Summary of Positions on Hydraulic Fracturing in Eastern Canada and New York as of January 2015

New Brunswick Dec 2014 Moratorium

5 conditions before lifting moratorium and proceeding:

  • A social license be established
  • Clear and credible information on the impacts on air, health and water so a regulatory regime can be developed
  • A plan to mitigate the impacts on public infrastructure and address issues such as waste water disposal be established
  • A process be in place to fulfill the province’s obligation to consult with First Nations
  • A proper royalty structure be established to ensure benefits are maximized

Nova Scotia Sept 2014 Moratorium (with limited testing and research)

Minister of Energy Andrew Younger: “This is neither a permanent nor a time-limited ban…instead, our government recognizes that the availability and understanding of the science of hydraulic fracturing in shale will evolve one way or the other.” (quoted in the Chronicle Herald, Sept. 3, 2014)

Main Recommendations of the Wheeler Report:

  • Hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of unconventional gas and oil development should not proceed at the present time in Nova Scotia.
  • Independent conducted research of scientific and public participatory nature is required to model economic, social, environmental, and community health impacts of all forms of energy production and use – including any prospect of unconventional gas and oil development should not proceed in Nova Scotia – at both provincial and federal levels.
  • Nova Scotia should design and recognize the test of community permission to proceed before exploration occurs for the purpose of using hydraulic fracturing in the development of unconventional gas and oil resources.

In other words, The Wheeler Report stressed the need for social license and social acceptability. The report also outlined 32 recommendations to safeguard community health, local economies, ecosystem health, and the environment should the Province and communities wish to proceed with hydraulic fracturing at some point in the future.

Quebec Dec 15 2014 De Facto Moratorium    

Background

The BAPE (Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement / Office for public consultation on the environment) is a Quebec neutral public body dedicated to public information and consultation on projects that could potentially
 have a significant impact on the environment or on any other issue related to the quality of the environment. Only certain types of projects listed in regulations are subjected to such environmental assessments and scrutiny by the BAPE. The Environment Minister has discretionary power to give the BAPE any public inquiry mandate related to any question concerning the quality of the environment.

For a comprehensive reference on issues related to oil exploration and potential impacts in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, see:

St-Lawrence Coalition. 2014. Gulf 101 Oil in the Gulf of St-Lawrence: Facts, Myths and Future Outlook. Available online at: http://www.globaliadev.com/coalitionstlaurent/Golfe101/EN/DSF_Golfe_101_English_June_4_2014_V2.pdf

Feb 2011

The first BAPE report on shale gas concluded that there was not enough scientific knowledge to determine the risks.

From May 2011 to Dec 2013 the Committee for the Strategic Environmental Evaluation on Shale Gas commissioned dozens of specific research reports. A list of the studies performed during the 31 months of the SEA are available at: http://www.bape.gouv.qc.ca/sections/mandats/gaz_de_schiste-enjeux/documents/Etudes_EES/Tableau-etudes-EES-19-fevrier-2014_BAPE.pdf

Jan 2014

The Committee for the Strategic Environmental Evaluation (SEA) released its final report.

Conclusion: Lots of questions remain unanswered especially on human health, safety and a lack of social acceptability.

Dec15 2014

Quebec released the BAPE report (review panel of experts). An English translation of Chapter 13 is available online at: http://www.bape.gouv.qc.ca/sections/rapports/publications/bape307_Chap13_ENG.pdf

Main Conclusion:

“In conclusion, because of the magnitude of potential impacts associated with shale gas industry activities in an area of populated and as sensitive as the St. Lawrence Lowlands, because also of uncertainties that subsist regarding potential impacts on water quality of aquifers and the incapacity of the industry to guarantee long-term integrity of gas wells, the review panel is of the opinion that it has not been shown that the exploration and development of shale gas in the St. Lawrence Lowlands, using the technique of hydraulic fracturing would be for the benefit of Quebec.”

Other findings include:

  • All exploration and exploitation will increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions and could have an impact on air quality (locally and regionally).
  • Hydraulic fracturing could have major impact on nearby communities, from polluting the air to increasing traffic and noise.
  • The royalties and other financial benefits payable to Quebec would be insufficient to compensate for the social and environmental costs and externalities or to ensure financial viability for the industry. In other words, hydraulic fracturing would not be economically advantageous for Quebec.
  • There is a lack of knowledge, particularly with respect to water resources.
  • There is a lack of social acceptability.

In other words, three reports arrived at the same conclusion:

  1. Shale gas exploration and extraction in the region is not economically advantageous
  2. Social license / acceptability is not present
  3. There is a lack of knowledge

Dec16 2014

Premier Couillard is quoted as saying “There will be no shale gas development in Quebec.” “Right now, I do not see the interest in developing (the resource).”

Dec 17 2014

The Couillard government draws a line on the shale gas adventure…for the time being…reported La Presse,

Dec 19 2014

Premier Coulliard refuses to impose a moratorium: “I don’t like moratoriums because when you put a moratorium in place, you lock the door. I want to keep the doors open…”

Dec 22 2014

Gov’t of Quebec announced the information / consultation process for its Energy Policy for the Future (Future Politique Énergétique du Québec), with a report due in the Fall of 2015.

New York State Dec16 2014  Ban

After a multi-year review process, the Department of Health undertook a Health Impact Assessment. Following the release of this report, Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a ban because of concerns over health risks and the lack of comprehensive knowledge over long-term and cumulative effects on both environmental and human health.

Dec 2014

New York State Department of Health released its report A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas Development, available online at: https://www.health.ny.gov/press/reports/docs/high_volume_hydraulic_fracturing.pdf

The Review investigated impacts related to: air; water quality; seismic; communities; and human health. The Review also evaluated peer-reviewed scientific research, non-peer reviewed information, as well as gaps in knowledge.

Conclusion: The overall weight of the evidence from the cumulative body of information contained in this Public Health review demonstrates that there are significant uncertainties about the kinds of adverse health outcomes that may be associated with high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF).

  • The dispersed nature of the activity magnifies the possibility of process and equipment failures, leading to the potential for cumulative risks for exposures and associated adverse health outcomes. Additionally, the relationships between HVHF environmental impacts and public health are complex and not fully understood. Comprehensive, long- term studies, and in particular longitudinal studies, that could contribute to the understanding of those relationships are either not yet completed or have yet to be initiated.
  • While a guarantee of absolute safety is not possible, an assessment of the risk to public health must be supported by adequate scientific information to determine with confidence that the overall risk is sufficiently low to justify proceeding with HVHF in New York. The current scientific information is insufficient.
  • Furthermore, it is clear from the existing literature and experience that HVHF activity has resulted in environmental impacts that are potentially adverse to public health.

Dec 11 2014

NY State health professionals and scientists released an analysis of 400 Peer-Reviewed Studies on Fracking (Towards an understanding of the environmental and public health impacts of shale gas development: an analysis of the peer-reviewed scientific literature, 2009-2014) Available online at: http://psehealthyenergy.org/site/view/1233

Key Findings:

  1. 96% of all studies published on health impacts indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.
  2. 87% of original research studies published on health outcomes indicate potential risks or adverse health outcomes.
  3. 95% of all original research studies on air quality indicate elevated concentrations of air pollutants.
  4. 72% of original research studies on water quality indicate potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination.

Approximately 73% of all available scientific peer-reviewed papers have        been published in the past 24 months.

Prince Edward Island Undecided

Minister of Environment Janice Sherry has stated that “Hydraulic fracturing is a non-issue for PEI…unless the province receives an application to drill, the province sees no need to declare whether it will ban or support the practice,” quoted in CBC news, Sept 11 2014. An environmental impact assessment would be conducted should an application be brought forward.

Newfoundland and Labrador Nov 2013 Moratorium Pending Review

Nov. 2013

The government stated it would not accept proposals for onshore and onshore to offshore exploration using hydraulic fracturing pending an Internal government review.

Oct. 2014

Minister of Natural Resources Derrick Dalley announced the composition of a five-person Panel to conduct an Independent Review of Hydraulic Fracturing for the west coast of the island of Newfoundland. A Terms of Reference for the Review was posted on the Government’s website (under News and Highlights) as well as a link to documents produced by the Government’s Internal Review: http://www.nr.gov.nl.ca/nr/energy/

As of January, 2015, the Panel has yet to announce any public consultations. Groups across the Province have questioned the composition of the Panel, its independence, and the scope as outlined in the Terms of Reference.

A geological report conducted as part of the Internal Review raises caution. It notes:

  • how the Green Point Shale Formation of western Newfoundland differs from other unconventional shale reservoirs;
  • that the geological complexity “carries the potential for increased risk;”
  • “the potential of the Green Point shale as a suitable target for hydraulic fracturing must be fully and carefully evaluated;” and
  • it is difficult to quantify the risk with the current available data.

The report is available online at: http://www.nr.gov.nl.ca/nr/energy/pdf/green_point_shale_west_nl.pdf

 National

Council of Canadian Academies. 2014. Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada. Ottawa: The Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and Tehcnology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction. Available online at http://www.scienceadvice.ca/en/assessments/completed/shale-gas.aspx

A Panel of 14 experts and 8 review members assessed a number of environmental impacts associated with: well integrity; water (risks to groundwater and surface water, amount of water required, wastewater disposal, and management); Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions; land impacts and seismic events; human health and social impacts; and monitoring, mitigation options and research.

Among the key findings, the Panel concluded that:

  • Overall, the Panel found that well-targeted science is required to ensure a better understanding of the environmental impacts of shale gas development. Currently, data about environmental impacts are neither sufficient nor conclusive.
  • For Canada, regional context matters. Environments, ecosystems, geographies, and geologies are not uniform across the country. Therefore, consideration of different potential regional impacts need to be closely considered when determining the suitability for shale gas development.
  • Advanced technologies and practices that now exist could be effective to minimize many impacts, but it is not clear that there are technological solutions to address all of the relevant risks, and it is difficult to judge the efficacy of current regulations because of the lack of scientific monitoring.

Deer Lake Fracking Awareness Seminar Raises Difficult Questions

This editorial piece has been re-posted by permission of the 4 O’clock Whistle. © 4 O’clock Whistle: http://4oclockwhistlenews.tumblr.com/

 

     Thirty five people showed up to a fracking awareness seminar in Deer Lake on the 19th of June at the Hodder Memorial Stadium. Entitled “Facts on Fracking” the seminar presented a wide array of information on the history of the process and what is known about its potential effects. As those present learned, while some of the basic technology of fracking has been around for quite some time, slick water horizontal hydraulic fracturing is a relatively new phenomenon.

     For example when companies assert that they have been conducting hydraulic fracturing since the 1940’s they are referring to vertical hydraulic fracturing. Horizontal slickwater “fracking,” by contrast, can be traced back to as early as 2002. Since much of the fracking fluid, which contains a complex mixture of chemicals (some of which are known to be carcinogenic or to have other health effects) remains underground after the process, the potential area affected by seepage into aquifers and towards the surface is greatly increased during horizontal fracturing. The fracturing could extend out as much as three kilometers, if not more, horizontally from each drill site in multiple directions, and one key problem is trying to control the fractures during the process. Several countries and states currently have moratoriums on fracking awaiting more information, as does the province of Quebec, and in many others there are growing demands for the institution of moratoriums.

Chicken Little?

     The presenters wanted to make it clear this seminar was not a case of claiming the “sky was falling,” instead stating that the potential damage of hydraulic fracturing, should it take place on the West Coast, could happen over many years. Chief among their concerns was protecting future generations. That said some of the evidence presented is certainly worrying in terms of the immediate future as well.

    Dr. Ian Simpson, one of the presenters at the seminar, gave a particularly insightful account of the potential health problems associated with the process (an account based upon research of peer-reviewed literature). The fracking fluid is itself a source of concern (the exact chemicals added are often company secrets), as is the large amount of methane and other chemicals that would be released into the air by each fracking site; sinus problems, nasal irritation, eye burn and throat irritation are among the statistically significant symptoms reported near fracking sites in one study cited by Dr. Simpson.

Black Spruce: Disciplined Communication?

     The seminar, open to all, came just after news that Black Spruce Exploration Corp., one of the companies hoping to undertake fracking on the West Coast, had essentially acquired Deer Lake Oil and Gas – the latest in several expansions by the company [The Western Star, “Deer Lake Oil and Gas acquired by Black Spruce Energy,” June 17, 2013]. David Murray, CEO of Black Spruce has been making many extensive promises, we learned, to residents along the West Coast as of late too, which may not be surprising as it appears he has invested – rather extensively – in the success of fracking here.

    A Western Star article from last month made it clear Mr. Murray sees Newfoundland in terms of oil potential as being like North Dakota. According to the article he seemed to indicate that the population of North Dakota had nearly doubled in the last 10 years and that the unemployment rate had dropped from 9.8% to just 3% [The Western Star, “Oil company making a difference with presentations: Murray,” May 31, 2013]. A comment made by a reader under the online copy of that article suggested that there may be a discrepancy in the information presented, and a quick scan of census data from the U.S. does appear to contradict the information in the article. First, the current estimated population of North Dakota (as of 2012) is 699,628, it was 642,200 in 2000 and it was 638,800 in 1990 – so one fails to see how it has almost doubled [United States Census Bureau]. Further the unemployment rate is currently 3.2% in North Dakota and hasn’t been above 4.2% since 2000. In fact since 1980 the highest unemployment there has been was in 1983 at 6.8%, which doesn’t seem to provide real evidence for the idea of horizontal hydraulic fracturing as a great source of employment growth for a local population [statistics from United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics].

     Murray’s statistics come across as particularly troubling given his recent assertion that the Black Spruce board and management team had previously worked on drilling programs in Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania and North Dakota [The Western Star “Black Spruce takes the reins in western N.L.” June 19, 2013]. It may be of interest for readers to take a look at the past unemployment rates – if this is indeed Mr. Murray’s measure of success for fracking – of some of the other states in which the Black Spruce team has worked on drilling programs. As of January 2002, around the time slickwater horizontal fracturing came onto the scene as a technology, the unemployment rates of Colorado, Texas, and Pennsylvania were 5.7%, 6.1% and 5.5% respectively. As of January 2013 they were 7.3%, 6.3% and 8.2% respectively [United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics].

      The Black Spruce team’s history is also interesting given the many worrying complaints, news pieces, and peer-reviewed articles, now emerging about the health impacts of fracking technology coming from these very same states [for example see: Ellen Cantarow “Fracking Ourselves to Death in Pennsylvania,” May 2, 2013].

     The seminar in Deer Lake also addressed the issue of job creation, but presented evidence that most of the jobs created during fracking operations would probably go to specialists brought into the Province from elsewhere on a temporary basis, and would not be long term, something there is evidence to suggest [see for instance Barth, New Solutions, Vol. 23(1) 85-101, 2013].

     Meanwhile the [former] chairman of Black Spruce’s partner company, Shoal Point Energy’s Davidson Kelly, has gained negative attention recently after a CBC article cited the following quote from a report by Australian Commissioner Terence Cole, a report tabled in the Australian Parliament; “On the evidence before me, Mr. Davidson Kelly is a thoroughly disreputable man with no commercial morality.” [CBC News, “Fracking firm chairman cited for role in UN-Iraq scandal,” June 11, 2013]. 

Has Fracking Been Conducted Safely in Canada?

       The seminar also challenged claims that fracking has occurred elsewhere in Canada without any local water supply damage, something Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources president, Kevin Heffernan, recently implied in the above coverage from the Western Star [June 19, 2013]. In fact the National Farmers Union of Alberta asked in 2012 for a moratorium on fracking due to firsthand accounts of water contamination, accounts that rarely see the light of day because, as stated on the NFU website by member Jan Slomp: “the oil and gas companies usually force farmers to sign confidentiality agreements in return for replacement of their water wells” [NFU Website: “Hydraulic Fracking a Danger to Water, Food, Farmland: NFU Calls For Moratorium”].

     Given current research being undertaken into water contamination across Canada, and the cases only now coming to light (both in Canada and in several U.S. states), it would definitely appear highly premature for anyone to suggest that no contamination of water supplies has taken place.

General Impressions

     The question of whether or not to proceed with fracking is a troubling one: it may be that further regulations are needed, or it may very well be that fracking is simply an undertaking not worth the detriments it creates. One way or the other more information is being uncovered about this relatively new process – information and peer-reviewed studies the companies themselves don’t seem to want to discuss – or are surprisingly un-aware of.

    The overall feeling of the presentation? While many were concerned, those who have concerns are certainly open to a discussion of both the pros and cons of fracking. Graham Oliver, another presenter, wanted to make it clear to the audience during the question and answer period at the end that they should feel free to voice any questions or make any statements they wanted, whether in support of or against fracking. “We accept all opinions here and welcome them” he said. Indeed sheets of paper with links to online copies of the key sources used in the health portion of the seminar were handed out, and audience members were encouraged to further research the subject and come to their own conclusions. The presentation, in short, was not just about presenting “the facts,” it was about letting people know where those facts are coming from, and there was general atmosphere of free speech and dialog.