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.

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).

This land is my land…or is it?

(with notes from R. LeChance and D. Core)

Last week in Hillsborough, Dave Core, founding president of CAEPLA, Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowners Associations to spoke to a full house of southern NB landowners on the issue of leasing land for pipelines or gas/oil wells.

davecoreDave has spent decades advocating for landowner property rights across the country. He jokingly commented that, despite his ponytail, he was not an environmentalist, but was, in fact, pro-development. But never at the expense of the landowner.

He hopes to create more responsible land stewardship and to ensure industry is held to higher levels of compensation, accountability and safety through lease agreements.

Pipeline companies are beginning to survey lands east and west of Fredericton for the proposed West-East pipeline and the government has scheduled town hall meetings in a limited number of communities. At the same time, gas companies are exploring for shale gas in south-east New Brunswick and preparing for further development in other areas.

Dave-Core-250x180

Pipeline surveyors are already contacting people in the Saint John River Valley. Listen to this interview on CBC and this online article.

Dave’s talk in summary:

Gas and oil companies lease the surface of your land to extract the resources. Pipeline companies can acquire the use of your land through “Easement Agreements” that leave your name on title. In both cases the energy companies can apply to the government through “regulatory processes” for “right of entry” (expropriation). This takes away your right to negotiate a fair contract protecting your best interests. You have no leverage to negotiate once your property rights have been taken by legislation that creates either ministerial or regulatory processes giving all the advantages to the oil/gas and pipeline industry. The only way to counter-balance this is when landowners work together to level the playing field and to force governments to change the legislation protecting property rights.

Here are some important points to understand, should someone approach you to lease/survey your land:

  • Most important: Do not sign any oil or gas leases or pipeline agreements (surveying, exploration, land, etc.) unless you know exactly what you are signing.  Signed documents of any type have been successfully used by pipeline and gas and oil companies to indicate the landowner’s approval for development. Even attending a ‘town hall’ consultation meeting and filling out a survey or information form can be used to ‘verify’ that the company has ‘consulted’ with you.
  • Pipeline companies do not want to own or lease your land; they want to take your land through an easement agreement which leaves your name on title. In this way, partial or total liability for any damages remains with the landowner.
  • Any easement on your land, including all future liabilities, will be tied to your property even if you attempt to sell it.  The easement may restrict your use or any future buyer’s use of the land.
  • If you refuse to sign an easement agreement, the company can apply for a ‘Right of Entry’ that the federal government’s National Energy Board will approve. This taking of land is to the financial benefit of pipeline company shareholders. It is rent control for pipeline monopolies.
  • Land agents will play neighbour against neighbour to make sure that they do not pay fair industrial rates for the land and to avoid signing an ironclad contract that protects your property.  You have little bargaining power as an individual.
  • Landowners across Canada now understand that the only way to get fair compensation for oil and gas leases is to talk to each other. The only way to protect your family’s safety, environment, businesses and investments is by working together to demand ironclad contracts and changes to government legislation respecting property rights. It is only the front line people, those directly affected, that can address these issues and protect our water and stewardship responsibilities.
  • Verbal assurances from a land agent or a gas company are not legally binding. Anything not written into the oil/gas lease or a pipeline easement is NOT in the agreement.
  • Very few lawyers have the necessary experience in property rights issues associated with the laws relating to gas companies and gas leases to actually address the best interests of an affected landowner. When landowners work together, they have leverage to negotiate better agreements and to hire legal counsel who understand the enacting legislation and will stand up for landowner rights.
  • Land agents do not look after your best interests. It is their job to acquire lease/easements at the lowest price with the least responsibility for their clients; i.e. the gas/pipeline companies. When you purchase a house through a realtor, they represent the seller, not the buyer.  Land agents represent the buyer (gas company), not the seller (property owner). Their fiduciary responsibility is to the company paying their contract not to the property owner; do not let them convince you otherwise.

The proposed west-east pipeline would be regulated by the National Energy Board (NEB), and their regulations supersede anything you agree to with the pipeline company, provincial environment or regulatory laws. Once the pipelines are abandoned with NEB approval, the NEB no longer has jurisdiction; responsibility falls back on the landowner. The landowner whose name is on the title, will fall prey to provincial environmental and safety laws, potentially making his/her property a brown space, like an abandoned gas station. This is why pipeline companies do not want to own the land their pipelines cross, they ultimately do not want responsibility when all is said and done.

The best way to protect your best interests when approached to lease land for pipelines or well pads is for landowners to work together to force contracts that are renegotiated or updated every 5 years. Contracts should address abandonment and other risks, liabilities, duty of care and other costs that are often left to affected landowners when they legally belong to pipeline companies.

By creating a NB Landowners Association, landowners form a united front enabling them to negotiate better easement agreements (or perhaps a lease with annual payments renegotiated every 5 years) that help protect safety and property values. It is only by working with your neighbours that you can level the playing field.

We need our local communities and our Provincial Governments to support us in holding the Federal government and its NEB responsible for our property rights.

About CAEPELA
CAEPLA has created an instruction booklet – When the Landman Comes Calling – advising landowners of the risks of leasing. If you know of a neighbour that has been approached by a land agent or anyone else trying to acquire a land or pipeline lease, share or print the attached document with them.  Also share the document with anyone who has stated they are willing to lease their land.
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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

Shady Economics

Contributed by Jim Emberger, Taymouth Community Association

I’m here to talk about the economic case for shale gas, which I have subtitled, “Oh what
a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. “

The economic case works like this – First, get your friends in government to kill the
rules requiring you to have reasonable proof of the potential gas reserves that you quote to investors. It’s a much easier sell if you can just make them up. Once hooked keep the investors enthusiastic by issuing equally misleading figures about well production and life span.

Secondly, have your friends in government exempt you from health and safety
regulations, thus avoiding expensive safeguards, which if added to the already expensive process of hydrofracking would make shale gas unprofitable. In NB, that means getting your friends in government to gut the legislation covering wetlands, river classification, and clean air.

Third, sell the entire concept as a job creating enterprise, a free-lunch royalty source for
governments, and as an environmentally friendly, lower carbon emissions fuel.

Alas, even the cleverest business plans and ad campaigns eventually have to face
reality. Geologists slashed the claims about the size of gas plays. Auditors looking at actual well records slashed the advertised amount of gas being produced, and noted that most shale gas is produced in the first year or two of a well’s life.

Doctors pointed out rising health concerns, and regulators and citizens documented shale gas’ continuing history of well failures and contamination of air and water.

Economists cited evidence that the shale industry creates fewer jobs than does investment in alternative energy, and they noted that areas without shale development are doing better economically than their neighboring jurisdictions that have it.

Government budget officers noticed that royalties are not the free-lunch that they
expected. British Columbia’s shale gas based budget now has a $1 billion dollar hole in it from slumping royalties. Texas faces a $2 billion dollar unfunded bill for road repair
damage caused by the industry.

NB gets gas royalties too, from 30 plus gas wells run by Corridor Resources. In 2012 we received zero dollars.

Essentially, every economic factor for developing shale gas is a lie or is based on a lie.
It is incredible that we are still here today arguing about it.

Even if all the above wasn’t true, there is still this: scientists have shown that methane emissions from the shale gas lifecycle are at least twice industry estimates. Methane has a greater effect on climate change than CO2, thus making it worse than coal.

Last week, the UN Environmental Program reported that without immediate and drastic action to reduce emissions, we will experience the worst-case scenario – catastrophic and possibly runaway climate change – much sooner than forecast.

This is no surprise coming from scientists. But the financial institution, the World Bank, and global business accounting advisors, PriceWaterhouseCooper, both issued similar warnings based on their own research, thus joining the insurance industry, and much of the world’s military, in defining climate change as the number one threat facing the world.

So Mr. Alward and PC legislators, can you tell us exactly what is the economic case for destroying the planet?

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?

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.

_MG_2122sm

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.

_MG_2141sm

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

_MG_2137_sm

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.

_MG_2112sm

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.

Fracking in Albert County

CONTACT EXPLORATION – STONEY CREEK & HILLSBOROUGH

Contact Exploration has approval to bring into production up to 31 old and new gas and oil wells (issued in March 2011) and to drill and frack four new wells (issued Jan 2013).  We are awaiting word from the company when they expect to begin and will update this page as we receive more information. While most drilling to date has focused on oil production, the company has expressed optimism for excellent natural gas prospects and just partnered with a company constructing an LNG terminal in NS. This means they will soon have a market for Albert County gas. (Note: While fracking for oil is largely the same as fracking for  gas, the process uses less water and chemical mix, and the drilling takes place in sandstone closer to the surface.)

We believe it is important for people to know what is and has happened in their community. The March approval was granted under a former regulatory regime. The January approval was granted before the government released their ‘new rules’. Information below has been gathered from the Contact Exploration website. meetings with their CEO and emails from Environment and Energy & Mines:

  • 2006-07: Contact Exploration conducted seismic testing in the Hillsborough area, discovering enough data to convince them of a significant oil reserve existed beneath the village.
  • 2006-09: The company brought into completion 5 conventional oil wells in Stoney Creek; unsuccessful horizontal drilling and fracking of two additional wells.
  • 2010: The company drilled two new unconventional (horizontally drilled and fracked) wells in Stoney Creek with good results; indicated they plan for 12 additional horizontal wells in coming years.
  • March 2011, Contact Resources received approval under the former regulatory processes from Energy Mines for “exploratory drilling, completing, testing, producing the related activities” associated with three recent oil wells, 17 former Stoney Creek oil wells, 11 former Stoney Creek gas wells. This permission allows them to frack, if necessary. Approval also includes construction and operation of a production facility for oil and natural gas from these wells.  Approval states that “treated oil and produced water will be trucked from the site for further processing or stored on site”. Wastewater will be stored in containers on-site.
  • Fall 2011, Contact drills two new wells – Salem (by Steevescote Rd) and Edgetts Landing (beyond Kings Quarry).
  • Well (identified as B55 in Edgett’s Landing) is 1.9km from the Village of Hillsborough’s main water supply and 400m from its storage tanks. Contact estimates that this oil reservoir may have equal to or greater oil potential than the entire productivity of Stoney Creek. Hillsborough had to drill 35 wells in order to find these two good, reliable supplies of water for the village. If these wells are compromised in any way, the village could be without usable water.
  • During the drilling of wells in late 2011, water was taken from the reserve well located by Caledonia High School, which is maintained in case of fire and has a very slow refill rate.
  • January 2013 – new approval issued under ‘Phased EIA’ process gives Contact Exploration permission to drill four new wells in Stoney Creek (with a number of conditions specified).
  • Once conditions attached to EIA approval are met, the company will be issued licenses to drill the four new oil wells.

PETROWORTH – ROSEVALE

Petroworth has four gas wells in the Rosevale Area (not far from Berryton) and two in Dawson (one shut-in). Their website is currently off line, so it is uncertain if the four are producing gas at this time. The company stock is only a few cents on the stock exchange. Petroworth Resources lost its Alberta-based farm-in partner for an exploratory well near Lake Ainslie in Cape Breton after the company was spooked by an anti-fracking protest that blockaded the Canso Causeway in September. The gathering was part of Global Frackdown – a worldwide day of action and solidarity, intended to ’send a message to elected officials that people want a future fueled by clean, renewable energy, not dirty, polluting fossil fuels.

PETROWORTH UPDATE: In June 2013, a Texan company, Multi-Corp International,  signed letters of intent to take over Petroworth’s leases in Rosevale, surrounding the Turtle Creek Resevoir.

WHAT’S AHEAD….

Our government and the industry would have us believe that this can be done safely with the appropriate rules in place, but other independent geologists and professionals in the field tell us we have valid cause for concerns. So, do we believe those who have something to gain, or those who have nothing to gain?

We have been told that Canada has the most stringent regulations, but a spokesman for the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board has said, “There is no amount of regulation that can overcome human error.” And when Premier Alward was in the opposition he said:  “You can have all the rules and regulations in the world, but if companies are not doing what they are supposed to do, they are not going to help anybody.

As we all know, rules do not give guarantees and we have much to lose.

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