In ever greater numbers, New Brunswickers are speaking out against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the exploitation of the densely packed unconventional gas sitting below ground. Until now, opposition to drilling has been disparate with some 30 civic groups, many communities and individuals speaking out, but on their own. Now, it seems that the opposition is unifying under a common voice in order to send a firm message that “No Means NO” [pdf] when it comes to fracking in the province.
The August 1st Fracking Day march and protest in Fredericton, co-organized by 16 environmental and community groups, was a huge success drawing a crowd of around 1,500 people as well as representatives from the opposition political parties, all on a provincial holiday. The many groups opposing fracking and unconventional gas are hoping for another breakthrough as they have been invited to the community of Taymouth by the Taymouth Community Association for the second formal meeting to form a common voice and to build short and long term province-wide strategy to stop drilling.
Houston-based Southwestern Energy Co. is facing more lawsuits because of destructive hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) practices.
Southwestern is already accused of contaminating a dozen Pennsylvanian families’ drinking water, and now Arkansas families are also claiming that Southwestern’s fracking for unconventional gas is poisoning their freshwater. What’s more, Tim Holton, lead lawyer for the case believes that hundreds of people may join this latest suit, which seeks millions of dollars in damages, and is asking the courts to require independent monitoring of water supplies and public health in areas near to fracking activities.
The New Brunswick Energy Commission released its Public Feedback Document on the province’s 10-year energy policy plan earlier this week. Despite recent public outcry and growing scientific concern about threats to drinking water, health and the global climate posed by fracked unconventional gas, the Energy Commission recommends continuing to develop heavily polluting dirty gas, contradicting both renewable energy and carbon emission reduction goals.
The province’s Premier asked the Energy Commission’s co-Chairs William Thompson and Jeannot Volpé to engage with the public on the province’s energy future beginning in October 2010. Today’s document was developed from more than 1,400 completed surveys submitted online, over 200 public dialogue attendee surveys, more than 60 stakeholder group meetings and some 75 public presentations.
The health risks and environmental degradation (like pollution and overuse of freshwater) that comes with unconventional shale gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are increasingly well known. The Commissioners, regrettably, are still fully supportive of rapidly expanding this dirty gas drilling boom as an economic asset and development tool, stating:
On Canada’s east coast, American oil and gas companies are doubling down and betting that the small maritime province of New Brunswick is the next shale gas hot spot.
How has New Brunswick become a primary destination for oil and gas companies? Two reasons in particular stand out: 1) The government does not know how it will manage shale gas exploration (having only just released its “framework for a long-term action plan to manage the exploration, development and utilization of domestic natural gas” last Thursday evening) - which means companies that invest early will have a say in developing gas exploitation policies; 2) In terms of gas concentrations per square kilometer, New Brunswick may hold North America’s largest shale bed [PDF].
New Brunswick was not on the gas industry’s radar a couple of years ago but things are changing rapidly as American gas developers are rushing across the border to snap up exploration rights in order to win big in the destructive shale boom.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.