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.

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Our choices will determine our children’s future

“Sustainable development must define the choices we make to provide our children with both a thriving and healthy world. It has become increasingly apparent that the shale gas industry is incompatible with sustainability.”

There is no shortage of independent scientific research to prove this statement, as well as actual experiences from places where shale gas has been developed.

There are presently more than 70 New Brunswick municipalities that have called for a ban or a moratorium on shale gas development in the province – along with 30 groups, and a dozen organizations/associations (many of them health-related), as well as countless individuals.

There is little public support for such development, particularly in our rural areas. In a recent meeting with Regional Service District representatives from Kent County, Energy & Mines Minister Craig Leonard said that he would support individual landowners who said ‘no’ to having wells drilled on their property, but would not support municipalities calling for a moratorium within their boundaries. This is an erosion of our democratic rights.

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance has compiled a marvelous collection of short pieces that summarize the different issues of concern related to shale gas development. The twelve important topics, which aren’t often part of the public discussion, are covered individually. Many of the topics greatly affect those not living in shale gas areas.   While geared specifically towards the interests of municipal decision-makers, they also provide fact-based evidence for individuals looking for credible information and research. Read more…

Unearthed: The Fracking Facade

Afrikaan filmmaker, Jolynn Minnaar’s documentary, Unearthed: The Fracking Facade, started off as her determination to explore the potential for shale gas development in South Africa. She ended up traveling internationally , including the United States and New Brunswick and interviewing over 400 people in her quest for the truth. She visited Moncton last June. The final 5 minutes are particular poignant.

And here is an interview in which she talks about how this independently funded film came about and what she now thinks about the industry.

“This film isn’t about me, about what I think, I’m a filmmaker. I’m 24 years old, I’m not a petrochemical engineer,  I’m not an oil company executive, I don’t have any history in this industry. What I seek to do is go to the various stakeholders, be that the company or someone who has cancer after being exposed to the chemicals used in fracing, and make their voices known because up until now there hasn’t been that exposure so in this debate and in south Africa and internationally, this has failed us. And governments I believe are making poorly informed decisions and a lack of public consultation and it goes down to the basic democratic processes that haven’t been followed. And to me that is completely unacceptable.” Jolynn Minnaar

A Village in the Crosshairs

There is no way around it. A village without water will die.

Several years ago, our village dug 35 wells before finding two that would give us reliable water. Good water is hard to find in hydrocarbon-rich Albert County.

Now, we understand Hillsborough sits on a significant oil reservoir. Below the oil lies what a Corridor Resources spokesman calls “the largest known shale gas play in North America by an order of magnitude.”

HillsboroughmarshIt is called the Frederick Brook member, a shale play that extends from Memramcook,  Hillsborough and Stoney Creek, to Elgin and Sussex (the leases are split between Contact Exploration, Petroworth and Corridor Resources).

“In the shale gas world, I’m not aware of anything that comes remotely close to the Frederick Brook Shale, and that’s because of its thickness,” says Corridor’s geologist.

Well pads already surround Hillsborough on three sides. Some are for oil. Some are for the natural gas below the oil. The process for extraction is largely the same.

The oil and gas lies within what geologists call a ‘complex’ area. The faults running through the layers of rock look like a three-dimensional tic-tac-toe.  In the midst of this tic-tac-toe board, lies oil well ‘B55’.  It is situated about 1,500m or less from our municipal wells and close to private wells. B55 is a little over 1100m deep. Our village water well taps into the aquifer at 200m.

But don’t worry, says our government. In assessing the lay of the land, they have determined if a spill or other accident occurs, the natural flow of contaminants would be away from the village water wells and toward the river.

Really? Well, that also means spills would flow toward the homes with private water wells.

Understand this: I am no eco-terrorist or fear-mongerer. I do not insult or intimidate people who disagree with my viewpoint. I’m all for employment and prosperity in New Brunswick. Who isn’t?

I’m simply a homeowner and self-employed writer. My work ebbs and flows like the Fundy tide. I have no pension. My home is my safety net.

I live and work here in Hillsborough. We have wetlands and wildlife. We’re friendly folk who hike and bike the village trails, and appreciate fresh air, and a dark sky filled with stars. We have easy access to forests, lakes and streams. You get the picture.

hillsboroughSo all this concerns me. Deeply. It concerns my neighbours. It concerns our village council and our local businesses. It also concerns doctors, geologists, scientists, engineers, economists, lawyers, and everyday people all over this province who have spent thousands of unpaid hours researching independent studies on the issue and giving people the information our government should be providing.

You might think that Hillsborough would have a soft spot for oil and gas exploration. We lie a few minutes from Stoney Creek, New Brunswick’s first developed oilfield. But you’d be wrong. I’ve toured the Stoney Creek oilfield. I know people who experience gas fumes and headaches from wells that currently operate in that area. Others have strange illnesses.

Many private wells in Stoney Creek have bad water quality and quantity. Is this due to 100 years of oil drilling or because of natural contaminants? We don’t know. No one mapped aquifers or tested water back then. No one is mapping our aquifers now.

Proponents of industry say we do things better here in Canada. That we have more ‘stringent and rigorous rules’. Rules that call for setback of 250m from private homes and 500m from schools, yet a long-term health study from the University of Colorado found highly elevated risks for cancer and other diseases for those living within 750m of a gas well and a Duke University study found highly increased risk of methane contamination of water wells within 1km of gas wells.

Stringent? Rigorous?

I’ve toured Penobsquis too, and smelled fumes from the gas wells on the flood plains of the Kennebecasis River.

penobsquis

Wellpads in Penobsquis, NB

I’ve seen how close well pads are to each other and homes. I’ve talked with residents who spent $15,000 and 25,000 volunteer hours trying to resolve their water losses. Alone.

Ask them about the risks vs benefits. Ask them if the loss of water to 60 families was worth the 6 jobs the industry created.

And so I wonder what Hillsborough will look and smell like—what life will be like—if oil and gas development continues in Albert County.

The trouble is, our pastoral village lies in the crosshairs of an industry with a noxious reputation. And will be subjected to a process that no one can prove is safe.

In spring 2011 our province gave Contact Exploration the approval to bring into production up to 39 existing oil and gas wells in the Stoney Creek–Hillsborough area. Prior to releasing their new rules, the government approved the drilling of four more wells.

We have many unknowns: complex geology, a precarious water supply, the scale of future oil and gas development. Then there are the knowns: noise, pollution, truck traffic. The impact on property values, human health and well-being.

Recent research on the effects of shale gas development on property values shows that not only are properties devalued in the near vicinity of development, but also in neighbouring communities.

Our own Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eilish Cleary, expressed concerns for people living in close proximity to gas and oil development, and last fall made 30 recommendations necessary to prevent or mitigate impact on public health. Our government, however, has not yet issued a formal response or proposed action plan for these recommendations, and, in fact, only released it after public pressure to do so.

And then there is the economic well-being. We’re told New Brunswick stands to gain hundreds of jobs and billions in revenues from shale gas development. Perhaps you are like me and find this rather vague and loosey-goosey.

brody_cropA Cornell University team recently studied Pennsylvanian towns affected by oil and gas developments. Their report found that jobs were short-term and low-paying, when the drill teams moved on, those towns are economically worse off than before. I have yet to find a Happy Frack Town.

(Caveat: three government officials have spoken about talking to a happy PA organic farmer with gas wells on his property. One happy farmer. If they truly wanted to understand the impacts, perhaps they should have been talking to the unhappy ones.)

So, perhaps you might excuse me, instead of accuse me, for opposing oil and gas development in my area and in my province. Perhaps, instead of thinking of me a protestor, you may think of me as a protector.

Because it is not just my backyard.  This is a small province. It is actually your backyard too.

© copyright 2013 Deborah Carr

Hillsborough Calls for a Stop to Drilling

We want to thank everyone who came out for our phenomenally successful Walk the Block on Monday night. About 200 people walked the streets of Hillsborough.  It was an awesome night with positive energy, song and dance.

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We succeeded:  Hillsborough council passed a resolution calling upon the Government of New Brunswick to stop all approved gas and oil activities; withdraw its approval of licenses to undertake the oil and gas exploration and development; and not renew existing licenses within 4km of village limits and 4 km from either of our water supplies, both above and below ground.

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In doing this, Hillsborough joins communities in Memramcook, Sackville, Sussex Corner, Hampton and others who have taken similar positions.

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Although this seems to be a statement for Hillsborough, it is also a statement for Albert County and for all rural communities in New Brunswick that do not want to become industrial zones.  Early on, our government stated publicly that they would ‘respect municipality wishes’ on such matters.

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There was a spot on CBC-TV with Jennifer Choi and a CBC article, as well (links below). Also, if you have online access to T&T, they did a great video, photo gallery and article on our request to the Health minister.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2013/03/05/nb-albert-county-fracking-tourism-march.html
(Some good supportive comments here, last time I looked…and a few
insulting ones, of course)
http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/NB/ID/2340922718/

This issue is not just about our water. It is about our health, our environment, our lifestyle, property values – and about the future of our community. Research is now showing that oil/gas communities are worse off after the boom is over than they were before it started and that promises of economics and jobs have been overestimated. And that property values diminish, not only in development areas, but also in neighbouring communities.

_MG_2101_cropWhat options would we have in 10 or 15 years when the rush for gas is over? People did not move here to live in a mining town.  We are not tree-huggers, nor are we against economics or bringing New Brunswickers home from out west. We are property-owners and parents and should never have to apologize for caring about our children, our investments and about the place where we live.

A mom’s plea to government

Many people feel too intimidated to write to government officials. The following letter, written by one Hillsborough mom shows that it doesn’t have to be formal or technical, just genuine. This one was addressed to our Premier, Ministers of Environment, Energy & Mines, and Health, The NB Ombudsman and MLA for Albert. it is Used with permission.

Dear Gentlemen:

Premier Alward has already received my son’s letter, but I’m attaching it for the others.

Until about a month ago, I really didn’t know what was happening in our little Village of Hillsborough.  I had heard some things about “fracking”, but I hadn’t taken the time to get informed.  I was part of a PSSC (Parent School Support Committee) meeting at Hillsborough Elementary when I first learned exactly what “fracking” was and that it was coming to Hillsborough very soon.  I came away from the meeting feeling so ashamed that I had not taken the time to find out about this sooner.

My son, Quinn, had been asking me questions about “fracking” which I could not answer.  He had been hearing about it (like myself), but he didn’t understand it (like myself).  When I finally got more info, I honestly didn’t know how to answer Quinn’s questions without scaring him.  Kids are not stupid.  When you say chemicals and water in the same sentence, they know it’s a bad thing.  If any of you have children, I hope you can appreciate how hard it is to put a child to bed at night with tears in his eyes and worried about something you cannot protect him from.  I had to help Quinn with this and the only way was to change the conversation from “what could happen to us?” to “what can we do about it?”.  I told him to write to the Premier to express how he feels.  I believe he and all the children of Albert County should have a say in their future.  This is a decision being made by today’s government that will affect these children for the rest of their lives in Albert County.

In the past month, I have gotten involved with the people of Albert County who are opposed to fracking.  I have learned that Albert County is not alone.  There are many groups throughout our province who feel the same way we do.  It is frightfully obvious that the government (at all levels) are not listening to our pleas and it’s absolutely unfair.  It’s simple – fracking is not safe, it is not a  proven money maker – it’s not worth ruining our small beautiful province for.  We pride NB on our tourist industry.  Honestly, how many tourists will be interested in sightseeing at frack sites and ghost towns?

I am not a political person, I am not educated in science, I am a mother protecting her children.  The province may be in need of money, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the health and well-being of its people.  It’s totally unfair to expect that of any person, village or town.   Please listen to my son’s words – he wears his heart on his sleeve and I hope you can hear his sincerest request, “please don’t ruin our water and please don’t make us sick”.

With hopes that you will listen to the people of your province and protect us,

What’s that smell in the air?

What’s in the air in Penobsquis? Government failing to monitor air quality

February 15, 2013
Conservation Council NB Action Press Release

Five months after filing an official request for information concerning air quality in Penobsquis, CCNB Action has learned that there is no permanent air quality monitoring regime in the industrial-affected community of Penobsquis; counter to existing regulations laid out in the Clean Air Act.
penobsquis flareAccording to the Approval to Operate documentation received, PotashCorp’s mining operations and Corridor Resources’ gas operations are not required to operate and maintain a ground-level air quality monitoring station and report air quality on an hourly or daily basis, which is required in the Clean Air Act (Air Quality Regulation 97-133). According to the last air quality monitoring report found on the Department of Environment and Local Government website (2009), the province is also not publicly reporting air quality in the Penobsquis area.

“How can the public, who are having shale gas exploration and development forced onto them, feel good about regulations for a new industry when we know the government does not have a handle on enforcing existing requirements?” asks Stephanie Merrill, CCNB Action’s spokesperson on shale gas. Merrill said that this information reveals systemic problems in the way that the provincial government monitors air quality and discloses that information to the public.

“Rural Penobsquis is fraught with the sights and smells of mining operations, gas well pads and pipelines. The operations have been expanding since 2007, and we find it alarming that the government has yet to implement a stringent and permanent air quality monitoring system in that community,” adds Merrill.

Residents in Penobsquis are reporting a strong odour in the air this week. The RCMP confirmed with one resident that a weeping gas line at PotashCorp’s mining operations is responsible for the odour.

“What’s the good of having laws against drinking and driving to protect the public but no police to enforce the laws? That’s what is happening in Penobsquis today”, says Beth Nixon, a resident of Penobquis. “We don’t know what’s in the air in here, what we are smelling and not smelling, and we should for our peace of mind”, she continues. Nixon says that the government needs to implement a permanent air quality monitoring station in Penobsquis and disclose the results to us on a regular basis.

Inka Milewski, CCNB Action’s Health Watch Advisor is concerned by what could be in the air in Penobsquis and the lack of government oversight. “Volatile Organic Carbons (VOCs) in the air at gas production sites are a major public health concern. The government must rectify this problem immediately before gas production goes from exploration to full-scale production in Penobsquis,” says Milewski.

In October 2012, Dr. Eilish Cleary, Chief Medical Officer of Health, released a detailed report outlining strict benchmarks for baseline monitoring in the face of the shale gas industry. A week later, the provincial government proposed amendments to the Clean Air Act which would exempt Class 4 licenses from needing government approval to operate.

Corridor’s Approval to Operate its natural gas conditioning plant and well pads happens to be a Class 4 license and there is still uncertainly what the amendments to the Clean Air Act means for these activities. Furthermore, there are no requirements for public discussions for these Approvals to Operate. “The province must end this loophole and require public review periods for Approvals to Operate for natural gas operations,” adds Milewski.

Penobsquis is a small rural community near Sussex. Within six kilometres of the centre of Penobsquis are two potash mines (one in production and one in construction), 16 gas well pads, 30 gas wells ( unconventional shale and tight gas wells), two natural gas/compressor stations that flare, a drill rig site, a grouting station, one oil well, a brine pipeline that hauls water from the potash mine to the Bay of Fundy, approx. 17 km of pipelines, trucks that haul water to the Port of Saint John, and at least 12 gravel pits.

Contact:
Stephanie Merrill, CCNB Action, 458-8747 – for inquiries about shale gas regulations
Inka Milewski, CCNB Action, 458-8747 – For inquiries about air quality regulations and health
Celine Delacroix, CCNB Action, 458-8747 – for French only inquiries

Dear Premier Alward, please don’t ruin our water…

Quinn knows the value of fresh water. He sees his dad working hard to keep Hillsborough’s two village water wells in good working order and knows bad water makes people sick. He has heard about fracking in the news and at school and knows others in his county are concerned about the gas and oil wells drilled nearby. He told his mom he wanted to do something to help.

Premier Alward, Quinn and his sister Cadence do not stand alone. They speak for all of us.

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Image2Image3(used with permission from Quinn and his mom.)

The way Cadence sees it…

Cadence is 8 years old.

Gas and oil companies have leased the land surrounding her village and have plans to frack for oil and gas this year. She worries about the changes this will bring to her world and her family.

Cadence wants to do her part and express how much she values family, nature and community. This is her way of voicing her concerns to the Alward Government and the oil and gas industry.

We can all learn a thing or two from Cadence (and her brother Quinn) about joining hands and speaking out about what is really important.

candace_noFrack

cadence

cadence2(posted with permission of Cadence and her mom.)