The reports of Dr. LaPierre and Dr. Cleary concur: GNB’s work on the shale gas dossier is seriously deficient Press Release by Upriver Environment Watch, October 17, 2012
On Oct 15, 2012, two New Brunswick government sponsored reports relating to the shale gas industry were released to the public. The first was a report from Dr. LaPierre who was tasked with receiving public reaction to the Government of New Brunswick’s (GNB) proposed regulations on shale gas exploration and extraction. The second was the report of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Dr. Eilish Cleary, on the known and unknown health impacts of the shale gas industry. GNB’s focus has been on the geology and the purported economic benefit of “Boomtown” natural resource development. Human beings, or any other form of life for that matter, were a nuisance issue that would have to be addressed somehow but were not fundamental to the process. But we humans proved to be more pesky than anticipated, so we were thrown a bone or two.
GNB offered property owners a portion of the profits if they allow the gas companies onto their land. This does not respond in any way to the health and environmental concerns of the population but it does remove the right of choice from their neighbours. When that didn’t make us go away, Dr. LaPierre’s consultation commission was mandated.
Meanwhile, our demands for input from health professionals were being met by quiet and diligent work in the Office of the CMOH. Taken together, the recommendations of Dr. LaPierre and Dr. Cleary make it clear that the NB government’s work on this dossier has thus far neglected many, if not most, of the health and quality of life issues that are important to New Brunswick’s citizens. GNB would have to go back to square one and begin again in order to begin to address these concerns.
Dr. LaPierre reported very clearly on the population’s lack of faith in this government’s commitment to protecting its citizens. Astonishingly, an unrelated news report this morning highlights the Government’s complete misunderstanding of the importance of regulations protecting air and water quality. It was announced on CBC that the GNB no longer wants to require monitoring of emissions from small industry. (1) Would this also apply to emissions from individual well pads? If shale gas development goes forward as the government has hoped, there would be thousands of these well pads in the province, but each on its own might be seen as a small industrial project. It is hard to understand how GNB could even consider relaxing air quality regulations at this time.
The undersigned groups appreciate that Dr. LaPierre’s report noted:
1. The May 2012 GNB discussion document he was tasked to share and consult was flawed, because it failed to properly identify the peer-reviewed sources that informed its authors (the GNB Natural Gas Group).
2. The absence of provincial aquifer mapping is a major concern and a necessary step in the protection of water resources before this industry proceeds
3. A major piece missing from the whole process is the most basic financial cost-benefit analysis. In other words, why are we doing this exactly?
4. The paucity of objective research and the need for ongoing independent studies that would either confirm or disprove the notion that this can be done safely.
Dr. Cleary’s broad and detailed report spoke to the very real and justified concerns that community and conservation groups have been raising for two years:
1. Her report is the first time a GNB agency speaks to the issue of equity of risk vs. profit. Those who experience the risk are not often the ones who benefit.
2. Dr. Cleary suggests the very important point that sensitive areas be totally excluded from exploration and development of shale gas. Land around aquifers, residential areas, and farm land spring to mind.
3. She talks of quality of life and health not simply in terms of absence of illness but in the totality of a person’s well-being. From this flows limits to industrial activities such as: adequate distance from homes, schools and hospitals; traffic noise, vibrations, light, and work hours. These limits could offer New Brunswickers some protection from the appalling daily experience of people who currently live in shale gas plays elsewhere in North America.
4. Dr. Cleary reviewed fundamental human rights, including the rights of children and the right of all human beings to self-determination. These values underpin our laws and our society, and are especially dear here in New Brunswick, home to Dr. John Humphrey, author of the international Universal Declaration on Human Rights. From these values come laws that allow communities to separate populations from industrial processes that can harm them, as well as other regulations designed to protect us from preventable harm.
Dr. Cleary is the first New Brunswick official to openly discuss the fundamental issue that has been completely absent in all industry and government communication: THE SCALE Of SHALE GAS DEVELOPMENT. The raw natural gas is spread throughout the deep shale layer and the only way to currently extract is to put wells everywhere. Massive shale oil mining, which is now planned for Albert County, is just as alarming in scale and potential impact, and of equal concern to our groups. Dr. Cleary’s and Dr. Lapierre’s reports offer many recommendations that if acted upon MIGHT make the shale oil and gas industry LESS RISKY and DAMAGING to the population and the environment. But there is simply no way to change the fundamental insanity of this deep shale mining and fracking process. And, as this morning’s news report illustrates, the current government of New Brunswick continues to display obvious pro-industry bias. No one can seriously trust them to do more than pay lip-service to the issues raised by its own experts.
We therefore continue to demand that all shale gas work be halted in the province of New Brunswick.
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Media refer: Denise Melanson, 506-523-9467
This release is issued by Upriver Environment Watch, a rural Kent County NB community group. The release is supported by other groups opposed to shale gas and oil development in Albert, Kent and Westmoreland counties:
Our Environment/Our Choice
Memramcook Action/Action Memramcook
Tantramar Alliance Against Hydro-Fracking
Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County (WEPAC)