"It Can't All Be True": Canadian Government Launches New Fracking Studies

According to Environmental Minister Peter Kent, the Canadian government is entering into the shale gas debate by launching two simultaneous studies of fracking and its impacts on the environment.  Environment Canada is pursuing an in-house review of the controversial fracking process, while the Council of Canadian Academies will lead an independent investigation to provide an expert assessment of the science and environmental impacts associated with fracking.

Both federal and provincial governments have traditionally supported the development of the country’s rich unconventional gas deposits. Yet growing opposition has led to civil discontent in some areas like Quebec, where concern over fracking’s environmental impact resulted in a moratorium while a more thorough scientific review is conducted.
Quebec’s cautionary approach has prompted others to ask why provinces like British Columbia, Alberta, and New Brunswick, where there is equal cause for concern, are not taking a similar science-based approach. But the federal government has met calls for independent investigations and environmental evaluation with silence.
Ottawa can monitor shale gas development, says Minister Kent, and has the authority to oversee the industry, but leaves that responsibility to local jurisdictions and their provincial counterparts. This (heavily criticized) arrangement means there is a dangerous lack of national operating standards, giving rise to provincial self-regulation and back room deals with industry.
Minister Kent’s recent announcement that the federal government will now take part in determining the risks associated with fracking and shale gas development was met with mixed emotions.
According to University of Toronto’s Douglas Macdonald, federal intervention may be just what the situation calls for. “A lack of co-ordination is a real problem,” says Macdonald, “the environment may suffer, industry suffers.”
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) also welcomed the announcement. A review of this kind is what the industry needs to affirm fracking’s safety to the public, according to Tom Huffaker, CAPP vice president of policy and environment.
President and CEO of Questerre Energy, Michael Binnion says the government should stick to facilitating development between the provinces as an “honest broker.” Ottawa’s involvement “in regulating provincial assets or resources is not something I would support from the business, industry, or personal level,” says Binnion.
Questerre’s plans to drill in the Utica shale came to a halt with the moratorium in Quebec and anything less than a full endorsement from the government could make matters worse for the company. “There is a lot of different information out there about shale gas industry and hydraulic fracturing and it’s different enough that it can’t all be true,” says Binnion.
And while Minister Kent feels the study is necessary to assess “the state of scientific knowledge” surrounding the issue, NDP environment critic Megan Leslie sees the pair of studies in a different light.
“I find it hard to believe that Environment Canada and that the government doesn’t already know a lot of the information,” says Leslie, who considers the investigation a “stalling tactic” to further delay the implementation of a real regulatory framework.
According to the Council of Canadian Academies, the expert assessment could take up to 18 months.
For the provinces already experiencing drilling, Minister Kent’s announcement is long overdue and seems weak in the face of what holds in the balance.


Things are no better in Nova Scotia, where the Dexter NDP government is doing their utmost to lease Nova Scotia for gas and oil development, heedless of the costs to infrastructure and environment.

Since there is no “stable state” fracking technology , it is hard to ban. Canadians advantage here is that provinces can simply not offer gas leases when they know that fracking would be involved. Unfortunately our governments seem bewitched by frackings alleged economic wonders .

More than a little irony in Megan Leslie’s concern for fracking in Ottawa, but disinterest in fracking in Nova Scotia.

It’s hard for the government to pass up the chance for really cheap energy that is also reasonably clean compared to oil and coal. Gas is also the best option for a transition/backup fuel in the move towards renewable options. The UK is building gas-fired power plants as backups to wind power, it’s a necessary evil I guess.

Wind would be much better if they could use energy storage rather than gas back up. I wonder why wind energy isn’t just stored by carbon flywheels. Power available when you need it.

well probably so - but it’s a nice dream - wind and tidal energy supplying huge underground maglev bearing high speed spinning flywheels in a vacuum. free energy. A man can dream can’t he?

The harper government is well run and I’m sure they will get the science out and get on with Fracking.

We’re not going “headlong”.  Hydraulic fracturing has been used in Western Canada on a major scale since the early to mid Nineties.  The safety and cost effectiveness record speaks for itself.  There have been no environmental or safety problems for the public. 

And how else do you think we ended up with sub-$5 natural gas prices?

Perhaps you’d like to pay more?

David, are you unfamiliar with what happened in Rosebud Alberta ? Are Jessica Ernst and her neighbors not , the public ? www.ernstversusencana.ca .

What gas company has opened it’s books to public scrutiny ?

“it is impossible to build a well that does not leak” Dr. Anthony Ingraffea PhD Rock Fracture Mechanics.

“David, are you unfamiliar with what happened in Rosebud Alberta ?”

Oh, you mean activist Jessica Ernst latching on to Encana, the government of Alberta, and the ERCB in a bid to sue her way onto easy street for $30 million?

It seems you are unfamiliar with the fact that people file nuisance suits against large companies all the time, in hopes of striking it rich.  In fact, it’s a rather healthy industry for lawyers. 

And why not?  No matter how far-fetched the claims, the low cost of merely filing a lawsuit is nothing compared to the potential payout.  If you win, it’s like winning the lottery. 

The downside is, particularly in Jessica Ernst’s case, the odds are about the same.  She might as well stand around waiting to get hit by lightning.  I doubt any common sense would ever dissuade her, either.  Once visions of hitting the $30+million jackpot are dancing in someone’s head!

Hell, for that kind of money, I might even be tempted to claim PetroCanada put a voodoo curse on my truck, and now I don’t seem to enjoy eating porkchops as much as I used to.  Nothing ventured, nothing  gained!

Of course, her lawsuit is still before the provincial court.  Be sure to let us know if she wins, because that’ll definitely happen.

Or not.

“What gas company has opened it’s books to public scrutiny ?”

Only every single one that’s a publicly-traded company – which would be 99.9% of them.

And, as it just so happens, Encana is a publicly-traded company!  Who knew?!  Mystery solved!

So, just for you, here’s a link to all of their annual reports going back to 2002, as well as links to quarterly reports:


Knock yourself out.

well Dave you seem to know all about Jessica Ernst , except the facts . In defense of your beloved gas , you slander the industry’s victims. Jessica has chromium-6 in her drinking water. At least 50 landowners in her area also reported well contamination from fracking , and given the Osborn study out of Duke University, there is nothing surprising in this at all.

If you think those financial statements tell the story, your …very naive

I am just waiting for my chance. I have 3 of the nastiest water well you can imagine on my property. Fought these well for 20 for years with sand filters but they were just too nasty. Right now the drilling is about 30 miles away but moving this way. My plan is to wait till they drill this section and then pour down some of the frack chemicals and call my lawyer. Is chromium 6 used by these people?

Think of yourself as a modern-day alchemist: You’re trying to turn chrome into gold!

Nobody has managed it yet, but think how exciting (and rewarding!) it will be if you succeed.

And the best part of it is, you don’t need a spooky alchemist’s laboratory in your castle, with all sorts of mysterious bubbling potions and magic spells.  All you need is an unscrupulous lawyer, specializing in liability suits, who is willing to work on spec.

What could be simpler?

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that in coal bed methane fracking, basically all that’s normally used is nitrogen, CO2, sand and recirculated ground water (brine).  But, hey, it’s your word against theirs for a chance at easy street, and what have you got to lose?

Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes, I say!  And if the hexavalent chrome ploy doesn’t work, just claim they contaminated your wells with dihydrogen monoxide.  I can practically guarantee you’ll find plenty of that lying around.

BTW, as your “scientific consultant”, I’m good for, what?  30%?  Whaddya’ say?

Oh, well they use plutonium and used cat litter for fracking that.  And for some reason, they need to inject it directly into your drinking water well – particularly if it’s next door to a day care centre.

David S.

Wow, by the tone of the string of comments you have submitted, one would think you’re being personally sued by Ms. Ernst.  Why so defensive David?  Do you have something to lose here?

Just in case you missed the point of the lawsuit, it’s not about what one person stands to gain, but what we all stand to lose if our water, air and land are contaminated and the regulator and government decide to bury us.

And $33 million, just a drop in the bucket really…but it sure got your attention.  What value would you put on your water, rights and life?  Water moves, in case you weren’t aware…even contaminated water.

And what’s with this bit … Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that in coal bed methane fracking, basically all that’s normally used is nitrogen, CO2, sand and recirculated ground water (brine).

I’m pretty sure…come on David, you’re either sure or not…basically all that’s normally … what’s with the basically and the normally?  Why not just say all that’s usedare you unsure if that’s all that’s used, or just afraid to commit?

Don’t be discouraged David, if you’re feeling left out because your vehicle is voodoo’d and you really want to right the injustice…then by all means fill your boots…just make sure you have the data.

“well Dave you seem to know all about Jessica Ernst , except the facts”

If you want to talk about facts, then stick to facts.  The only established fact at this time,  is that Ernst is hoping to make herself a thirty-millionaire by suing Encana and the taxpayers of Alberta.

Beyond that, all else is unsubstantiated hearsay.  But don’t let that stop you.

“In defense of your beloved gas , you slander the industry’s victims.In defense of your beloved gas , you slander the industry’s victims.”

“Victims”?  The lawsuit hasn’t even gone before the court, but you, in your omniscient wisdom, have already decided the outcome.

And please be so good as to point out one single thing I’ve written on this matter constitutes “slander”?

The answer is, none of it, and for two good reasons:

a)  Unlike you, I’ve stuck to the bothersome and inconvenient facts.  Because you might not like the facts, doesn’t make it “slander”.


b)  “Slander” is defaming someone through speech.  Technically, if I had defamed your imaginary “victims” – which I didn’t – it would be libel, not “slander”, Matlock.

“Jessica has chromium-6 in her drinking water.”

Unsubstantiated hearsay at this point.  Sorry.

“At least 50 landowners in her area also reported well contamination from fracking”

Yes, I’ll bet if they do a chemical analysis, they’ll also find traces of deadly dihydrogen monoxide, as well.

But again, more unsubstantiated hearsay.

“If you think those financial statements tell the story, your …very naive”

So, let’s recap here – you’re the guy who unquestioningly takes wild claims made by someone on the Internet to promote their lawsuit against Alberta taxpayers and Encana – a $30 million lawsuit – as gospel truth, and you are calling me naive?

Give your head a shake, buddy.

Besides, you were the one whining that “[no] gas company has opened it’s books to public scrutiny”.  After I informed you the opposite was actually the case, you’re still whining?

Make up your mind.

Here Dave presents the great denier fossil fuel shill line, Why would I trust a landowner, more than I trust a corporation ? I will always take a word of an individual above a corporation, especially  if it’s a petro/chemical company .  The Oil industry has set itself up as the enemy of humanity as it engineers the last Holocaust.    

Dave you probably know that after the destruction of the water sources around Rosebud Alberta the industry made changes, and stopped shallow fracking ? So lets no pretend the evidence  in the  Ernst Case doesn’t exists. I’m sure that  the results of independent laboratory  analysis  of Ernst’s water has  already been files with the courts and Encana.

NEW YORK, New York (October 1, 2011) UNANIMA International, a UN Economic and Social Council accredited NGO working for international justice at the United Nations celebrates its 10th Anniversary Saturday by presenting its annual WOMAN OF COURAGE award to Jessica Ernst of Rosebud, Alberta, internationally known for her efforts to hold companies accountable for environmental harm done by “fracking”.

Ernst, a 54 year old scientist with 30 years petroleum industry experience, is suing the Alberta government, Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and EnCana for negligence and unlawful activities.

Nearly a decade ago EnCana, one of the world’s largest natural gas producers, began a risky and experimental drilling program that applied intense hydraulic fracturing for shallow coalbed methane throughout central Alberta. Ms. Ernst’s statement of claim alleges that EnCana broke multiple provincial laws and regulations and contaminated a shallow aquifer that supplied drinking water to the Rosebud community with natural gas and toxic industry-related chemicals. The claim methodically reports how Alberta’s two key groundwater regulators, Alberta Environment and the ERCB, “failed to follow the investigation and enforcement processes that they had established and publicized.” The allegations have yet to be proven in court.

Hydraulic fracturing uses “brute force” to blast open oil, gas and coal formations with highly pressurized chemical fluids or gases. It is the subject of serious government investigations throughout North America. In 2002, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment held a Linking Water Science to Policy Workshop. The workshop report concluded that unconventional natural gas drilling posed a real threat to groundwater quality and quantity, and that the nation needs “baseline hydrogeological investigations…to be able to recognize and track groundwater contaminants.” Not until nine years later on September 21 2011, did the Canadian government announce that it would initiate two studies to determine whether hydraulic fracturing is harming the environment.

UNANIMA International chose Ms. Ernst as its awardee this year as a part of its international “Water = Life” campaign. “Access to life-giving water is an essential right for all life forms,” stated the UNANIMA coordinator, Catherine Ferguson. “Our members have experienced fracking as an enormous danger to their fresh water supply wherever it is carried out.  We applaud Ms. Ernst’s courage in standing up for her rights.”

The award and a lecture by Ms. Ernst will be given at the 10th Anniversary reception for UNANIMA International in New York at the Church Center of the United Nations, 777 UN Plaza, just across from the United Nations building on East 44th Street.  The event begins at 11:00 am.


The more I learn the worse wind power looks.  Indeed, wherever wind farms go in natgas burners are sure to follow.

And all forms of storage are quite expensive, so that isn’t actually a fix.

the wind is always blowing somewhere. Many wind farms are  being built with underground water tanks, so when wind is strong excess power pumps water up hill, which drives water turbines when released during low wind events occur. Gas as a backup for wind is just more hot air

I know this is off topic but I was just wondering where Kevin grandia went? He was a really good writer and I was wondering if he flipped allegiances and is now working for CFACT or some other denial organization?

and now works at Greenpeace USA.  He is a great writer and we are thankful for his years of hard work growing DeSmogBlog into the site it is today.  He remains a close friend of the DeSmog team.