Today is International Human Rights Day and I am writing to you on behalf of the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA).  Members of the many community groups that make up the NBASGA are fully committed to peaceful, non-violent protest, and we share Amnesty International’s concerns that further violent incidents, such as what happened in Rexton, could happen again.

Therefore, NBASGA is formally asking you, as Premier, to establish a full, independent public inquiry into the circumstances and events culminating in the RCMP raid on a peaceful protest camp near Rexton on October 17, 2013. The citizens of New Brunswick have a right to know all the circumstances surrounding this sudden escalation in the use of force.

We feel an independent public inquiry is necessary to determine what precipitated the violence, and how best to prevent any possible recurrence in the future.

In its letter to you, dated Nov. 1, 2013, Amnesty International (AI) states that the violence at Rexton “could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law”.  As AI is the world’s foremost human rights organization, we implore you to heed its warning that further clashes could occur.

I’m sure you would agree that the Province of New Brunswick should be making every attempt to fulfill all its legal obligations to Indigenous peoples under both Canadian and international law.

While the full nature and extent of any provincial breech of the legal and human rights of Indigenous peoples needs to be examined, there are too many unanswered questions about the specific circumstances leading to the Rexton incident.  An independent, impartial public inquiry held at arm’s length from government is necessary, because the Province of New Brunswick was itself a player in those circumstances and events and so has an obvious conflict of interest that precludes it conducting an impartial inquiry.

Following years of peaceful protest, what happened in the days leading up to October 17 that made the police think the situation had changed so radically?  Thousands of people have visited peaceful demonstration sites across the province since opposition began, bringing supplies and offering financial and moral support.  Rexton was no different until the RCMP decided to raid the protest camp.  Witnesses say there was no threat to public safety at the camp until police, with drawn guns and accompanied by dogs and snipers in camouflage, attacked unarmed civilians, including women and children, with pepper spray and non-lethal rounds.  In one incident, a woman praying the rosary was pepper-sprayed in the face.

A public inquiry should also examine why police continued allowing citizens to enter the site, considering the police themselves claim it was a dangerous situation threatening public safety, yet kept media away (excepting one Brunswick News reporter who was curiously there at dawn).

As well, an inquiry could determine why police did not consult with First Nations’ chiefs who were vocal advocates of non-violence.  Although they are leaders committed to non-violence, Chief Sock and his band counselors were among the first arrested and thus prevented from intervening in a timely fashion.  Arresting a respected chief who has repeatedly stressed the importance of peaceful protest in the midst of an inflamed situation is baffling and needs further scrutiny.

An inquiry might reveal why, despite a massive police presence at the camp, six RCMP vehicles were left unattended, and how they could be set on fire with no police intervention and, to date, no arrests of suspects for arson.

These are but a few of the unanswered questions.

Mr. Premier, the people of New Brunswick are entitled to a fair, full and impartial accounting of what caused the violence at Rexton on October 17.  Such an inquiry would both clear the air and be instrumental in actions taken to ensure such violence does not happen again.

We look forward to your reply. A hard copy of this letter will be mailed to you.

Sincerely,

Jim Emberger, Spokesperson
New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA)

Cc:
Brian Gallant, Leader NB Liberal Party
David Coon, Leader NB Green Party
Dominic Cardy, Leader NB NDP
Kris Austin, Leader People’s Alliance
Charles Murray, Ombudsman

Stop the Madness

The following letter to the editor written by Deborah Carr was emailed to the Times & Transcript on Nov 18, 2013. It has not yet been printed, so we are posting it here as December 10 is international Human Rights Day.

~~~

Like others, I viewed the images of the devastation and death brought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines with a deep sense of grief and loss and helplessness.

How can we not be moved by the impassioned plea of Yeb Saño, Philippines climate negotiator, as he committed to a hunger strike and begged the world to address the climate crisis?

“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness,” Saño said.

davidsuzukiDr. David Suzuki recently spoke a similar message to a packed house at the Capitol Theatre, restating that we have blindly ignored 25 years of warnings from the science community, and are now at a critical crossroads. Scientists are 95% certain climate change is caused by human impact on the environment.

Here in New Brunswick, our government recognizes flooding in Perth-Andover and storm surges along our Acadian coast to be a result of  global warming and following Dr. Suzuki’s talk, we watched a documentary on vulnerable coastal communities in all Atlantic Provinces that have been subjected to the flooding and surges.  But what we have experienced so far cannot come close to the massive devastation experienced elsewhere….yet.

davidsuzuki2The Climate Commission reports there will be catastrophic consequences for all if we do not move toward renewable energy and leave 80 per cent of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.  The time to change direction now. In only a few years, Massachusetts has created 80,000 jobs in the clean energy sector. Others are doing it, why not us?

In a recent CBC interview, Ireland’s former president and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson reminds us that this is – above all – a human rights issue. Beyond countries already suffering crop loss due to periods of drought and flooding, UN agencies now say a further 9.6 million people are at risk of food insecurity caused by erratic and extreme weather conditions.

People in vulnerable countries are dying as a result of industrial greed, political corruption and citizen complacency in the wealthy north. “This is a matter that requires the greatest of human solidarity – a movement to make the world safe for the future,” Robinson said, noting our grandchildren will bear the brunt of our choices today.

Meanwhile, feeling helpless and powerless, we burrow deeper under our cozy blankets of complacency.

If we have any hope of ‘stopping the madness’, you and I must take an active role and demand that governments seek a broader vision and reduce our nation’s dependence upon fossil fuels.  This is now a necessity, not a choice.

If you and I do not educate ourselves; if you and I do not begin making better choices in our day to day living; if you and I do not vote consciously and then hold our politicians accountable – our grandchildren have no hope of a future.

“If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?’ asked Saño.

Indeed.  If not you and me, then who?

Unity & Solidarity Rally

UNITY & SOLIDARITY RALLY:  A Peace and Friendship Gathering with Wabanaki & New Brunswick Peoples. Let’s unite all people in peace and friendship. Please join us for this monumental action:

Tuesday, November 5, 12:00PM – 1:00PM
Legislature Building, Fredericton

FEATHERS:  Organizers are asking people to bring cutouts of feathers (use this template) in a variety of coloured paper stock, as indicated in the instructions on the sheet.

WEPAC will be offering a carpool from Hillsborough, leaving at 9AM. Please email us if you want a drive.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1416688618553850/

POSTER - UNITY & SOLIDARITY RALLY - FINAL LOW RES JPG (November 05, 2013)