Christopher Adams is an intern with the National Observer and freelance reporter who covers climate change and environmental issues in Alberta and Western Canada. A recent graduate from the University of Calgary with a degree in political science, his reporting has taken him all over the province to cover budget cuts, violent protests, and provincial politics. He is currently based in Calgary and responds to emails at cadamsyyc[at]gmail.com
[Has the National Observer been synergized?]
Did Alberta New Democrats stifle debate about fracking? by Christopher Adams, June 13th 2016, National Observer
Alberta New Democrats walked away from a serious discussion about fracking last weekend, prompting accusations that the party was stifling debate to placate industry – a charge that the Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd rejected.
McCuaig-Boyd, the NDP MLA for Dunvegan-Peace-Notley, made the comments after her party’s delegates voted to postpone debate about a resolution calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing – also known as fracking, a controversial natural gas drilling practice that is linked to methane emissions, tainted water supplies and earthquakes.
The energy minister said the party wasn’t trying to avoid the issue to prevent a conflict with industry, but had held a democratic vote on which issues it wanted to prioritize for debate during the Alberta NDP convention. [Ending daylight savings time (#12) is more important than Albertans being poisoned by fracing, companies violating laws in place to protect groundwater and drinking water aquifers illegally frac’d and ruined (#64)?]
“From my viewpoint, it was a pretty fair process,” she said. “From my perspective, I want fracking to be looked at from a scientific perspective. It’s not like we’re ignoring things.”
Energy Minister McCuaig-Boyd wants to “get the science going” on fracking.
[Science Reality Check:
How many years and hundreds of peer-reviewed published papers does Ms. McCuag-Boyd want to wait?
Is the minister reacting to investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk’s research and reporting?
The studies are voluminous and alarming.
In 2014, a U.S. federal study reported that pollution from the mining of natural gas in rural areas can increase the incidence of congenital heart defects among babies born to mothers living close to well sites.
In 2015, another major U.S. study found that the fracking of unconventional rock formations can liberate and accelerate the release of radon, a highly carcinogenic gas into people’s homes.
The studies are all part of a growing body of new peer-reviewed scientific literature that shows the industry is having a definitive health impact on rural populations.
In 2009, the number of peer-reviewed studies on the impact of shale gas or tight oil development (all use the technology of fracking) numbered but six papers.
But due to unrelenting controversy, the research on the impact of unconventional drilling has grown to encompass nearly 700 studies.
This year, researchers with PSE Healthy Energy, a scientific institute that supports energy policies based on evidence, assessed the studies and separated out those specifically dealing with air, water, and human health.
The researchers found that vast majority of studies that fell into those categories showed serious public health problems ranging from human exposure to cancer-causing chemicals to water contamination.
Of 31 studies that looked at human health impacts, 26 of them — 84 per cent — found significant public health hazards or elevated risks. Of 58 studies on water quality, 69 per cent found actual water contamination or potential problems.
And out of 46 studies on air quality, 87 per cent found direct evidence of elevated air pollution downwind from fracking sites either from trucks, venting or flaring.
Researchers concluded that their assessment ”demonstrates that the weight of the scientific literature indicates that there are hazards and elevated risks to human health as well as possible adverse health outcomes.” —Andrew Nikiforuk ]
She added that fracking affects regions differently [Who’s come up with this deflection? Brad Wall? Encana? Gerard Protti? Jim Ellis? David Wheeler? Frac patent holder and member on all frac panels so far – Dr. Maurice Dusseault?], and that she wanted to “wait until we get the science going,” before making any decisions.
She said her department had a scientific review underway.
[A “review” is not a study or investigation. In 2011, Notley and the NDP demanded an “independent investigation”]
“It’s a huge issue, we all care about that. We all want good water, good air. I’ve said from the beginning, you can extract oil and gas from Alberta and you can still be environmentally responsible. I don’t see it as an either or,” McCuaig-Boyd said.
Fracking has been linked to earthquakes across North America. University of Calgary geophysicist David Eaton helped author a study on fracking earlier this year, concluding that 90 per cent of the seismic activity in Alberta was directly linked to fracking or waste water disposal. A horizontal drilling operation near Fox Creek, Alberta was shuttered by the Alberta Energy Regulator in January after a 4.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the region.
NDP rural caucus member and Calgary-area rancher Nielle Hawkwood spoke to delegates on the convention’s first day, encouraging them to prioritize her resolution which was 56th on a list of 64 issues up for debate. The party only scheduled two hours to discuss as many resolutions as possible, which left no time for most of the topics.
But Hawkwood’s efforts failed, and she accused the party of dismissing the debate in order to maintain good relations with natural gas companies. She said that the acting party president encouraged delegates to put the issue on the backburner by arguing that it was too complex to discuss on the convention floor.
[Notley & NDP Reality Check:
Why are the NDP claiming investigating fracing too complex to debate at the convention when Notely called for an investigation into hydraulic fracturing in a mere press release, 5 years ago, before the hundreds of peer-reviewed papers had been published showing the risks and harms?
Are the NDP seeking to “bury fracking opposition” too? ]
“I’m disappointed to see that that kind of political maneuvering would be done within the NDP,” Hawkwood said. “They think it’s politically advantageous for them not to discuss fracking. But I object to that position.”
Won’t frack down
Many outside the NDP caucus have called for a moratorium on the practice, including British Columbia Green Party Leader and MLA Andrew Weaver who issued the call after Eaton and his colleagues released their findings in March. Many others have already implemented moratoriums of their own, including Quebec, New Brunswick, Scotland, Maryland, and Wales. [France made fracing illegal in June 2011]
The NDP government has also committed itself to promoting new pipeline construction in the province, including the controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline that would see Alberta oilsands transported by pipeline to the west coast in the pursuit of Asian markets.
The party’s resolution on pipelines states that it should “urge the provincial government to discontinue advocacy or promotion of specific pipeline projects while stakeholders such as First Nations communities, Métis settlements, farm owners, and municipalities have expressed objections to a pipeline project being built through or terminating on their land.”
The convention is now over, and the fracking moratorium resolution, along with most others, have moved to council where party officials will pass or pass on the motion.
Was this true or said to placate?
Snap from CBC News Live Feed
Alberta NDP throws down gauntlet, opposition parties accept the challenge by James Wood with files from Emma Graney, Edmonton Journal, June 12, 2016, Calgary Herald
While the mood was generally buoyant among NDP members, some delegates expressed disappointment over a lack of debate over controversial resoluions on pipelines and hydraulic fracturing.
Paul Lawson, a labour delegate from Calgary, said he sensed the party is fearful of anything suggestive of the Leap Manifesto, an anti-fossil fuel agenda under discussion by the federal NDP that has been strongly condemned by Notley and her government.
He said in an interview that the resolution calling for a moratorium on fracking in Alberta should have been brought to the floor given the concerns that exist in rural areas.
“There is a fundamental moral obligation to be responsive to the needs of the community the elected representatives serve,” said Lawson. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
NDP Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said this week she’s asked the Alberta Energy Regulator to compile and present the government all of its information on hydraulic fracturing [What’s the AER’s deadline?], a technology that uses pressurized water and chemicals to fracture rock below the Earth’s surface and allow oil and gas to flow to the top.
“I’ll take that and if we maybe need to do a meta-review or a meta-analysis of what’s available, or a scientific review, we’ll go there,” she told reporters at the legislature.
“But I want to find out what we know first.”
McCuaig-Boyd said she could not say whether there is too much hydraulic fracturing in the province.
[2013 AER (previously ERCB) Reality Check:
Alberta’s 171,000 Oil and Gas Wells Frac’d Before Knowing the Risks
….(refer below to the February 2013 Map by Energy Statistics Office). Only on May 22, 2013, did the energy regulator finally release a frac Directive. (It does not mandate baseline water well testing or completion of community health risk assessments.)
Map presented by the ERCB March 14, 2013 at “The Fracking Truth” Expert Panel in Calgary. ]
Notley said Friday that fracking is an issue that needs to be looked at, but reiterated her government won’t do anything to take the energy industry by surprise.
AER (then ERCB) lawyer Gary Perkins’ angry bullying letter in response to Stewart Shields FOIPing for all records about frac’s gone bad in Alberta:
“They have advised me that responding to such a request would require a massive undertaking on the part of the ERCB, possibly in the order of millions of pages of records.”
FOIP response by ERCB (now AER) to Albertan, Mr. Stewart Shields
2015 07 27: Pennsylvania Study Links Fracking to Health Hazards in Fetuses, Infants, Young Children: 35.1% more cancer in children ages zero to four in heavily frac’d counties. Compare to AER’s belittling, dismissive health study in the Lochend
Alberta’s had an average of two crude oil spills a day, every day for the past 37 years.
That makes 28,666 crude oil spills in total, plus another 31,453 spills of just about any other substance you can think of putting in a pipeline – from salt water to liquid petroleum.
It sounds like a lot. And it isn’t a number the provincial government throws around often. …
The [AER] database provides a granular portrait of mishaps involving the oil in oil country.
But maybe more telling is what it doesn’t include: The regulatory body’s database is messy and missing data in many places; it doesn’t include any spills from some of the biggest pipelines – those crossing provincial or national borders. These fall under National Energy Board jurisdiction. For the 53 per cent of spills from somewhere other than a pipeline, such as oil wells and pumping stations, anything under 2 cubic metres (2,000 litres, or about twelve and a half barrels) doesn’t get counted.
And as Alberta makes the case for dramatically expanding its hydrocarbon veins within the province and to the other end of the continent, some are questioning just how close an eye authorities keep on the 2.5-million barrels of oil flowing through 400,000 kilometres of pipeline every day. [Emphasis added]
2016 06 08: Meet Alberta’s Radioactive Ranchers: Nielle and Howard Hawkwood. Timing is everything. Why did AIMCo (ATB/Heritage Fund connected) announce $200 Million (bailout?) investment in “Quite leveraged” Calfrac on same day NDP Rural Caucus try to get Nielle Hawkwood’s frac ban resolution on floor of NDP’s Annual Convention?
At the end of a comment left to Andrew Nikiforuk’s article included in link above:
ps. For the NDP’s next diversion, I think they should do their own study on the effects of smoking on kids from pre-school to grade 12. Just pick a school in Alberta and get the kids puffing. You never know, perhaps smoking will affect Alberta kids “differently,” than the rest of the world. They might just be able to smoke AND be safe. No “either or” there, and it never hurts to try.