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)

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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.

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

For the Record….

We would like to set the record straight on recent comments made to the media by Minister Craig Leonard (Energy & Mines).

On several occasions in recent weeks, Minister Leonard has downplayed and diluted the concerns expressed by people in Albert County, saying, “It’s the same kind of development that has taken place in Albert County for decades”,  “the work being done by Contact Exploration in that area is conventional drilling,” and also that “the only activity that there’s been permits and approvals for has been the conventional work.”

(Note: Conventional drilling refers to the older method of vertical drilling to access a pool or reservoir of oil/gas; unconventional is the combination of horizontal/vertical drilling and hydraulic fracturing to create pathways for the release the oil/gas from tighter formations.)

The company’s 2012 Corporate Update is quite clear about the unconventional horizontal drilling and fracing of two Stoney Creek oil wells in 2010 and how ‘modern’ fracing unlocks previously unrecoverable reserves.

It should also be noted that regardless of whether fracing for oil or gas, the process is largely the same. Chemical mix/water requirements change, and geologic formations are typically closer to the surface (800-1000m), but the process brings the same risks from diminished property values, health and social impacts, air emissions, water usage and contamination, accidental spills, wastewater disposal, traffic, noise and possible chemical/gas migration underground.

On February 15, 2013, WEPAC received the following information from Minister Leonard’s own department regarding an approval (EIA-1308): “Contact Exploration Inc. was given permission under the Phased Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Review process in December 2012 to proceed with field investigations including drilling and testing of 4 oil wells located on existing well pads within the Stoney Creek Wellfield.

To the question, “Does ‘field exploration, drilling and testing’ include fracing?” we received the response, “Yes, in this case it does include hydraulic fracturing.

Just to be perfectly clear, we asked Contact Exploration’s CEO, Steve Harding, the same question. His response: “Any wells drilled at Stoney Creek would involve fracing, whether they are vertical or horizontal.”

Also, for the record, last fall WEPAC received a copy of Approval I-7507 dated March 2011, issued by Energy & Mines under their former regulatory regime. When asked the difference between the former regulations and the new Phased EIA process, as they applied to safety, we received this answer:

“Under the old process, oil and gas projects were required to undergo an EIA review at the point of commercial extraction (meaning after the well had already been constructed and hydraulically fractured and the proponent was ready to withdraw product from the well for commercial purposes).  Under the new process , a Phased EIA review is required prior to well pad construction.”

In part, Approval I-7507 states the following:

Contact Exploration Inc. will be undertaking upstream oil and gas exploration activities in Albert County. This includes exploratory drilling, completing, testing, producing and related activities of the oil wells known as Contact Stoney Creek A89-2328, Contact Stoney Creek I-88-2328/N-78 and Contact 109-N-78-2328.”

The approval goes on to include ‘testing, producing and related activities’ for another 17 oil wells and 11 gas wells (all previously drilled) and a production facility for oil and natural gas from these wells.  Nine well pads are included under the authority of the approval (at least two of these, that we know of, are for the purpose of gas extraction).

Seven of the well pads mentioned surround the village of Hillsborough on three sides. While developments may be slow to start, we must consider the extent of possible development.  According to Steve Harding, CEO of Contact, “when we establish a well pad with the ability for a commercial well, we will drill as much as possible,” as many as “8-24 wells on a pad.

While Contact Exploration must apply to drill any additional wells over and above the 35 included in the above-mentioned documents, they currently have in hand, enough permits for oil and gas wells to keep them busy for the coming year or two, should they choose.

Until now, the company’s focus has been oil, but it has optimistic gas prospects in Hillsborough, a new partnership with an LNG export company that suggests annual exports of 10 million metric tonnes of natural gas (1/3 of that coming from NB). In a recent newspaper interview, the CEO said they have 35,000 acres in Albert Co. and 12 potential drill sites to explore.

If this was your backyard, what more would you need to connect the dots?

Economic fear mongering is alive and well

The following letter from Taymouth resident, Jim Emberger appeared in the Daily Gleaner on January 23, in response to repeated essays, articles and letters attacking those opposed to shale gas development. (for links, see below).

What I find personally shocking is our Health Minister’s tone: “Jed Clampett had sense enough to take the oil and turn it into $60 billion and move to Beverley Hills, but people in New Brunswick want to stay in the shack and have granny as their doctor,” Flemming said.

Yet, what he doesn’t say is even a fictional character from the back hills of the Ozarks had the sense to skip town with his money rather than stay and endure the oil drilling in his own backyard.

May I also point out that those in the industry have salaries. Those in our government have salaries. They are paid to do what they do and to say what they say.

Those who are on the front lines of the opposition are volunteers. We are giving our time and our own resources to this cause. We are funding our travel expenses and our publicity and legal expenses. We are taking time away from our work and our families to research and attend meetings and rallies. Many have been involved in this for years. We come from all walks of life. If we were not utterly convinced and passionate about this cause, would we still be here? Our government is ignoring our voice and failing to address our concerns.

Jim’s response is reprinted with permission from the author.

Letter to the Editor, The Daily Gleaner
Jan. 23, 2013
by Jim Emberger

Curiously, Minister of Health Ted Flemming, Dr. LaPierre, geologist Adrian Park and some letter-to–the-editor writers use identical language to claim that opponents of shale gas rely on inaccurate data from the film Gasland, and indulge in hysterical fear mongering.

How dishonest, hypocritical and desperate! Unable to convince the public about the wonders of shale gas, they attempt to discredit the opposition. Gasland served as a wake-up call several years ago, but has been superseded by much history and science. I can’t remember any public forum in two years where it was cited as a reference.

Shale opponents cite Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, international expert in rock fracturing, peer-reviewed scientific studies in prestigious journals, the US EPA, the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, government records of violations, and the industry’s own reports of failure.

We cite the only long-term public health study by the University of Colorado, and The Endocrine Disruption Exchange on the toxicity of fracking chemicals. We point to the scholarly report done by New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Eilesh Cleary, which notes that we know almost nothing about shale’s public health threats.

Recent peer-reviewed studies from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado are cited showing that shale worsens climate-change.

Economists, financial analysts, science-based non-profit organizations, and the testimonies of people affected by shale gas from across North America are our sources. We’ve brought many expert speakers to the New Brunswick public.

Where are the voices for the pro side? We hear only from gas-producing interests.

Where are the independent studies proving that wells don’t leak, that water doesn’t get contaminated and air isn’t polluted, that there are no health problems, that methane isn’t leaking, that fracking chemicals aren’t toxic/carcinogenic, that roads aren’t destroyed, that quality of life doesn’t suffer, that shale gas’s boom and bust economic shell game doesn’t leave a place worse off?

The silence is deafening.

We offered to debate publicly, but government and industry were no-shows.
The government merely repeats the totally false and unsupported idea that shale gas is our only economic hope. Talk about fear mongering propaganda.

Jim Emberger
Taymouth, N.B.

In response to:

The Quick Facts on Fracking

New Brunswick author, Carla Gunn, has compiled an informative list of her own fracking research:

To summarize, she says, concerns with fracking are multiple and include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. air pollution from multiple sources
  2. water contamination
  3. noise pollution and the impact on psychological and physical health
  4. the vast amount of water used in fracking and permanently removed from the planet’s water cycle
  5. the question of whether waste water can be safely treated in the quantities required
  6. not all the chemicals/ waste water is recovered (flowback) after the fracking process – where do contaminants eventually end up?
  7. the safe transport of this waste to facilities (i.e, potential for spills)
  8. the industrialization of our rural areas and impact on agriculture
  9. the fact that this quest for shale gas is yet another focus on fossil fuels at a time when we should be desperately trying to develop cleaner sources of energy
  10. the carbon impact of shale gas extraction (bigger carbon footprint than coal)
  11. serious questions about whether the NB government has the resources, personnel, and expertise to monitor all of these activities
  12. the integrity of the well sites; i.e., how secure are they 20, 50,100 years from now?