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.

Grassroots Guardians:

Why Protecting New Brunswick from Shale Gas Development is Everyone’s Responsibility

Last month, Council of Canadians National Chairperson, Maude Barlow spoke to over 500 people at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton, New Brunswick on the need for all cultures to come together in a quest to protect our land, air and water.

If you were unable to attend the event itself, it was recorded in three parts:

PART 1:  Patricia Leger, of Memramcook Action, speaks first to the intensive work and solidarity of many groups and volunteers across the province of New Brunswick who are collaborating in opposition to hydro-fracking for gas and oil. Deborah Carr of Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County spoke to the situation in the areas surrounding Moncton and the potential for developments in south-eastern New Brunswick, giving the reasons why everyone needs to become involved.

PART 2 –  Ron Tremblay, of Maliseet First Nations, begins in his native tongue because his grandfather always told him to speak in his own language first when he talks.  Then, in English, using the stories of his culture, he explains the need for all people to take a stand to protect our shared Mother Earth. He talks about polluted rivers and his arrest, as he stood at the junction of Routes 116 and 126 to block seismic thumper trucks. He shares the prophecies of the elders that the people will reach a crossroads and if we advance beyond, there will be no turning back. We are at that crossroads; it is the time for rising up of all people to protect our future.

PART 3 – Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians, speaks on the environmental protection work being done throughout the world, and here in New Brunswick, where our opposition is being watched by other provinces, states and countries.  She paints a grim picture of the state of our environment, but shares optimism inspired by the very large successes of dedicated people and groups, among them our First Nations communities. She encourages the financial support of legal injunctions to stop the government from proceeding with the exploitation of our natural gas. (see www.knowshalegasnb.com).

Wetlands taking a blasting

(Conservation Council of NB Media Release; news coverage to follow)

Shale gas exploration gets green light in wetlands, around watercourses

Fredericton – After being alerted to the fact that seismic testing and related work for shale gas exploration is happening in wetlands and around significant watercourses in Kent County, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick (CCNB) has learned that government has granted a blanket permit to do work across wetlands and watercourse buffers in 8 provincial counties.

CCNB was approached by Kent County residents Tina Beers, Harcourt Local Service District Advisory Committee Chair, and her husband John, also with the Harcourt LSD and a volunteer firefighter, who came across activity in a nearby wetland. They were immediately concerned that activity was taking place in sensitive wetland and floodplain areas and started inquiring about the rules for working in and around them.

CCNB requested, and the Department of Environment and Local Government has shared, the wide-sweeping Wetland and Watercourse Alteration (WAWA) permit granted to SWN Resources Canada in April for their seismic exploration program to do work in “various” wetlands and watercourse buffers throughout Albert, Kent, Kings, Northumberland, Queens, Sunbury, Westmorland and York counties.

Ms. Beers was shocked to learn how easy it was for the company to have such widespread access to wetlands.

“We keep hearing that our waters will be protected from shale gas exploration through the strict new ‘Rules for Industry’, she said, “but we look into this issue that concerns us just to find that the province has given the company a green light to go into these sensitive areas”.

“We really want the public to know this,” Ms. Beers continued, “this is a real example of how the “rules” are being applied right now.”

Mr. Beers came across a drill rig stuck in the wetland while out on a fishing trip. A swath of land was cleared larger than allowed as the rig needed to be removed by an excavator.

The wetland is about 16 hectares and located roughly ½ km from, with the water drainage connected to, Hector Fork, a tributary of the Richibucto River. Shot hole blasts were also marked less than 40m from the bank of the Richibucto River, an identified wetland area.

“The Rules for Industry” that government is so proud of are permit conditional, like most of our environmental regulations in New Brunswick, says Stephanie Merrill, Freshwater Protection Program director for CCNB. “A proponent can apply for a variance, they write a check for the fee, it’s given the stamp of approval and off they go”, Merrill explained. “Our ‘rules’ are useless if there is no political will to use them for the intended purpose and unfortunately the granting of WAWA permits specifically is very common practice,” Merrill stated.

In addition to granting alteration permits for ‘regulated wetlands” — wetlands acknowledged by the Department of Environment through their GeoNB mapping system, SWN has been actively working in “unregulated wetlands” — not mapped but that still exist on the landscape. These wetland alterations require no oversight from the Department of Environment since 2011 when then Minister of Environment Margaret-Ann Blaney made dramatic changes to how wetlands are regulated in the province.

CCNB has previously estimated that this mapping system only accounts for about 50% of wetlands that exist on the ground and identified 16 examples where wetlands were relieved of their ‘regulated’ status.

“We’ve been saying since these changes were made over two years ago, that the Department is actually in violation of their own Clean Water Act by ignoring these wetlands and relieving them from any protection, permitting, tracking and monitoring, says Merrill. “How can government expect the public to be comfortable with new rules when the old ones aren’t even followed?”

CBC Coverage
– Print:  SWN Given permit to test in wetlands– TV:  http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/NB/ID/2397123866/

 

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

What will it take?

David sits cross-legged in the rocking chair opposite me, slender fingers clasped in his lap. He’s a tall man, lean and quiet. I have not known him long, but I can tell you that he is persistent and consistent with what he believes. He is watchful, observant…a good listener.

He regards me quietly for a moment or two…long enough for me to wonder why he has come.

“So,” he finally says, “what do you think it will take to win this?”

He is speaking of the shale gas war, of course.

{war: noun, often attributive \ˈwr\  –  a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end}

A war of profit and power vs people…one that often keeps me awake at night and compels volunteers all over this province to devote time, personal finances, energy and emotion to repeating the message:

These things we value…they are not for sale.
Our health…can never be for sale.

Extra-ordinary people…warriors, really…

notforsaleI patter on for awhile about demonstrations to discourage the industry, and the power of the public voice, but eventually run out of words.

“What about you? What do you think it will take?”

This is his cue. The reason he came. He begins slowly, telling me about the legal action his group of volunteers – NB Water First – wishes to pursue.

Their plan is to file an ‘quia timet’ injunction against the Province because there is a future probability of injury to our rights and interests if unconventional shale gas drilling using horizontal hydro-fracking is pursued.

Within environmental law,  the ‘Precautionary Principle’ states if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an act.

I don’t understand much about the legalities of such things, so he answers my questions clearly and simply. It seems that they have thought through all the angles.

 “What if you are not successful?” I ask.

“Then, at least, the facts will have been thoroughly reported in the media, which has not happened so far.”

I stop and consider for a moment:  ordinary New Brunswickers must take our government to court to protect our health, communities and environment. Of course, this would be national news.

For more than two years, David’s group and others have worked to raise $30,000 of their first level goal of $100,000. They expect the action to require $500,000 total.

The challenge, David says, is getting people to part with their money. It would only take 5000 people who are willing to spend $100 to protect their health and environment.

This is our best chance of stopping this industry.

‘How many hours have you put into this already?’ he asks me.

Too many. But still, not enough.Thousands of hours have been spent by hundreds of people researching, making presentations, planning, traveling, attending meetings and teleconferences, writing letters, talking to people, sharing information.

“If you could spend $100 to have this thing resolved without having to do anything else, would that be worth it to you?”

In a heartbeat.  I’m ready to write a cheque.

David tells me that his group has held yard sales, plant sales, an art sale. The plant sale, he says worked the best – people love plants – they raised $1200, whereas the yard sale only netted them $850.

artsalePlant sales. Yard sales.

I feel a lump rise in my throat.

This small group of committed people have been selling signs and holding yard sales for two years to raise the funds to protect my right to say ‘No’ to something that threatens my heath, my home, my community,  my future.

Meanwhile, the people we pay to protect those same rights are blithely choosing industry over the voice of the people who have the most to lose. And thinking themselves noble in the defense of jobs and economy.  Bringing New Brunswickers back home.

To what?  For what?

{noble:  adjective \ˈnō-bəl\ – of excellent character, having lofty ideals, courageous spirit.}

Noble is when people, who have everything to lose, donate their own hard-earned income and precious time, holding yard sales to raise the funds to protect the future of New Brunswick.

So this is why we continue to oppose gas and oil development in NB…because there are many people all over this province who, like David, are putting their heart and soul and finances into protecting this land for us all.

So the question is this:  Will you help us?fracking_health

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.

page1

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

Parents Must be Informed

hillsboroughoverview1We expect drilling in the area surrounding Hillsborough will commence this spring or summer. In particular, parents must become more aware of how this industry may change our community. This is something that could affect every part of our daily lives including heavy equipment traffic, noise, vibration and lights, possible contamination of drinking water, possible decrease in property values and, most importantly,  the safely and well-being of our children.

It’s something we cannot ignore any longer. Please plan to attend one of these informal question and answer sessions to be held on:

Monday, February 11th, at 7pm AND
Monday, February 18th, at 7pm

Royal Canadian Legion, 31 Legion Street, Hillsborough
Join our Facebook Event Page and the “Shale Gas in Albert County” page.

WEPAC has invited a former frack site worker to the meetings so he can answer your questions based on his first-hand experiences.

Please do not depend upon our local media coverage to inform you on what shale gas and oil will mean to our community. You must do your OWN RESEARCH. Start by reading this fact sheet, released by the Council of Canadians regarding the Myths vs. Realities of Fracking. You can find more resources on our About Fracking page.

TAKE THE TIME – GET INFORMED – STAND UP FOR ALBERT COUNTY  – DO IT FOR YOUR CHILDREN

Guess Who’s Invited to Town?

Get to know the company our government has invited to our fair province.

swn_nbOur government has leased 2.5 million acres of New Brunswick land to SWN Resources Inc.(a subsidiary of Southwestern Energy) for shale gas exploration and development. SWN operates in Arkansas, Texas,
Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Colorado, in addition to New Brunswick. Their NB lease lies largely through central and southern part of the province (see map).

A former oil and gas driller who has worked in fields throughout Canada and the US, has compiled a list of violations, fines, contamination reports, accidents and lawsuits that SWN has been named in – all found online. Yet the company claims they have a safe track record. Can all these incidents be false or coincidence?

Does our government really believe rules and regulations will make a difference here in New Brunswick?

Note:  “SEECO” is SWN’s drilling division, and DeSoto Gathering Company is their pipeline division.

What will Fracking do to our Food?

Here in Albert County, our Foods of the Fundy Valley group has been working hard over the past few years to expand the offering of locally grown food and produce. They have started a successful market, encouraged community share gardens and local meat producers, and taught programs in our schools. Their work has enhanced and built bridges between our communities and improved our lifestyle. They are revitalizing our county.

veggiebasket1On one hand, we have hardworking New Brunswickers putting their heart and soul into building our local economy through healthy, sustainable agriculture. On the other hand, our government is permitting oil and gas companies to poison our land, air and water for the promise of a quick buck. Our province has said it will allow ‘only’ 200-300 wells to be drilled each year, but our area has also been described as having 12x the amount of shale gas reserves as Pennsylvania, which is mentioned in the article below.

Read what the Food & Environmental Reporting Network has to say about Fracking and Food: First In-Depth Report on Potential Impact of Fracking on Food

In the midst of the domestic energy boom, livestock on farms near oil-and-gas drilling operations nationwide have been quietly falling sick and dying, according to the latest report by Food & Environment Reporting Network. Elizabeth Royte wrote the cover story, “What the Frack Is in our Food?” for the December 17, 2012, issue of The Nation magazine.