Submission to NL Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel
Kenneth J. Kavanagh, Bell Island
June 1, 2015
“The health of the people is the highest law.” (Cicero 106 – 43 B.C.)
As a concerned and engaged citizen who believes in the power of the people inherent in a true democracy, as a retired educator who believes in the power of knowledge and as a parent of four (4) children who feels an obligation to leave a safer and sustainable world for future generations, I wish to express my personal and strongly-held views with respect to the matter of fracking and the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel (NLHRP) and process.
My submission will likely not deal with much of the specific terms of reference of the review panel. I have been reading many of the submissions and am very impressed with the breadth and depth of coverage of the major concerns and questions about hydraulic fracturing. I am quite impressed and confident that all that needs to be said will be said.
This submission is my response and opinion to fracking in NL.
Why did the NL Government Establish this Panel
I want to begin by commenting on the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s motivation for establishing this so-called independent panel and review process. I do this knowing that you will likely take the position that such comments are irrelevant and, in any event, not something that you can comment on or consider in terms of your final report.
I may have to concede on the second point but not the first. Hydraulic Fracturing is a very controversial issue and a public review process is just that. It is a public process for the public to express its collective views and thoughts on the matter. While you may be constrained by the terms of reference imposed on you by government, I reserve the right not to be and to comment on all aspects of this issue.
I believe this government has been pro fracking all along. From the time that people in the Port aux Port/Bay St. George area began to oppose the prospects of fracking, the government has dismissed, trivialized and denigrated the concerns expressed by a significant portion of the population and generally held a favourable and positive position on the controversial extraction technique.
In particular, government Ministers and MHA s have tried to use their clout and influence to dismiss the criticism and soft peddle no-worry and pro-industry view of fracking. The best example of this was Tom Marshall, a very powerful MHA from the area who was the Natural Resources Minister and then became the interim Premier for a few months in early 2014.
During a public meeting on the Port aux Port Peninsula, Marshall showed up with a few suits from his Department, waving a stack of papers and thought he was going to quash the growing opposition to the fracking plans on the West Coast by the sheer weight of his political and personal standing in the area. He got a rude awakening with a strong backlash from the residents at the session. In one exasperated exchange with a critic, he uttered: "I don't care what anybody in this room says to me, I'm going to do the right thing."
Then in a subtle and insulting attempt, he trotted off to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, the headquarters of fracking in Canada and came back with a rosy expose of what he experienced.
“They are not having any problems with it at all,” said Marshall according to a Western Star story. In the same story he was quoted as saying: “They haven’t had any water contamination, they haven’t had any problems with water volume, they haven’t had livestock dying, they haven’t had earthquakes.”
Once again, Mr. Marshall was surprised and a tad upset at the backlash to his superficial positive framing of his fact-finding trip to Saskatchewan. He was called on his feeble attempt to sell a fake bill of goods to the community and the community told him so.
I believe it was at this seminal point that both Mr. Marshall and the government realized that it would take a more long term and sophisticated strategy to bring the masses in to compliance with the wishes of the government and the industry.
Every move since then on this file has been part of that sophisticated strategy. First there was the October 2013 move to close the door on accepting any fracking applications pending aninternal review. The media and most people referred to the move as a ‘moratorium’ which was not really the case but government was in no rush to correct the perception and bit of positive publicity that ensued. Eventually, there would be the announcement of an external review.
In the meantime, the individuals and groups involved with the Port aux Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness group stepped up their efforts with their information and public awareness campaign. Armed with a keener awareness of the many controversial issues around fracking, public concern and opposition was growing across the entire province.
All during this time, this government’s popularity with the NL electorate was plummeting. Premier Kathy Dunderdale stepped down and the PC Party went through a disastrous leadership with two contenders backing out and the eventual acclaimed winner, Frank Coleman, rejecting the position of Premier just days before assuming office. The ensuing leadership contest had its own controversial ending but the present Premier, Paul Davis, emerged the victor.
By the time Paul Davis took over, this government had lost seven (7) by-elections, including the extraordinary total swing of 89.7 percentage points from the PCs to the Liberals in Mr. Tom Marshall’s former district of Humber East.
In this context, Minister Dalley appointed this Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel on October 10, 2014.
So let’s call a spade a spade here. The appointment of a so-called external, independent review panel is not the result of some ‘on the road to Damascus’ enlightenment and realization that hydraulic fracturing is fraught with risk and danger and that the public must have a voice in decision as to whether it will be allowed to happen or not. No, it was a decision made ‘on the road to low polling numbers.’
With all due respect to the members of this Panel, the appointment of this Review Panel is nothing more than a desperate, crude, and - ultimately foolhardy attempt - to reverse plummeting political fortunes by moving the highly volatile and controversial public discourse on hydraulic fracturing away from the government to another body whose report would not be ready prior to the next election. It was also meant to have the dual benefit of placating the opposing public.
The establishment of the Review Panel has another built-in ‘defense mechanism’ I shall refer to next.
The Independence of the Panel
When Minister Derrick Dalley appointed this Panel on October 10, 2014, he claimed: “Our government listened to concerned citizens and industry stakeholders and selected an independent panel...”
He may have listened to the industry stakeholders but he certainly has not listened to concerned citizens,
It would seem the ‘independence’ is somewhat like ‘beauty’ and is in the ‘eye of the beholder!’
Some or all of the panelists may claim their independence! I am not sure as I have not heard any of them state that publically or pledge any intention to do so. The Minister who appointed the panelists claims they are and has publicly stated that he has faith in them. That may well be but then the question becomes who has faith in the Minister. I don’t and I would strongly suspect that would be true of a large segment of the electorate.
Clearly, there are many citizens who question the independence of this panel, including the concerned citizens of the Fracking Awareness Network of the West Coast. Just recently more than a dozen groups on the east coast of the province held a press conference and also expressed similar concerns with respect to the panel’s independence.
I, too, respectively question their independence. Among other things, I base my opinion on the following public comments made by various panelists.
Mr. Graham Gagnon (a panelist with the Wheeler Review Panel), in the September 4, 2014 edition of the Chronicle Herald, expressed surprise and disappointment that the NS government issued a ban on fracking so soon after the release of the Wheeler report. In the meantime the report recommended such a ban.
At one point in the article, Mr. Gagnon says he believes “the fracking of shale gas, like coal mining or gold mining, carries some risks, but if regulated and closely monitored, it is not going to create drastic environmental problems.” He finishes by saying: “I don’t think the concerns that are there are necessarily showstoppers.”
In the January 31, 2014 edition of the Western Star, the following quote is attributed to Mr. Maurice Dusseault: “There are many people who are taking a position that fracturing is inherently bad and what I’m saying is that the process of hydraulic fracturing is not much riskier than other industrial practices.” He asserted that it’s a practice that, if done properly, can be done safely. He went on to dispute information to the contrary.
Then we have the following quote by our own Mr. Wade Locke in the September 12, 2014 edition of the Telegram under the banner of “Economist says objectivity crucial for fracking review”:“Just as it would be terrible for an environmental disaster to result from fracking, it would be tragic for a major economic opportunity to be lost because of an ill-formed appeal to emotion. I just hope the opportunities here (in Western Newfoundland) are realized to their fullest potential.”
These are clear and emphatic statements that do not point to objectivity and independence. I give the panel high marks on transparency as some of its members did declare their bias.
The most disappointing and insulting comment was by Mr. Locke. As a typical mainstream economist, he may wish to deal in numbers of widgets produced, GDP, interest and exchange rates, supply and demand trends and so on. In the meantime, citizens of this province have a right to ask questions – even in an emotional and passionate manner – and expect answers. They especially have this right in the case of a project in their backyard involving an unconventional extraction technique that is yet unproven and can have irreparable harm on the health of persons and the environment.
In my mind, and in the minds of many Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans, this panel is anything but an objective and independent panel. Unlike the Nova Scotia fracking review panel, where citizens actually had input into the panel composition, this panel of 5 men was appointed by a government that is very much pro-fracking but desperate to lift itself out of the polling doldrums in time for the next provincial election.
So whether you are aware or admit or accept it, this panel is neither what was promised nor what the people of this province are entitled to in order to review such a critical and controversial matter of public policy.
The Panel is a tool of this government with the dual purpose of deferring and deflecting negative publicity yet assuring its corporate friends that fracking will come to pass.
A Provincial Concern Not a Regional One
It is perhaps another sign of the myopic and self-serving motive of the government, but the most disappointing aspect of the Terms of Reference is the confinement of the issue to a review of fracking specifically as it relates to a potential project in WesternNewfoundland.
The comprehensive review done in Nova Scotia was provincial in scope. In fact the NS review, though not perfect, was substantially better that the NL review process. It had a more complete and comprehensive set of Terms of Reference. It had an 11-member panel with much broader expertise and experience, and appointed with input from the public. And it had several opportunities for input by citizens including 11 public consultation sessions across the entire province.
On the matter of public consultations, I believe it is an insult to the citizens in every corner of this province not to have an opportunity to appear before this panel to express their concerns and fears about the real and/or potential impacts of fracking on them, their communities and the environment.
Even if the basic fracking activity is confined to the West Coast, certain aspects of the project could involve other parts of the province such as in the storing of fracking waste water.
The most important principle here though is that every citizen owns this province and every citizen has an interest in and a responsibility for all aspects of this province. I may not belong to the Port au Port Peninsula, but I have a responsibility to worry about my fellow citizens and what may be happening to the environment in that area.
This matter is a ‘we’ matter and this panel must allow residents of every part of the province to have a reasonable opportunity to have a voice.
Hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ is an unconventional, controversial and dangerous oil/gas extraction technique. Industry proponents, most politicians and some citizens (including some on this panel) like to argue that there is no proof of harm!
I disagree. I think there is ample proof of harm but for those who might wish to cling to this self-serving and baseless argument, let me offer the wise words of Caleb Behn, an indigenous lawyer: “Absence of proof of harm is not absence of harm!”
Furthermore, I believe that when it comes to the matter of fracking, the “Precautionary Principle” or what the Wheeler Report referred to as the “Precautionary Approach,” must apply. This principle is an established principle contained in the final declaration of the UN Conference in Environment and Development. Fundamentally, it would call for the burden of proof on avoiding public harm to rest with the developers and governments who wish to pursue or give licence to the use of the hydraulic fracturing technique.
Finally, I want to make reference to the concept of “social licence” as described in the Wheeler Report. Social licence refers to the approval or acceptance of the community as a “pre-condition and continuing condition for hydraulic fracturing to occur in any community.” The Wheeler Report goes so far as to link the principle to the fulfilling of the “precautionary” principle as the matter of assessing risks and benefits must be left to those who will be most impacted with such risks and benefits which is at the community level. In other words, a hydraulic fracturing project requires a “community permission to proceed.”
On this meaning of social licence, I strongly concur.
Industry stakeholders and the political systems that support them and do their bidding tend to thrust the powerful and enticing argument of economic development and wealth generation when it comes to these kinds of industrial developments. For them ‘profit trumps people’ and they entice people to follow a parallel maxim of ‘money trumps health.’ To that belief, I offer the following Cree saying: “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream destroyed, you will realize that you cannot eat money.”
Click on the file to read an important submission from the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.
To the NL Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel:
I live on the West Coast respectfully in the Cape St. George Region, where 20+years ago oil exploration was done in our area. At that time news of oil was exciting with the prospects of jobs for the residence and boosting economy in our town seemed to be a dream come true. Environmental and health issues weren’t quite a concern at first, but as more oil companies and drill testing wells developed, it wasn’t exciting anymore. The foul odor coming from the burning flames which lit up the sky for miles with a bright pink glow at nighttime was very alarming. Changes were definitely happening and those dreams of prosperity dwindled quickly in my mind leaving feelings of anxiety and vulnerability to a natural hazard that might happened to our community.
The oil exploration companies left leaving their mark with one well located on Garden Hill site. The well is located not far from water sources such as brooks, ponds and free flowing springs. Along side of the site are cliffs filled with nesting birds, rare plants (Mackenzie Sweet Vetch)( Lindley’s aster (Symphyotrichum ciliolatum)also found in areas around Stephenville and the Port au Port Peninsula, berries(Creeping snow berry) and many wildlife.
As news of Black Spruce oil having interest in drilling more test wells in our region, the threat of environmental and health issues become more alarming! A meeting was held at our town with Black Spruce Oil, citizens including myself had many concerns especially re: Hydraulic Fracturing. These companies try to paint a bright wonderful picture of jobs, prosperity, and brazenly guarantees no harm will come to our environment/health. Where were all the guarantees in Pennsylvania when people could no longer drink their water and water had to be shipped in and stored in “water buffaloes”? Many had to leave their MORTAGED homes behind and start anew in other areas. I am NOT willing to start “ANEW” if fracking turns this town into a toxic soup!! This is our home!!
Please help us ban Fracking in our beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
To the NL Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel:
The St. John’s chapter of the Council of Canadians echoes the growing number of groups outspoken in their demand for a full fracking ban in Newfoundland and Labrador.
There is no safe way to frack, and the lack of scientific consensus on the issue led the Nova Scotia fracking review panel last year to conclude that fracking should not go ahead in their province. The lack of planning around waste waster management and community consultation were some key concerns that led to the decision to extend their fracking moratorium.
Two of our five-member panel were also on the Nova Scotia panel, so we wonder how the same pool of evidence (with its gaps in the areas of human health impacts over the long term and general lack of social license across the Atlantic region) could magically yield a different conclusion for fracking in our province.
Moreover, the unique geology on the west coast of Newfoundland adds another knowledge gap for our panel to contend with. The recently released Hinchey study looks at the geology of the Green Point shale, reiterating the lack of information we have of the areas coveted by fracking companies. The study states:
“There is currently no way to reliably and accurately depict or predict the extent, location, rock characteristics or shape of Green Point Shale layers below the surface. It is therefore, not feasible to present a model for unconventional shale gas/oil exploration in the area.” (Hinchey, Knight, Kilfoil and Hicks, 2015, 166)
The complexity of the rock formations and the near total ignorance of the shale formations of Western Newfoundland make the prospect of fracking even more reckless. At the very least, a precautionary approach to resource development would extend the moratorium in light of our best geologists acknowledging they know almost nothing about the proposed area.
But despite how obvious and compelling these gaps in our knowledge should be in the decision-making process, it’s easy to cherry-pick studies that will allow you to conclude that, with enough regulation and technological know-how, fracking can potentially be done safely. We have seen devastating and irreversible damage actually (not potentially) done by the fracking industry: drinking water contamination, people getting sick from flaring near schools and residential areas, the proliferation of earthquakes, the slow release of toxins from tailings ponds that contain wastewater no one knows what to do with. Fracking has already caused enough irreversible damage and produced enough wastewater that it doesn’t have a plan for (especially in Nova Scotia) – why should Newfoundlanders and Labradorians trust the hypothetical scenarios offered by people with vested interests in fracking on how stringent their regulations will be?
It is not up to people to prove to industry that fracking is unsafe; it is up to those who want to impose themselves on our landscape and communities via dangerous unconventional methods of extreme energy to prove to us that it can be done safely. Fracking will never be done safely, for the simple reason that pumping millions of litres of unknown chemical soup and water at high pressures deep underground, traversing aquifers, and using explosives to create fissures in sensitive geological formations will always have a huge degree of risk on human wellbeing. Groundwater contamination, earthquakes, and human health impacts are very real consequences of taking those risks. The people of western Newfoundland have clearly not given their social license to this industry, for the obvious reason that these risks are not worth the few jobs and temporary monetary gains they might bring to the area.
Moratoria have swept the Atlantic region. Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have all said ‘no’ to fracking. Instead of feeding our harmful dependence on fossil fuels, the provincial government must seize the opportunity to transition to renewable forms of energy, and have some foresight into where the rest of the world is headed in the face of catastrophic climate change.
Please also include the following articles on your website for consideration. They have important things to add on the financial risks of fracking:
To Panel, c/o Dr. Gosine:
Re: Hydraulic Fracturing in NL
I would like to address my concerns about hydraulic fracturing or fracking. I have many years of experience in the oil & gas industry from Irving Oil Tankers to Nabors drilling Riggs, worked the oil & gas pipelines for many years. I also fracked for Trident, Frac Focus, Calfrac. In my experience, fracking and anything connected to fossil fuels are pollutants, and oil & gas companies know this. Contractors that work for these oil companies are the worst polluters. The jobs are done fast and the cheapest bidder gets awarded the work. Oil & gas companies are cheap. They want to get 'er done yesterday, with high bonuses for the superintendents. The quality of work is cheap and, in the long run, all living creatures and our environment is badly affected.
I worked for Syncrude for a year with Initial Security. I have spend much time driving around the oil sands. I worked TransCanada pipelines with Louisburg Contractor, Shell Canada pipeline, with Patch Point Big Country, CNRL, Points North and Cheyenne Industries. I worked with Summit Construction, Pipeline in the Taylor gas plant Spectra Energy and EnCana. I worked IPAC Industries pipeline for Apache Oil, Macro Industries pipeline. I worked for Rhyason Contracting, pipeline Murphy oil and EnCana. The work is all the same; nothing changes. Fracking and The Tankers are the same. I've been there and done that and I know how it works. I worked from Fort Liard, NWT Fort Nelson, Helmet, Horn River all over Northeastern BC and Northwestern AB. Slick water hydraulic fracturing started in BC around 2005. I worked with Trident hydraulic fracturing in 2007. The reason why fracking started was to extend the life of a gas well and get more out of it, rather than do more drilling. Workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals and they have to deal with many health issues later on.
I lived in Fort St. John, BC for 15 years. Most of the water wells are not safe to drink, too much sulfur or it is polluted. Hydraulic fracturing or fracking zones have high carbon emissions. It impacts human health, causes disruption to wildlife, and poses danger to groundwater and local drinking water.
Sucker trucks come on the work site, or on the lease, and suck up most of the contaminants around the site, but not all. Then they often just dump polluted grayish mud waste water on unused leases, on winter roads, or in tailing ponds - left wide open for wild life and waterfowl to come in, get sick and die. If you drive around Northeastern BC, the Peace Region, you can smell sour gas just about everywhere. Compressor stations and pipelines are leaking. The chemicals that are used for hydraulic fracturing are hazardous to all life. A lot of chemicals are not disclosed and hidden for use if they need it, but most times it is used. I have seen cows blow up in a farm field and mysteriously disappear - discarded - and replaced without being mentioned or disclosed to anyone. People are paid to ignore, deny and shut up. I went moose hunting with my coworker, when we opened up the moose the liver looked abnormal; it was full of cancer. We confirmed that when we took it to a local vet to be tested. It was cancer. This moose was killed in the Peace Region. I never went hunting there again. I can tell you so many stories and facts about what went on. I could write a book.
Government will do whatever they have to do to protect the petroleum industry. We have to protect our families, our health, our livelihood from government and industry. Why should we keep our heads down, pay our taxes like a bunch of victims, and keep on being enslaved by them?
I tell you all, and hear me; we don’t want a fossil fuel industry in Western Newfoundland, and definitely not fracking. It would destroy our environment just as it has in Alberta and Northeastern BC. There is no convincing me that fracking is safe for environment, people or animals. Nothing the industry says can change my mind. Industry brainwashes people with lies to get their foot in the door, then once they are in, they do whatever they want to get at the last drop of oil or gas. I am not buying it. I know better. I have firsthand experience.
We need sustainable energy solutions.
Yours honestly and respectfully,
25 May 2015
To the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel,
First we would like to thank you for reading our submission. My wife is a retire RCMP member and I’m a retired member of the Canadian Armed Force.
Only a few years ago, fracking was a vague concept to us. That all changed when we found out that the small rural community (Cape ST George) where we live in will be ground zero for fracking.
During a Town meeting(12 Nov 2012) with Black Spruce Exploration CEO David Murray who stated, that there will be no fracking at the Garden Hill site because the government won’t give out any permits to do so. After discussion; he said he didn’t think they needed to frack because of the geology. But if they had too and had permits from the government they would. Let’s not try to fool anyone, these oil people plan to do whatever it takes to see the money. It’s all about the money.
My family was drawn to this area on the West Coast of Newfoundland because of its clean air, natural beauty and tranquillity. We have done our homework on shale gas development and fracking. One can’t believe the picture that is emerging. All that we love about this area would be destroyed if shale gas development takes place. Fracking will destroy our health, our water, our tourism and our entire environment. The risk is too great. Fracking is not safe for our people or our environment. We say NO TO FRACKING.
Please consider some of these questions:
•What will be the impact on children and developing fetuses in areas with high airborne toxins, or undetected toxins in drinking water?
•What will be the impacts on adults and children of 24 hour a day exposure to airborne toxins, including carcinogens?
•What will be the impacts on children and adults of drinking contaminated water?
•What will be the impact of permanently removing millions, or trillions, of gallons of water from the water table, that portion of fracking water which remains underground?
•What will be the cumulative impacts of disposal of the trillions of gallons of contaminated wastewater from fracking, including the cumulative impacts of releasing large quantities of toxic, radioactive wastewater into the environment, whether into rivers and oceans or onto soil? ?
•Where will the toxic fracking chemicals left underground go — over decades, over a century?
•What will be the impact of hundreds of thousands of fractures of the shale layer? Will previously contained toxins be released over time? Will there be an increase in radon in houses, arsenic and uranium in wells in areas where these substances are present? Can there be a cumulative impact of multiple underground explosions on the geological structure? Already, earthquakes have followed well drilling, fracking and drilling underground injection wells for disposal of wastewater in Arkansas, Alabama, Pennsylvania and England.
Wayne Deaves Jackie Deaves
Submission by Members and Friends of Whaleback Nordic for a Clean and Healthy Environment.
Submission to the fracking review panel from JM Marsden
The gas industry is steadfast in its claims that hydraulic fracturing and associated drilling practices are safe and pose no threat to human and environmental health. But is it really true? Given the recent deluge of media coverage about gas industry threats, it appears current gas operations are demonstrating a lot of the same type of dangerous practices and cavalier industry culture that led to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico a couple of years ago. Much like offshore drilling, gas operations occur in a regulatory void, in a vacuum, having outpaced most, if not all, oversight.
For me…the issues have never changed even though my thoughts have. The degree of my concerns have escalated as I have become more knowledgeable of the industry. The level of my cynicism has increased as I have observed the indefensible actions of our regulatory agencies. The intensity of my dismay has grown as greed replaces common sense. My faith in humanity has been shaken…but I live in hope that we will see this industry for what it truly is.
A contributor to air pollution
Methane is a main component of natural gas and is 25 times more potent in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. A recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitoring gas wells in Weld County, Colorado, estimated that 4 percent of the methane produced by these wells is escaping into the atmosphere. NOAA scientists found the Weld County gas wells to be equal to the carbon emissions of 1-3 million cars.
A number of other air contaminants are released through the various drilling procedures, including construction and operation of the well site, transport of the materials and equipment, and disposal of the waste. Some of the pollutants released by drilling include: benzene, toluene, xylene and ethyl benzene (BTEX), particulate matter and dust, ground level ozone, or smog, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and metals contained in diesel fuel combustion—with exposure to these pollutants known to cause short-term illness, cancer, organ damage, nervous system disorders and birth defects or even death .
A contributor to water pollution:
Chemical additives are used in the drilling mud, slurries and fluids required for the fracking process. Each well produces millions of gallons of toxic fluid containing not only the added chemicals, but other naturally occurring radioactive material, liquid hydrocarbons, brine water and heavy metals. Fissures created by the fracking process can also create underground pathways for gases, chemicals and radioactive material.
A contributor to soil and oil spill contamination:
According to journalistic reports, oil companies have reported thousands of oil spills in the United States, with many more going unreported. The Associated Press also recently reported that the amount of chemically tainted soil from drilling waste increased nearly 5,100 percent over the past decade, to more than 512,000 tons last year. An official of the North Dakota Health Department's waste management division, for instance, told reporters that trucks are hauling oilfield waste to facilities "24 hours a day, seven days a week." This is common across the country.
A contributor to earthquakes
Earthquakes constitute another problem associated with deep-well oil and gas drilling. Scientists refer to the earthquakes caused by the injection of fracking wastewater underground as "induced seismic events." Although most of the earthquakes are small in magnitude (the strongest measured 5.2), their relationship with the storage of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater does little to ease the fears over fossil energy's long list of externalities.
A contributor to overall health issues:
A 2011 article in the journal, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, examined the potential health impacts of oil and gas drilling in relation to the chemicals used during drilling, fracking, processing, and delivery of natural gas. The paper compiled a list of 632 chemicals (an incomplete list due to trade secrecy exemptions) identified from drilling operations throughout the U.S. Their research found that 75% of the chemicals could affect the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Approximately 40–50% could affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% could cause cancer and mutations.
Health impacts from fracking are only now being examined by health experts, since such large-scale drilling is a relatively recent phenomenon. Exposure to toxic chemicals even at low levels can cause tremendous harm to humans; the endocrine system is sensitive to chemical exposures measuring in parts-per-billions, or less. Nevertheless, many of the health risks from the toxins used during the fracking process do not express themselves immediately, and require studies looking into long-term health effects.
Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the last frontiers on the planet for raw natural beauty and pristine natural ecosystems. Our people and unique culture, our endless coastal habitats, our abundant lakes, our breath-taking mountain ranges, our infinite and healthy forest, our incredible wildlife, all contribute to the fascination of this place. Our health and the health of our environment are paramount. Let’s err on the side of caution!
References & Recommended Readings
Bamberger, M., Oswald, R. (2012).Impacts of Gas Drilling on Animal and Human Health. New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health, 22(1): 51-77.
The researchers conducted interviews with animal owners in six states–Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas–affected by gas drilling. They also interviewed the owners' veterinarians, and examined the results of water, soil, and air testing as well as the results of laboratory tests on affected animals and their owners. The study highlights the possible links between gas drilling and negative health effects, along with the difficulties associated with conducting careful studies of such a link.
Colborn T, Kwiatkowski C, Schultz K, Bachran M. 2012.Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective,Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: an International Journal 17(5):1039-1056.
The authors examined the chemicals known to be used in natural gas fracking procedures. Researchers were able to compile a list of 632 chemicals, though this list is incomplete due to trade secret exemptions given to the energy companies by Congressional allies. Many of the chemicals are toxic and represent the 'bad boys' of health concerns–causing everything from skin and eye irritation to cancer and mutuations. They also highlight the "side effect" of air pollution and the resulting irreversible damage to lung tissue, along with damage to vegetation in the surrounding area.
With all due respect, here is my letter and questions for the panel.
Forever our land will be poisoned for once it's done there's no turning back. Doesn't that scare you? Rationale based on profits when there is so much evidence of harms and lack of accountability. Don't you believe the evidence? Adverse side effects on health are well documented, yet this practice is being considered when health care costs are at an all time high and growing. Can we afford the cost? Critical water shortages on our planet are a worry yet excessive use during processing, and the poisoning of local supplies is not enough to convince you? Killing our animal, bird, and fish species and we humans slowly by poison doesn't get your attention? Investing in clean energy is on the rise and earth friendly. Doesn't this excite you? Move you? Don't you want to be leaders in saving our planet? No one can escape the destruction even those who make the profits. Just because it destroys everything slowly, does it mean the outcome won't be the same? Get real with the fact that the outcry against fracking is for our families, our environment, our livelihoods and our existence. Are you that willing to destroy all we stand for? Are you, in good conscience, able to condemn us to this fate?
Date: May 19th, 2015
To the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel,
Divest MUN would like to submit this letter for the consideration of the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel, and hereby requests to publically present this letter to the panel at the upcoming consultation in Corner Brook.
Firstly, we would like to make note of significant issues in the consultation process. We see the limiting of public consultation sessions to Corner Brook and Stephenville alone as being problematic. The issue of whether or not to allow hydraulic fracturing in Newfoundland and Labrador is a Province-wide one, and as such consultations – in our opinion – should be taking place in all parts of the Province. Even in terms of the West Coast of Newfoundland we feel that holding only two consultations in Corner Brook and Stephenville respectively is highly problematic, and not fully representative of the number of communities that would be affected were hydraulic fracturing to take place here; it is our opinion that it would not be difficult for several more sessions to take place in communities farther away from the two current sessions. The Nova Scotia Independent Panel on Hydraulic Fracturing, for instance, held eleven public consultation sessions.
The makeup of the review panel is also, in our opinion, highly problematic. While consultations themselves have been limited to the West Coast of Newfoundland, there are strangely no representatives present on the panel who are currently residents of the West Coast, there are no representatives present of any local Indigenous peoples’ organizations, and none of the panel members are women. We are not convinced, as such, that the panel possesses the expertise to consider many of the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing or is capable of full consideration of the concerns of those who would be affected.
Additionally we are alarmed that climate change is not being considered as a term of reference in the panel’s review of hydraulic fracturing. In order to avoid unsafe levels of global warming we must avoid burning the vast majority of the planet’s known fossil fuel reserves, and no potential fossil fuel development, or use of extraction technology, should be exempt from a consideration of its ramifications in terms of climate change.
Divest MUN has a number of concerns relating to the potential use of hydraulic fracturing in Newfoundland and Labrador; here we outline a few of these which, in and of themselves, warrant the continuation of a ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing in this Province. On the matter of the immediate health effects of hydraulic fracturing we are deeply concerned by widespread reports of adverse health effects related to the process, ranging from reduced birth weights to cases of frequent nosebleeds and headaches and many other effects. Air and water contamination as well as noise and light pollution have been directly associated with the use of hydraulic fracturing, as has increased seismic activity. A recent review by the New York State Department of Health found that high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) activity “has resulted in environmental impacts that are potentially adverse to public health” and that until more is known about the health risks “HVHF should not proceed in New York State.” Given the depth of research present in the New York review, and the uncertainties surrounding the safety of the process, it is hard to understand how a different conclusion could be reached in the context of Newfoundland and Labrador.
From an economic point of view there is evidence to suggest, as noted under the potential risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing in a January 2015 report from a select committee appointed by the Yukon Legislative Assembly, that hydraulic fracturing can produce a boom-bust effect on local economies, and can lead to inflation which could in turn adversely affect the purchasing power of local residents. The majority of the jobs created by hydraulic fracturing would likely be held by specialists brought in from elsewhere, and hydraulic fracturing poses a threat to other industries in the Province such as tourism. Infrastructure degradation, as a result of increased road use and other activities associated with hydraulic fracturing, may also lead to increased infrastructure expenditures. Economies overly dependent upon the fossil fuel industry also carry the risk of being adversely affected by fluctuations in prices elsewhere, a fact which has become particularly apparent in Newfoundland and Labrador over the past several months as a result of the collapse of the price of oil.
In conclusion we would like to point out that there is no evidence in Newfoundland and Labrador that a social license exists, or has ever existed, to allow hydraulic fracturing to go ahead.
For these reasons we call upon the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel to recommend the continuation of the ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
On behalf of Divest MUN
 New York State Department of Health. A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Development, December 2014, p. 12 http://www.health.ny.gov/press/reports/docs/high_volume_hydraulic_fracturing.pdf
 Yukon Legislative Assembly, Final Report of the Select Committee Regarding the Risks and Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing, January 2015, pp. 18-19 http://www.legassembly.gov.yk.ca/pdf/rbhf_final_report.pdf
 Dr. Edwin Bezzina, Discussion of the Impact of Hydraulic Fracturing on Tourism, February 2013, pp. 1-15 https://savewestcoastnl.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/frackingimpacttourism.pdf
Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission to the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel. I am a citizen who is concerned about fracking in the province, as I feel it presents unacceptable risks to the environment and to human health.
I wish to comment specifically on three issues: 1) risk assessment, 2) waste water management, and 3) public consultation process. I am also including links to two documents I would like to see the panel include in its deliberations and which will inform my comments on risk assessment.
These documents are:
-- "The Precautionary Principle in Canada" (a document prepared by the Environmental Law Centre at University Victoria): http://www.elc.uvic.ca/associates/documents/Jun14.10-Precautionary-PrincipleBackgrounder.pdf
-- "Rescuing the Strong Precautionary Principle from Its Critics" (a paper from environmental law scholar Noah M. Sachs): http://illinoislawreview.org/wp-content/ilr-content/articles/2011/4/Sachs.pdf
1. Risk Assessment
The panel should be referencing the "strong precautionary principle" to assess risk. The NL Government provided reference document, "Basis for Development and Guidance for Hydraulic Fracturing: Part 3," outlines a risk assessment model presumably to inform the methodology for the review panel. This model, called "as low as reasonably practicable" (ALARP), is first of all inappropriate for assessing risks of fracking as it was developed for workers' health and safety.
Why has the provincial government not used language of precaution in terms of a risk assessment model as it has with other projects?
Assessments to do with environmentally sensitive issue or industrial projects in the province typically employ what should be understood as the "weak precautionary principle." This understanding of risk generally says, "where risks are uncertain or unknown, a particular project should be allowed to proceed so long as mitigation measures are put in place."
This is sometimes called the weak precautionary principle by critics because if risks are uncertain or unknown, how can mitigation authentically be put in place? On the other hand, the "strong precautionary principle" says, "where risks are uncertain or unknown, a particular project should not be allowed to proceed." This is authentic precaution, because it does not accept the premise that unknown or uncertain risks to the environment or to human health are reasonable.
The strong precautionary principle is described in greater detail in the documents linked above. From this perspective, if the panel is unable to quantify all the risks posed by fracking or is unable to guarantee that risks will be mitigated, then the panel should recommend a continuation of the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the province.
2. Waste Water Management
Without a clear plan for what is to be done with the waste water from any potential hydraulic fracturing in the province, the panel is unable to authentically assess risk.
Waste water from fracking contains toxins and dangerous chemicals, and will require a complex process to dispose of. Without being able to clearly state how the waste water will be handled and disposed of (will it be re-injected? held in tailings ponds? trucked across the province for treatment?) how can the panel authentically assess risk? Waste water management has been a major issue in other jurisdictions, and so without knowing precisely the plan the panel is essentially unable to carry out its mandate and should therefore recommend a continuation of the moratorium.
3. Public Consultation Process
Public consultations should be held in communities throughout the province.
In order for the fracking review panel to be an authentic democratic process, it must be inclusive and hold public consultations throughout the entire province. Since environmental issues extend beyond the immediate locale of a particular project, all potentially affected communities need to have a voice. For example, potentially contaminated water does not respect that hydraulic fracturing is happening on the West Coast. Moreover, if waste water ends up being trucked across the province, communities that waste will be moved through need to be authentically consulted. For this reason, I suggest the panel hold public consultations in all regions of the province.
In my opinion, fracking should not be allowed to proceed in NL, for the reasons I have outlined above. I once again thank the panel for the opportunity to submit comments.
As citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador, we find ourselves caught up in a process that is supposedly designed to facilitate an “independent” review of Hydraulic Fracturing. A panel has been convened and has been deemed to be independent by the Minister of Natural Resources. NLFAN is being told they asked for an independent panel and they have been granted one.
The problem is that NLFAN asked for a Mercedes Benz. What has been established is a panel that more closely resembles a “used” pick-up truck. The Mercedes Benz would have characteristics such as a limited mandate to determine whether or not NL should allow the fossil fuel industry to engage in the practice of hydraulic fracturing within the province’s jurisdiction.
The “used” pick-up truck allows the “independent” panel to conduct a review of current regulatory process in Newfoundland and Labrador respecting hydraulic fracturing operations and identifying needed changes consistent with other jurisdictions and best practices. This presumes a “yes” as the answer to the question for the Mercedes-Benz panel.
NLFAN hardly received the “independent” panel they requested. To suggest they did is “smugness” taken to the extreme.
All of this avoids the issue of climate change – the real “elephant” in the room. Premier Paul Davis recently commented “I think the argument is swaying to the reality that climate change is real and there's numerous evidence to support the concept that climate change is real."
A recent UCSUSA position statement advises that “some energy costs are not included in consumer utility or gas bills, nor are they paid for by the companies that produce or sell the energy. These include human health problems caused by air pollution from the burning of coal and oil; damage to land from coal mining and to miners from black lung disease; environmental degradation caused by global warming, acid rain, and water pollution; and national security costs, such as protecting foreign sources of oil.” This is by no means an exhaustive list.
Hydraulic Fracturing, through the exploration for, the drilling for, the extraction of, the transportation of, and the consumption of oil, contributes to global warming and climate change. It also contributes to the poisoning of water used in the fracking process and of groundwater through leakage of fracking chemicals and through mishandling and disposition of used fracking fluids.
Christophe McGlade, at University College London (UCL) says that “vast amounts of oil in the Middle East, coal in the US, Australia and China and many other fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground to prevent dangerous climate change, according to the first analysis to identify which existing reserves cannot be burned.”
I digress from my argument which should be kept succinct for clarity’s sake. Climate change is real. Using fossil fuels to generate energy contributes to climate change. If climate change is not brought under control, we risk the extinction of the species. Finding and exploiting additional fossil fuels is reckless abandonment of moral responsibility to our grandchildren. What conceivable reason do we have to frack for oil in Western NL when all common sense tells us to leave the stuff in the ground?
I am about to be a grandfather. I believe that the human species is in danger of extinction if we do not control climate change. I can envision my grandson, in 15 years, asking me if I knew what was happening and what I did about it. I would like to be able to say that we, as a species, had the wisdom to recognize when there was an “elephant” in the room and that we had enough courage to remove the beast from our home.
To the NLHF Panel:
In this letter, I will confine myself to comments on the financial and legal implications of fracking.
For the financial implications of fracking, we can learn a great deal from the American experience. In America, most wells drilled showed high rates of depletion. A depletion rate of 60 percent in the first year is very common. Typically, many wells are abandoned after 3 or 4 years of productivity. This creates a need to drill more wells, to maintain output and to pay off (primarily interest) on debt incurred so far.
New debt is needed to support new wells. After a few short years of optimism, there still remains a mountain of debt and many abandoned wells to deal with. The recent drop in oil prices has dramatically exposed these inherent weaknesses.
It could be argued that the debt problems are entirely private and external to Newfoundland. However, I would disagree, since corporate debt problems can later appear as problems for the province.
First, one needs to be aware of the “corporate starfish” problem. When a starfish has a damaged limb, it can detach from the limb, grow a new limb, and separate itself from the old dying limb. Corporations can do a similar thing. They can set up “independent” subsidiaries. If a subsidiary suffers heavy losses or creates severe legal problems, the parent company is legally and financially detached from the problems of its subsidiary company. The subsidiary company can be drained of funds and allowed to become defunct, with minimal damage to the parent company. The province is then left holding the bag for any environmental damage caused by fracking. Keep in mind that zombie wells can have substantial leakage problems.
Finally, in the event that the province wishes to limit environmental damage, it may want to place constraints on corporate practices within the fracking industry. International trade treaties, such as NAFTA and other forthcoming trade treaties, severely restrict the government’s options. If corporations feel that their profits have been restricted by government actions they can sue government in offshore trade tribunals. These offshore trade tribunals are very corporate-friendly and can override decisions made by Canadian courts.
No doubt fracking will be presented as having considerable upside and minimal risk for the province. But, when we are talking about risk, do we mean risk for the corporate starfish, or risk for the province and the tax payers?
I’m writing on behalf of a St. John’s based group, Citizens against CETA, to present arguments against allowing fracking to take place in Newfoundland and Labrador. Our focus is not the potential environmental and health effects of fracking, but rather the risk they bring of investor-state lawsuits.
Investor-state lawsuits are permissible under the auspices of trade agreements like NAFTA and take place in independent, offshore tribunals. The judgements are decided by three lawyers, appointed each time a corporate investor chooses to sue government. There is no appeals process, which is particularly alarming given that independent studies have revealed that corporate bias and conflict of interest are inherent to these tribunals.
If Newfoundland and Labrador go ahead with fracking the ensuing legal costs for our provinces could be very high. Here’s why:
1. Fracking companies use investor-state lawsuits: There is already fracking litigation under NAFTA. Lone Pine Resources, a Canadian company with registration in the US, is suing Canada for $250 million because of the Quebec government’s decision to impose a temporary moratorium on fracking. .
2. Suing governments has become an industry in itself: The likelihood of a corporate lawsuit is much greater than in the past. That’s because hedge funds and other financial institutions are increasingly offering to finance the corporate share of lawsuits in return for a percentage (usually between 30-50%) of the settlement or damages awarded. Mining companies are the most frequent users of investor-state lawsuits worldwide
3. Damages awarded can be huge: Increasingly, damages are based on the estimated loss of future profits. The largest award to date is $2.3 billion against Ecuador for cancelling the operating contract of an oil company in the Amazon region.
4. Canadian and NL laws count for nothing in these tribunals as judgements are based on treatment according to the language in the trade agreement(s). For example, in February of this year a NAFTA tribunal awarded Exxon Mobil and Murphy Oil $17 million in damages after our province tightened up requirements relating to their research and development spending in this province. What most people aren’t aware of is that three levels of Canadian courts had already rejected the corporations’ argument that they were being unfairly treated. The Canadian courts cited the oil companies’ responsibilities under the Atlantic Accord as their reason for denying them damages.
5. Who will pay the costs? It is Canada, not the provinces, that has to pay the the costs of investor-state lawsuits because it is the federal government that is sued, even if it is a municipal action that causes the lawsuit. However, the federal government has served notice that it will find ways in the future to reclaim costs and damages from the provinces.
6. Will the federal government defend us against lawsuits? They did not do so in the case of the Abitibi-Bowater dispute, in spite of a request from the province. The result was a $123 million settlement.
7. What will be the impact of CETA? If the CETA trade agreement between the European Union and Canada is ratified, the risk of investor-state lawsuits will be made greater as CETA’s environmental regulatory protection is weak. That will encourage lawsuits. Over half of the investor-state lawsuits worldwide so far have been filed by European corporations.
If our province allows fracking and then tries to back out or tighten up regulations at a future date we risk very costly lawsuits in tribunals with dubious legal and ethical legitimacy. Where are the long term benefits of fracking that would justify this undermining of the Canadian judicial system and possibly cost us huge amounts in damages?
Hydraculic Fracturing and the types their using, when it comes to using: 944 highly acients chemicals.such as (Matrix Acidization Stimulation Procedures.
#1 Of My greater Concerns:
Non Methane Hydrocarbons,
Human and Ecological assessment of Natural gas operations. Dr. t Colbouurne and Dr. Kwiatowski.
TEDX (The Endocrine Disruption Exchange0 Colorada.US
Studied air QUALITY 1(ONE) mile from a well
44 hydrocarbons identified…35 know to affect CNS. Some with levels high enough to harm (CHILDREN),----especially (NEWBORN)<and (PRE BIRTH).
Their are 944 franking chemicals (some unknown-secet),this is some what worrisome and Governments just don't want own truth.(NOT enough study).
>>> 75% skin,eyes,lungs,and GL tract
>>>> 40-50% Brain and CNS, and Immune system
>>>>>> 25% (CANCER),and DNA mutations.
Dr. Robert Jackson- Duke University.
>>>>>>>Methylene chloride detected in >> ( 73% ) ,of wells in Pennsylvania.
#2 That study was not done on the West Coast of Newfoundland,the type of rock here is much different that in Pennsylvania,their for more Chemicals has to be added to detract flow into the well bore and at a higher presser (More Water would be used in the process).their are other radioactive Chemicals,Isotopes of (URANIUM RADIUM and RADON GAS)>>> and other Fracking chemicals (KNOWN and UNKNOWN). That has not to be given to the public because of alarms of (WATER POLLUTIONS).
The list goes on, BUT not for public viewing of air POLLUTION:
Examples: Methane; #1 Leaks from well bore
#2 Leaks from the franking FIELD.
Explosions ,and fire: How many wells close due to excess, (METHANE)
Then to bring in drinking water for the residents to DRINK.
The SHALE formation in Western Newfoundland the Geology has only a foot in the sand on their study (IF ANY),only what you see on governments MAPS, and are far from studies of sunlight that creates Ozone, which is toxic,X12-15 more Global Warming effect then C02.
#3 CONDENSATION TANKS:
Contain #1- flow back fluids ( deliberately withdraw ).
#2 Produced fluids (Come up with the OIL and GAS.
Contains-1. Some amount from all the franking chemicals.
Radioactive Isotopes Uranium,Radium, and Radon: Many other lesser amounts.
3. High Salinity.
STRESS: stress ,stress:
Is the public aware of the:1. NOISE /24 HRS. a day drilling and franking
2. Lights /24 HRS a day.
3. Smell, and pollutants.
5. Worry and Anxiety.
WHAT IS IN THE FUTURE : Not only for our grand children but for all of up who remain to live a healthy and well being in our communities ….
Does any one in Government understand the treat to our home land is in the making and closing doors to the public that cannot and don't have the knowledge what lies ahead for this region .
Pikto'l Sa'ke'j Miu's / Victor James Muise.