STEPHENVILLE — Members of the Bay St. George Sustainability Network are alarmed Shoal Point Energy is planning to commence fracking at its Port au Port Peninsula drilling site within the next few months.
Bob Diamond, network chairman, said this is taking place despite assurances from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) of a thorough environmental assessment with public consultation before any decision is made on the controversial hydraulic fracturing.
He said the network has expressed concerns to CNLOPB regarding Shoal Point Energy's recent submission to the Offshore Board requesting an extension of the scope of a 2007 environmental assessment to facilitate "proposed near-well bore stimulation (fracking) activities."
However, George Langdon, president of Shoal Point Energy, said the company is transparent in what its doing and readily admits the rocks in the area they are exploring have to be treated with stimulation, and this means hydraulic fracturing.
The company has a joint venture partner, Black Spruce Exploration, which will be the driller/operator of up to four wells this year, with the first in April or May.
Langdon said fracturing has been identified as necessary to remove the oil from the wells in the Green Point Shale Formation located next to Shoal Point under Port au Port Bay. He said hydraulic fracturing is utilized all over North America and other parts of the world and even the state of New York is allowing it in some areas and a conservative jurisdiction of England is giving it a start, from which a lot of onshore gas will come on-stream.
Diamond noted Shoal Point Energy held three public meetings in western Newfoundland in the Port au Port, Bay of Islands and Bonne Bay areas in November 2012 to present its oil and gas exploration and development plans, including its intentions to use the fracking process at all three locations.
He said the Bay St. George Sustainability Network was informed by the CNLOPB that these public meetings were not Environmental Assessment Public Consultations, but were conducted by that company on its own initiative.
“The public should be given the opportunity to take part in an informed decision making process where they also have access to other science based information regarding the social, environmental and economic impacts of the development — information which should be independently researched and compiled — not paid for by the proponent or others in the oil industry,” Diamond said in a letter to the CNLOPB.
He feels the public meetings organized by Shoal Point Energy and its document requesting an amendment to the Environmental Assessment of the Port au Port Exploration Drilling Program falls far short of the requirements for a thorough environmental assessment.
Langdon said the amendment to the environmental assessment that Diamond was referring to doesn’t only deal with hydraulic fracturing, but with a large portion of the drilling operation. He said a large component of it relates to how the company would deal with spills if they occurred.
Langdon said the company has planned a small-scale operation and exploratory work for this year, which it hopes will lead to an application for a significant discovery licence.
He said the company wants to be a leader by proceeding in a safe and responsible manner by using carefully tested and controlled fluids that are mixed in with the oil, then removed from the well.
“The rock we are dealing with is impermeable and remains impermeable,” Langdon said. “The good thing for the area is that this operation will be labour and material intensive, and with success could provide a lot of jobs on the west coast of Newfoundland in the future.”
Diamond said fracking technology is very controversial because of its negative environmental and health impacts, with many governments around the world implementing moratoriums or bans on its use. He maintains there are significant environmental and health impacts from fracking including contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, and surface contamination from spills and flowback.
He encouraged the general public to contact the CNLOPB, members of the House of Assembly and the premier regarding concerns pertaining to this issue.