The future of fracking could be determined this week by James Munson, April 28, 2014, ipolitics.ca
Any interest by the federal government in regulating the fracking boom across Canada could be determined by a landmark report to be released this week. Ottawa has staked any requirement to regulate the game-changing petroleum extraction method on a study by the Council of Canadian Academies, an arm’s-length [Not necessarily true. Who appointed the Chair and panel members doing the frac literature review? Do they tell the truth when they present publicly on fracing? Where do some of them get their funding from? Who approved the report? The Board of Governors includes Ex-Alberta MLA Ted Morton, avidly pro-fracing and appointed by the Harper government, making the Council far from arm’s length.] scientific advisory body the federal government sometimes turns to for independent advice [The body is not the same as the Chair and panel that was appointed for only the frac literature review. The Harper government appointed Ex-Alberta MLA Ted Morton to the Board of Governors of the body on June 18, 2013 for a three year term. Ted is not a scientist and showed only full-steam ahead, no concern for frac mishaps, intentional fracs by Encana into community aquifers or any Albertans harmed by fracing during his time as politician].
The study, which the CCA says will be released on Thursday, won’t necessarily lead to increased regulation – its aim is to give Ottawa an overview of the scientific literature on fracking. But it could potentially impact the direction of the politically charged debate over fracking in some rural parts of Canada. “The release of this report can either make people more or less uncertain about whether fracking is environmentally benign or not,” said Paul Boothe, a former deputy minister at Environment Canada. “If it is generally reassuring about fracking, about the state of knowledge and what that knowledge is, then that may reassure people in other parts of the country. The reverse could be true as well.”
Most of the regulatory approvals for fracking are up to the provinces, including water usage permits and safety requirements over well design. But several aspects fall under federal legislation, hence Ottawa’s decision in 2012 to draw up a shale gas action plan and commission the CCA study. Both the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), which regulates the use of toxic substances, and the Fisheries Act, which protects fisheries, are potentially impacted by fracking, according to a ministerial memo to then Environment Minister Peter Kent obtained by the Council of Canadians under an access-to-information request in 2013. [The Harper government decimated fisheries and water protections in Canada and refuses to implement CEPA. Ernst gave testimony to a Parliamentary committee in May 2007, beseeching the Harper government to implement CEPA to protect Canadians from the toxics used in fracing. There was zero response.]
Also of interest to the federal government are greenhouse gas emissions from the shale gas industry, which Canada is obligated to curb under international agreements. [The Harper government has shown nothing but disdain for these obligations and the affected international communities]
Under CEPA, the minister can demand operators who use a toxic substance to provide information on its properties and regulate their handling. A major issue among fracking opponents has been the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking fluid. CEPA has provisions that allow commercially sensitive information about these chemicals to remain secret to the public as long as they are disclosed to the regulator. [Alberta’s energy regulator promised for years that all chemicals injected by the oil and gas industry must be disclosed to the regulator and that anyone who asks for the chemical information will receive it. Ernst has asked, repeatedly, never to receive any chemical information except a letter from a regulator lawyer telling her that companies do not need to disclose to the regulator chemicals injected]
“That’s kind of the tension within the industry,” said Boothe, who left his government position in 2012 and is now a professor at the Ivey School of Business. According to Boothe, Environment Canada was looking into whether to regulate fracking fluids under CEPA when he left his post.
Neither the Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources nor the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), the country’s largest oil and gas industry group, could say whether any member firms had been asked to provide fracking fluid information under CEPA.
“I can’t think of any,” said David Pryce, a vice-president of operations at CAPP.
The industry will have its own reasons for watching the CCA study this week. CAPP launched a series of [VOLUNTARY] standards on fracking around the same time Ottawa commissioned the study in 2012. All 100 or so members of CAPP have to agree to the guidelines, but this is the first year members have to report to CAPP about [VOLUNTARILY] following the guidelines, said Pryce.
“At this stage, it’s generalized in the sense of ‘Are you using the practices, yes or no?’” he said. “At the same time, we are looking at the data around water usage – as an example – and we will be acquiring that information in subsequent years as well.”
Boothe, the former deputy environment minister, felt the CAPP [VOLUNTARY] guidelines fell short of what the federal rules demand. [Ha! voluntary rules are meaningless and cannot be enforced by regulators in any province or federally.]
“That was something of interest to the [Harper] government because they’re always looking at alternatives to direct regulation,” he said. “But it’s safe to say that the initial proposal by the industry fell short of where Environment Canada would have gone in terms of disclosure on the make-up of fracking liquids.” [It doesn’t matter that industry’s frac promises fell short, again. Disclosure of frac chemicals and use of the farce of fracfocus does not make fracing safe, nor will it repair frac’d aquifers, heal cancer, repair destroyed public property or recover the billions of gallons of fresh water lost permanently]
Complicating matters is a provincial effort to have fracking fluids disclosed under a program called Fracfocus. Organized by the B.C. Oil & Gas Commission and using the same methodology as a similar program in the U.S., Fracfocus allows the public to look up fracking wells and read Material Safety Data Sheets (a standardized document that lists [SOME OF] the fluid ingredients) for each well. [BUT ONLY 30 DAYS AFTER WELLS ARE FRAC’D which is too late for any citizen, community, municipality, government, regulator, health agency etc to conduct adequate baseline water testing. Fracfocus protects corporations, not water or the public.]
Currently, only B.C., Alberta and the Northwest Territories have signed up for Fracfocus, but New Brunswick may join soon, according to Pryce. CAPP’s guidelines, which don’t require the disclosure of chemicals, do require companies [VOLUNTARILY] use Fracfocus, said Pryce. If the jurisdiction doesn’t have Fracfocus, the member company must [VOLUNTARILY] publicly disclose the Material Safety Data Sheets some other way, “whether it’s a website disclosure or some other vehicle,” he said.
The federal and provincial governments are undertaking a number of other studies on fracking, including the method’s impacts on seismicity and groundwater. [This is the first I’ve heard of the water impacts studies] [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
March 6, 2012: Alberta MLA Ted Morton rejects call for moratorium on fracking: Morton’s response as “a pass-over letter to me saying, ‘Go away, the ERCB has got it under control.’ So the question to me is how are they controlling it if blowouts are happening all the time?”
March 20, 2012: Expert Panel Chair Appointed for Council Assessment on Shale Gas, panel members later appointed:
John Cherry, Chair Director, University Consortium for Field-Focused Groundwater Contamination Research; Associate Director, G360 Centre for Applied Groundwater Research; Adjunct Professor, School of Engineering, University of Guelph (Guelph, ON)
Michael Ben-Eli Founder and Director, Sustainability Laboratory (New York, NY)
Lalita Bharadwaj Associate Professor, Toxicologist, School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK)
Rick Chalaturnyk Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)
Maurice B. Dusseault Part-Time Professor, Engineering Geology, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)
Bernard Goldstein Professor, Environmental and Public Health, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)
Jean-Paul Lacoursière Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering Department, University of Sherbrooke (Sherbrooke, QC)
Ralph Matthews Professor, Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC); Professor Emeritus of Sociology, McMaster University
Bernhard Mayer Professor, Isotope Geochemistry, Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)
John Molson Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Hydrogeology of Fractured Porous Media, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Laval University (Quebec, QC)
Kelly Munkittrick Scientific Director, Canadian Water Network and Professor, Department of Biology, University of New Brunswick (Saint John, NB)
Naomi Oreskes Professor, History and Science Studies, Department of History, University of California (San Diego, CA)
Beth Parker Director, G360 Centre for Applied Groundwater Research, University of Guelph (Guelph, ON)
Paul Young, FRSC Vice President (Research), Professor of Geophysics, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)
Ms. Jessica Ernst (Environmental Specialist, Ernst Environmental Services) Testimony:
Good morning. Bonjour.
I grew up in Montreal. I now live in Alberta. I’m very sorry, but I have forgotten all my French. I live near Rosebud, Alberta. It’s a small, little-theatre cultural town with a lot of beautiful historic resource.
I have worked in the oil patch for 25 years. I have also been banished by the regulator that Mr. David Pryce was so proudly discussing earlier in his presentation. I believe I was banished—this was in writing—by the energy regulator because they were trying to intimidate me.
I have evidence of EnCana Corporation not complying with the noise regulations, and the EUB actually covering up for the non-compliance in writing. I believe that the EUB, the regulator, did this to try to silence me. They copied the RCMP. So I’m very surprised that you, honourable members, here have allowed me to speak, because I do believe this was the first time this had happened in Alberta. I have been informed that the banishment was a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights.
I grew up proud to be a Canadian. I grew up proud of our water, of our leadership on peace and mediation, and environmental issues globally. I have worked in other parts of the world. I have to admit, I’m ashamed to be Canadian now, and I plead to you all as this committee to listen carefully and review the documents, and carefully consider whether the federal government needs to get involved.
I have never seen such atrocities in my 25-year career of working in the oil patch as I have now seen in the boom: human rights violations, environmental degradation, and disrespect of the legislation and the regulations.
In regard to noise, the other day when I was leaving from the airport, the night before I left, the compressor noise—we’re surrounded by 13 EnCana compressors—drove me to distraction. Occasionally the noise is mitigated, but not always. There’s a straw-bale wall surrounding these compressors.
I have direct experience with the water. This is my water, on fire, from my tap, poured into a pop bottle, a water bottle. There is no sugar in there. A few minutes later I set it on fire. I’ve lived in my place since 1998, 50 acres. CBM came and my water dramatically changed–a chemical burst on my skin and eyes. My dogs not only refused to drink the water, but they would back up. White smoke was coming off the water.
There were whistling taps. I didn’t know what it was. I was really busy. I thought it was my plumbing. I thought, “Oh my goodness, I have to replace the taps.” Little did I know that I was living in an explosive time bomb. It was methane and other hydrocarbons coming out of my taps. Sometimes I couldn’t even close my taps there was so much gas. I couldn’t get suds out of my soap or shampoo anymore; the water changed.
Also, living rurally, you know you get stains on your plumbing and toilets—sorry to speak so intimately. All of a sudden my toilets went pristine, brand new. Something got rid of the stains, I think probably what was burning my skin.
Mr. Pryce mentioned the good regulations. This happened in 2004. These are the two aquifers in my community. This is an EnCana well. It fractured into—into—our aquifers. So the protection and the separation that was discussed is not possible. Perforations, which explode through the casing, and then the fracs, and who knows what solvents went into our aquifers?
In the States, EnCana was found to contaminate groundwater and did not protect health and safety.
This again is another picture of my water, a different picture. I don’t do this in the house anymore because the flame exploded so high it shot up to the ceiling. I’m a blur in the picture—this is me here—because I had to jump; it scared me.
We have one out of 20 resource wells leaking. The landowner in an investigation is usually blamed, instead of comprehensive testing of the resource wells. There are ways to find out which gas wells are leaking. They can be fixed. In this case, EnCana has stated publicly that they do not need to cooperate with this investigation because they don’t believe in the science that can lead to finding out which wells are leaking.
The regulators misinform the public. We have thousands of resource wells leaking.
The new testing that came up only began when a number of concerned citizens went to the legislature and went to the public. The MAC committee was still in deliberation. I believe the testing requirements wouldn’t have happened.
We have now had, finally, a number of years of CBM, but our knowledge on groundwater is behind. The precautionary principle: where is it?
In 2005, industry advised the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board that some of their shallow fracs were damaging oil and gas wells. So they brought in some new rules. These rules should have been brought in before they began the experiments, especially for our drinking water.
This is a water well that exploded last spring. The farmer had dealt for three years with the regulator–the so-called best regulator. What’s wrong with this picture? Three men were seriously injured on sampling day. After contamination, some companies refused to cough up the data that was needed to investigate and remediate.
This is a diagram that the AEUB, the energy board, and Alberta Environment go to the public with. They say it never happens. Oh, no, there is no leaking.
By the way, methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2, and we have thousands of these leaking methane directly into the atmosphere. There is surface casing vent flow, and gas migration through soils. The interesting thing is that the AEUB, in 2007, is even warning that the gas leakage and the gas migration potential is worse in the shallow zones. This is where we’re going to be doing our CBM and where our water is.
In Rosebud water we have 30 milligrams to 66 milligrams of dissolved methane, as well as free gas. CAPP, which is here today on the video, has a report that one milligram puts you at risk of explosion if the water passes through an unventilated place. A light switch, static in my hair, could have blown up my house.
The regulator is still in denial. They have done tests on our water. You have a table. We have benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes in our water. We have ethane, propane, methane, butane, and octanes, and we have kerosene in the community drinking water. In most cases, the landowner is blamed for the contamination by way of bacteria. On the table, you can look at the process we have to go through.
I read your report that came out recently on the chemicals and your Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and I plead with you to please implement this act in Alberta.
We are told that only nitrogen is used, so our water is safe because nitrogen comes from the air. I would like to show you a list. This came from Oilweek. These are a variety of products, hundreds of them, used in different stages of drilling, [f]racking, and servicing. Some of them contain diesel and mineral oil. In Alberta, the regulator does not require industry to disclose any of the chemicals used, not even if they’re toxic, not even if it’s benzene, a known carcinogen, or toluene, which damages the brain, notably in children. Toluene was found in our water.
We need to know what the chemicals are, especially so shallow, and I believe that the federal act is perfect. I noticed in your report this is seldom used and seldom implemented. I would like to ask that you use this and implement it in Alberta and ask the regulators to control the chemicals being used.
I have seen many pallets of chemicals that aren’t even on this list, bags of chemicals that say, “Danger, Unregulated”. Nobody knows what’s inside, driving through playground zones. We don’t know now how to analyze our water. These chemicals could have gone into our water, but we don’t know what to test for.
I also brought with me a pledge to protect our groundwater. You had this translated. I would like to ask every member of Parliament, not just the committee members, to sign this pledge and fax it to Honourable Minister Baird and our Honourable Premier Stelmach.
There are a few things we would like done to protect our groundwater.
CBM can be a fantastic new resource. We can all share in the prosperity. Canada is a fantastic country. I would like to see the Canada I knew as a child come back from corporate rule. I would like to see the people in charge. I would like to see public health and safety protected. There are still people in my community bathing in and drinking water with benzene and toluene. We do not need to harm people to have prosperity.
Coal-bed methane will spread far. The shales are coming. They will spread far. These impacts, violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, will spread through the country if we continue to allow industry to rule.
The precautionary principle: why are we allowing perforations and fractures into these shallow zones above the base of groundwater protection? Industry still doesn’t know what these shallow perfs and fracs do. They have stated this in writing to the EUB. Why don’t we learn first? We can do an economical mitigation here, slow down, think first, collect some data first. Let’s find out what we’re doing to our groundwater. This is Canada’s water. We all have water on the table here. This water will affect all of us.
The story has been much in the news. I bring one gift for my French friends here today. Quebec journalists are writing three stories on the water situation. In September, I believe, the Rosebud water situation will be published, but they are also writing about climate change. I find it interesting that Quebec is so concerned about what is happening to our water in Alberta that they’re sending journalists out. There is an Alberta Views article. I have copies here for you. They’ve been handed in. Even Canadian Business magazine has published the story about the water. There I am with my water. I can’t live with this water anymore. It’s too dangerous. I have trucked-in water that the Alberta government is supplying and paying for. I’ve lost my independence. I live rurally. I have to rely on trucked-in deliveries. I want my water back. I want to protect water for others.
In conclusion, in my experience, the regulations are not working. The regulators are not working. Instead of dealing with the industry’s non-compliance, they banished an ordinary citizen, considered me a threat to safety and the public. I had just found out when I got this letter from my regulator in Canada, a country that I thought was a democracy, that I was living in danger of explosion from my water. Yes, methane can be natural, but it is normally at very low levels. Nothing like the levels we have after this company, EnCana, fractured directly into our potable water supplies. They have cemented this well off, but we do not know what damage has been done to our aquifers. This is very serious.
Thank you. ]