Ongoing water shortages as Fox Creek overhauls infrastructure by Paige Parsons, June 18, 2015, Edmonton Journal
FOX CREEK – After months under a water ban, the Town of Fox Creek is continuing to struggle to keep water levels rising.
Fox Creek Mayor Jim Ahn said the ban was lifted Monday and replaced with restrictions, but that it’s likely a temporary step forward. When the ban was put in place this spring, there was only three-feet of water in the town’s water tower. According to a regulation in place since the 1960s, there is supposed to be a minimum of 12-feet for fire protection.
Recent precipitation has helped refill the town’s reservoirs, but Ahn said they’ll be watching levels closely. “Once we get close to that we’ll have to put the ban in again,” he said. He said lifting the ban will bring some relief, but residents likely won’t be satisfied until a long-term solution is in place. [What about long term solutions for Campbells, Ann Craft, Zimmermans, Jacks, Rosebud, Redland, Lochend, Daunheimers, Mildensteins etc etc etc?]
Fox Creek is spending $12-million this year to dig four new wells into a different aquifer, build a transport pipeline and update its water treatment plant, all of which should be operating by November.
In the meantime, the town applied to the province for permission to lower pumps in its existing wells to access deeper water, which Alberta Environment and Parks spokeswoman Lisa Glover said isn’t “a typical request.” Glover said risk to the aquifer has to be assessed before permission is granted, but in this instance there aren’t any apparent issues.
A lack of precipitation is only partly to blame for the town’s lagging water supply. Dry conditions have restricted water use in a number of Alberta communities this spring, but Fox Creek is under extra pressure.
A “shadow population” of oil and gas workers has nearly doubled its permanent population of 2,112, while older water infrastructure isn’t holding up well against the little community’s growth spurt that’s thanks to energy operations in the surrounding area. “We had a 20-year plan for that aquifer that has now stretched into about 35 years. So the aquifer is now getting tired,” Fox Creek chief administrative officer Roy Dell said.
However, some Fox Creek residents are questioning if hydraulic fracturing operations in the area are sucking up the town’s water. Lee-Anna Jack said she doesn’t know for sure if fracking is the cause of the water shortage, but said it is a concern. “I think people are more worried that we’re not going to have enough water to sustain our daily living,” she said.
Twenty-year resident Barry Kozdrowski is also worried. “The snow had just melted and we had a water ban, like we couldn’t believe it. Where’s all the run-off going?” Kozdrowski said.
Ahn confirmed three energy companies draw water from the same aquifer Fox Creek uses. However, he said the three companies collectively use less water per day than the town does. [Is anyone assessing the cumulative frac impacts to groundwater from surface water withdrawals and earthquakes?]
“From my understanding, them drawing water will deplete the aquifer to a certain degree, but we’re not competing for the same water, so even if we were to exercise our right to turn off their water system, it probably wouldn’t have an effect on our wells for probably a few years,” Ahn said.
The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is in charge of enforcing the Water Act in relation to energy companies’ activities.
AER spokesman Riley Bender said the regulator authorizes water use only when environmental protection is “fully achieved” and that there have been no immediate changes to existing water licences in the Fox Creek area. [And when companies violate the Water Act and take whatever water they like, without notifying communities, other businesses, or the AER and the AER happily looks the other way, as did when Encana illegally frac’d drinking water aquifers at Rosebud and diverted water without a licence?] [Emphasis added]
IMAGINE! TOWN OF FOX CREEK REPORTEDLY ADMITTED YESTERDAY THAT THEY RECEIVED A NON-COMPLIANCE CITATION FOR IMPROPER WATER SAMPLING RECORDING AND REPORTING!
Did Encana, Quicksilver, Penn West, Real Resources, etc, and Alberta Environment and the ERCB (now AER) get non-compliance citations for their dreadfully improper water sampling recording (or avoidance of sampling) and reporting?
Refer also to:
A proportion (25% to 100%) of the water used in hydraulic fracturing is not recovered, and consequently this water is lost permanently to re-use, which differs from some other water uses in which water can be recovered and processed for re-use.
A few frac water impact photos:
Water from affected home near Marcellus shale gas well with leaking pit
New technique shows shale-drilling additives in drinking-water taps near leak
Ernst kitchen tapwater after Encana illegally frac’d Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers
2007 06 07: Used sampling bag that held duplicate gas sample from Ernst water taken by Alberta Environment
2005 Encana hauling water at Rosebud
Dale Zimmerman hauling water for his family
But not to harmed Albertans, even after the company broke the law fracing.
AER counsel, Glenn Solomon, gives legal advice on how oil companies buy off and gag drinking water contamination cases
Ernst water after Encana deliberately fractured Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers but before Ernst knew
Now the AER is taken seriously as a de-regulator and blanket approval frac project pusher
2015 06 17: Above and below photos of tanker accident and hazardous spill in the Town of Fox Creek, a stone’s throw to the Creek.
Ernst sacrificing her laundry and storage room for water tanks and pump (very noisy)
2013: Above and below photos of a family’s contaminated drinking water NW of Calgary after fracing nearby.
Have a nice long bath and take a sip. Industry and regulators insist fracing is good for us.
12 years later in 2014, frac “experts” ignore the 2002 warnings by the Council and Dr. John Cherry (he ignored his entire chapter four in the Council’s report and continues to!). The warnings apparently so important, the council recently removed their entire report off their website. Ernst had saved and uploaded a copy to keep it public:
2014: Water hoarding to contaminate and frac with in the Lochend, Alberta
[Some background on the heinous industry-greed-induced blanket approval pilot project at Fox Creek, comments written at the time of past postings unless otherwise stated:
INDUSTRY INSIDERS SETTING THE AGENDA ON FRACKING REGULATIONS: NOTLEY Press Release by the Alberta NDP, June 12, 2014
Today, New Democrat Environment critic Rachel Notley released an internal document obtained by the New Democrats which shows that the new energy regulator and the PCs are only consulting with industry insiders on a pilot project for fracking. Notley is calling on the PCs to ensure that First Nations, environmental groups, as well as all other interested Albertans, are included in the consultation process.
In 2011, the New Democrats released information showing that the government was colluding with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to create a public relations strategy for fracking.
Yesterday, two First Nations announced they were suing the Alberta Energy Regulator, after they had been excluded from hearings on development applications.
“It’s just business-as-usual for this PC government to talk about consulting and about a world-class regulatory regime and then turn around and work secretly with industry to ‘reduce the regulatory burden,’” Notley said. “Albertans are tired of a secretive, old-boys club approach to development in this province. We need a government that puts Albertans first.” [Then, Albertans must prove it, and vote Harper and the PC’s out. Comment added in 2015: Albertans did! Now, Canadians must also. Will Canadians vote the “monster” law-violating, Charter-decimating Harper government out?]
Notley noted that the draft regulations include several troubling elements which would profoundly reduce independent oversight of fracking activity in the province.
Concerns Around Draft Play Based Regulation (PBR)
Process around developing this regulation is fundamentally flawed. When AER legislation was first introduced by Redford government in 2012, those who worried about the exclusion of interested parties from application hearings were assured that extensive consultation would occur on policy prior to the application process commencing. The process around these regulations, and the process for consultation within these regulations both represent a clear example of that promise being broken
Stated Objective is to reduce regulatory oversight of industry (characterized as regulatory burden within the document). (pg. 5)
Proposes moving towards a single application and approval process that covers the entire lifespan of projects throughout the play (one play can cover hundreds of square kilometers). This obviously significantly reduces objective oversight. (pg. 3)
Justifies new play based regulation process by suggesting that it will be completed within context of other land management processes (i.e. water for life and land use planning). However, those other government initiatives are stalled and incomplete throughout most of the province. (i.e. Pilot project site has no completed land use framework and is also the site of endangered caribou herds). (pg. 4)
Delegates the task of consulting with stakeholders on the particular application throughout its lifespan to industry itself. In so doing, removes the objectivity and the integrity of the stakeholder consultation process. (pg. 9, 11)
NDP blasts energy pilot project that would see fracking regulations reduced, Says government plan undermines environmental regime by Marty Klinkenberg, June 12, 2014, Edmonton Journal
Alberta’s NDP is concerned that the provincial government is working with oil and gas executives to reduce regulations related to the controversial process of fracking. [Hasn’t it become obvious around the world, that the only way companies can profit from fracing is without troublesome negotiations with home and landowners, regulations, accountability or liability – above or below ground?]
A government document obtained by the NDP shows Alberta’s Energy Regulator is scheduled to meet next week with industry officials to discuss a pilot project that will reduce regulations and streamline the application process for fracking and other forms of unconventional oil and gas development.
The information session on June 17 is meant to brief industry representatives on regulations that will be tested in the Fox Creek area beginning in September. Representatives from Alberta’s Environment and Energy departments will also attend the meeting, the document shows.
“At the same time government is selling itself as being a steward of the environment, it is working behind closed doors to undermine the integrity of our environmental regime,” NDP critic Rachel Notley said Thursday. “It is the type of game-playing you expect from a tired, 40-year-old government that is not going to change.
“Making major changes to regulations that govern fracking shouldn’t be done behind closed doors with a bunch of industry insiders, it should happen in public. Albertans deserve better than this.”
Bob Curran, a spokesman for the Alberta Energy Regulator, said the regulations on trial will apply only to development in the Fox Creek area, site of a geological formation estimated to contain 443 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 61.7 billion barrels of oil.
“Let’s be clear: this is a draft for a pilot, brought about predominantly by landowner concerns that we have heard about for years,” Curran said in an email. “A pilot project, by definition, is designed to test draft regulations.
“We are not changing the regulations, nor are we proposing changes at this time. We are putting together a pilot project. That is all.” [How dark and deep can the AER lies go? The intent of this pilot project is to use the same frac frenzy, blanket approval across all of Alberta, with other provinces and countries to follow the “Alberta Model” ]
According to the document obtained by the NDP, a final version of the regulations under review is scheduled to be released on June 27.
A recent draft of the pilot project describes it as “the start of a change in the way that the AER regulates the energy sector.” [What else can we expect when the government appoints Encana to Chair the AER, via Mr. Gerard Protti? Question asked in 2015:Will the NDP government do the right thing and remove Protti from his “conflict of interest” Chair?]
The regulations being tested “are intended to reduce the burden placed on industry” and “manage risks to achieve play-based objectives and Government of Alberta policy outcomes.”
The regulations to be tested propose a single application process that authorizes activities carried out over the lifetime of a project, and tasks approval-holders with reporting requirements. [AKA industry gets to self-regulate]
“Overall the intent (of the approach) is orderly and responsible development,” the draft says. [Proverb: The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions]
Curran said if government decides to implement regulatory changes based on the pilot project, the proposed changes will be made public and an opportunity will be provided for feedback.
Notley believes government has already made up its mind, however. [Ernst agrees w Ms. Notely. Industry demanded blanket approval in 2004 when companies experienced severe push back from Alberta landowners and when they saw how expensive frac’ing is, and how uneconomic unconventional plays are. What industry demands under Harper and Alberta, industry gets unless people stop round tabling it, stop synergizing, and loudly yell they are opposed.]
“If the pilot project is successful, it will serve as a template for future development,” she said. “There is no question the rules that will govern this type of thing are already a long way down the road.” [Emphasis added]
Alberta NDP leak draft of government’s proposed fracking rules, Document shows Tories excluding public input, New Democrats say by The Canadian Press, June 12, 2014, CBC News
New Democrats release draft of Alberta’s plan to reform energy rules by Bob Weber, The Canadian Press, June 12, 2014, Calgary Herald
The Alberta New Democrats say a leaked draft of proposed rules for unconventional oil and gas developments such as fracking are an example of how the governing Tories are increasingly excluding the public from having its say.
“This government has completely abandoned its obligation to ensure the interests of all Albertans are represented in the course of deciding what parts of the province are developed and how,” environment critic Rachel Notley said Thursday.
The document, dated May 30, outlines a new way to control energy development and proposes a pilot project that includes ranges of threatened caribou herds.
Bob Curran of the Alberta Energy Regulator said the document is only a plan for a pilot project.
“This is not regulatory change — it is a pilot,” he wrote in an email. [Like the Aberdeen Synergy Pilot Project the EUB worked hard, using many lies and bullying, to try to get Ernst to join in on? That “pilot” was a regulator and oil and gas industry experiment to see how well rural Albertans would synergize: accept being harmed by frac’ing, lose their health and or safe drinking water supply, yet chant: “We are not opposed.”]
“Once the pilot is complete, we will asses it to determine how to proceed. [AKA Review the experiment results to determine what works best to synergize (control and silence) harmed families and deregulate while keeping Albertans busy at years of round tables, creating VOLUNTARY “Best Practices” for their community, while agreeably chanting (like the 2015 Council of Canadians betrayal of concerned citizens and harmed home owners): “We just need better regulations to make fracing safe. We are not opposed.” Too busy to notice their community getting frac’d to Hell until it’s too late. Too busy to notice the regulator deregulate and government decimate rights.] If we decide to propose regulatory change, we will solicit feedback from all stakeholders.”
Curran said the pilot is based on years of [Synergy Alberta] work and public input. A presentation on the regulator’s website is dated July 2013.
“It’s safe to say that we presented this dozens of times across Alberta,” he said.
If the pilot project becomes the new standard, companies would identify environmental risks in an area and explain how [but not necessarily do it. A perfect example is the industry lie everywhere they frac: “We only frac deep deep, way below your drinking water aquifers.”] they would manage to mitigate or avoid them. “This approach involves identifying risks and managing them to achieve objectives [changing laws to put legal liability onto the property owner and continue fracing no matter what the risks and harms are, while saying and writing they put the accountability on the companies], driving the accountability to those that carry out the activities,” the document says.
The intent is to force [With another pilot synergy project? Companies have been fracing the hell out of communities across Alberta for 14 years!] companies to take into account other activities in an area such as forestry or agriculture. It would also allow the Alberta Energy Regulator to fine-tune requirements to the specifics of one region. The document characterizes the change as one “from activity-by-activity regulation to the regulation of multiple activities across large areas.”
Critics say it’s one approval process for all of a company’s activities in a single region. [Refer below. When the frac experiments started in Alberta, numerous landowners objected to the many harms the regulators were letting companies get away with including violating the Water Act and fracing drinking water aquifers. Companies complained to regulators and government that they were being slowed down by angry landowners, fed up with the endless broken promises and unmitigated cumulative impacts. Companies demanded unhindered access to the land for unconventional oil and gas by way of “blanket approvals” because dealing with the harmed and angry landowners was costing too much time and money. (2005 CERI conference attended by Ernst)]
Most are still being developed, something likely to take years. [AKA Keep concerned and angry Albertans synergized, talking and eating together at round tables and going nowhere, but getting frac’d] The government hopes to have its pilot program running by September.
The plan also relies on industry self-reporting on how well it’s living up to its commitments.
Notley said the so-called play-based regulations are being developed without any public input. Industry received a copy of the proposal June 3. [It’s more likely that industry created the proposal]
She sees it as part of a trend by the government and the regulator to narrow the scope of public input on energy development. “We already are excluding the vast majority of Albertans, and now we’re changing the well-by-well application process and replacing it with, ‘Well, we’re going to drill somewhere between one and 500 wells in this 500-square-kilometre area in the next 20 years. Is that OK with you?'” [Emphasis added]
Alberta Energy Regulator validates Fox Creek whistle-blower’s casing report by Barb Ryan, May 6, 2014
It’s been one month since the anonymous whistle-blower facebook post reported a potential water contamination risk due to an incomplete cement well-casing project. The post appeared, April 4, 2014, on local Fox Creek groups and was shared to friend’s pages.
An Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) spokesperson revealed, today, an investigation was conducted and the whistle-blower’s account of events was a legitimate cause for concern. The AER confirmed, a breach in proper procedure did occur,appropriate remediation action was taken and potential water contamination was averted.
Exactly as the whistle-blower reported, there were no visible signs of cement at the well hole’s surface. The inspector subsequently requested the ‘cement bond log’ which further confirmed the whistle-blower’s observations. The cement was, in fact, 50 m below the surface but, fortunately, above the groundwater table.
Trilogy held accountable.
Trilogy was issued a ‘High Risk Enforcement Action’. High Risk Enforcement Actions are described as “strikes” issued against the company and based on a combination or variety of factors: compliance history, previous reports, sensitivity, breach severity, damage, and / or failure to report. Strikes are cumulative. The more legitimate non-compliance reports filed, the more strikes against a company and the higher the level of enforcement and reporting required of them.
In this case, Trilogy took immediate action; potential damages to land, water and health were averted and the problem was remediated as directed by the inspector.
All enforcement actions are published to the AER website within 120 calendar days of enforcement. The last available report is November 2013. Therefore, this particular incident does not, as yet, appear on the website.
This incident did not follow traditional reporting channels; the investigation was indeed initiated due to the facebook post and the Fox Creek community members who reported the post to the AER. Their spokesperson could not comment on whether there were consequences for the original poster, whether they were protected by a whistle-blower clause, nor if any action was taken by the company against the reporting employee. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Looking Ahead to 2010: Natural Gas Markets in Transition by the National Energy Board, Cat. No. NE23-118/2004E, ISBN 0-662-37107-0, August 2004
There are currently about two dozen pilot projects to develop CBM across the WCSB and some participants noted that about 1,000 CBM wells will be drilled this year, resulting in an expected 100 MMcf/d (2.8 million m3/day) of production. While it is too early to accurately assess this emerging supply source, the Board’s scenarios for CBM supply also indicate about 100 MMcf/d in 2004, consistent with actual production to-date.
To-date, there has been mixed success. In attempting to develop CBM, some projects have experienced fresh or salt water production which presents additional challenges with water disposal and tends to increase costs and impact gas production. Other projects have focused on dry coals that produce gas with no water. Considering the variability of coals, the range of success amongst existing pilot projects, and the very early stage of CBM development in Canada, there is still significant uncertainty surrounding the future of CBM development.
The Horseshoe Canyon play in south-central Alberta was described as an example where developments have been positive. Ultimately, some 50,000 wells may be needed to recover the CBM from this area alone. The drilling risk in CBM development is relatively low due to the widespread deposits of known gas resources and drilling programs typically involve a large number of wells and high drilling density to achieve economies of scale.
Several participants have characterized the exploitation of these resources as a “manufacturing process”. At the same time, some concern was expressed by CBM producers over their ability to obtain timely regulatory approval for the large numbers of wells that may be required to develop CBM. It was suggested that a new regulatory framework may be beneficial, and that regulators could consider a “blanket approach” to approve drilling programs for this type of development. [Emphasis added]