“The Stelmach two-step” by Paul and Helen Rez-Rouleau, Victoria BC, January 24, 2008, The Edmonton Journal
Recent news from Alberta demonstrates the truth of the old saying, “Who pays the piper calls the tune.” The oil and gas companies are the payers; Ed Stelmach and his Conservatives dance to their tune.
First, we have Stelmach in Washington D.C. claiming that the high environmental cost of extracting oil from Alberta’s tar sands is a myth. Perhaps he is not aware that it takes 4 barrels of water to produce a barrel of tar sands oil, and has not seen the devastation of the boreal forest or the huge ponds of poisoned waste water that threaten the Athabasca River.
Don’t be too hard on Stelmach: he’s likely listened to advice from experts at the supposedly independent Alberta Research Council (ARC; now called Alberta Innovates Technology Futures). These are the folks who just released their study of coalbed methane (CBM) development and water well pollution that makes about as much sense as the Premier’s attempted sell job in the U.S.
Alberta landowners claim that their water has become unusable even by animals since EnCana and CBM came thundering into their lives. Their water is not only undrinkable; it burns skin and can be set on fire. The situation is so dire that Alberta Environment delivered safe potable water for some claimants.
ARC scientists reviewed Alberta Environment’s data and would have us believe that, as soon as CBM arrived, these landowners suffered collective amnesia about how to care for their water wells. In spite of the suspiciously coincidental timing, CBM had nothing to do with rendering the water unusable and dramatically dropping static water levels.
It’s telling that ARC focused entirely on one chemical, methane, which can occur naturally in well water in small amounts. The other chemicals present in all the tested wells, almost certainly from petroleum industry activities, are dismissed. Of course, the council’s findings support industry’s claims of innocence. This is where the nonsense lies.
ARC’s 2007 annual report states that both Alberta Environment and EnCana fund the council’s groundwater and CBM impact studies. See page 14 (pdf p. 8) to read about this tune-calling.
Government’s response to the study is to cut off water deliveries and initiate an education program for well owners. What will be their excuse when “educated” well owners complain about water polluted after CBM fracturing? Why is Alberta Environment so unconcerned about the likelihood that CBM is poisoning and depleting aquifers?
With all the spying, lying and bullying going on in Alberta, all we can say is, thank god we don’t live there. Unfortunately, CBM development is happening in BC as well. Hopefully our Premier is not as keen a dancer as Ed Stelmach.
[Refer also to:
In April 2012, after Ernst paying $4,150 dollars, 1.5 years in official inquiry by the OIP Commissioner’s Office and giving up thousands of hours over four years trying to get the public baseline testing data mainly collected by Encana and used by Dr. Blyth (as of June 15, 2016 still withheld) and records used/related to his reports under Freedom of Information Legislation, ARC finally releases to Ernst that Alberta Environment (the regulator the ARC was “reviewing”) secretly edited Blyth’s “independent” reports:
The released records also revealed that Alberta Environment edited Dr. Blyth’s publicly released “Independent” Summary Report of the four water contamination investigations by Alberta Environment (on the Zimmerma, Signer, Lauridsen and Ernst water wells).
Dr. Blyth’s CV, Proposal and Terms of Reference agreed to with Alberta Environment are included:
A few key quotes:
The purpose of the Summary Report is to inform the general public about the findings of the ARC scientific reviews and to increase public confidence in the AENV complaint investigation process. [Shouldn’t the purpose be to find out what happened to the water to contaminate it, what companies did with their hydraulic fracturing and where, and if the companies were compliant with Alberta laws and regulations etc?]
The Summary Report is to be written in a manner that is…. Clearly understood by the general public (aim for Grade 8 education level) [Emphasis added]