Environmental scientist warns about impact of fracking
© Frank Gale
STEPHENVILLE — Kenny Meade of Kippens liked the fact that Jessica Ernst put a personal perspective on the issue of fracking during a forum in Stephenville Sunday afternoon.
He was one of nearly 400 people in attendance to listen to Ernst, an environmental scientist who worked in the oil and gas sector for about three decades, tell her story about the impact of fracking on her own home and her community of Rosebud, Alta.
Ernst talked in great length about how she and other neighbours had been impacted by fracking and how she is still embroiled in a nearly 10-year court battle with EnCana, the oil company which fracked her property, and the Alberta Environment and Energy Resources Conservation Board citing negligence and unlawful activities.
Ernst said on Sept. 9, 2004 she made up her mind to resign from EnCana, the company she worked for, after several years of fracking had, she contends, affected her well water and the noise from operations had caused stress in her life.
Meade said it was great to hear someone who worked in the oil and gas industry for decades and found themselves personally affected by fracking, speak up against the process. Meade was pleased Ernst hasn’t given up her fight.
“It’s great to see that she’s still speaking out, especially since she’s a scientist who was working in the industry,” he said.
Meade said local people are not sure of what’s going to happen if fracking goes ahead, but Ernst’s insight gave people a good idea of what could happen.
He said with municipal elections this week and the provincial election in two years, Meade believes politicians at both levels need to open their eyes. He said it’s important politicians bring us into the future in a sustainable, environmental and economic way.
Ernst warned people of western Newfoundland to be aware of oil and gas companies and the tactics they use. She said companies will try to divide and conquer and said it is evident that is already happening with the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band and Black Spruce Exploration.
“You only have each other,” she said. “Use your compassion and respect your neighbours and others who might be sent your way.”
Jim Grace of Stephenville, during a question and answer session, talked of the beauty in the area and described the oil and gas exploration on Shoal Point as “a turd in the middle of a china plate.”
Ernst agreed the region holds much beauty, along with clean air and clean water and said she would love to move to western Newfoundland after her court case is complete.
“You have something here that is worth billions, way more than the highest estimate of the oil that may be recovered. Show them (government and regulators) that what you have here is better than the oil,” she said.
Ernst said the best thing for people here to do in the meantime is to say no to fracking, and that if it can’t be stopped, to ensure that all chemicals used in all aspects of the process have to be disclosed.
Joe Wiseman of Kippens questions why elected representatives and employees on energy boards are letting the petroleum companies do what they are doing.
Ernst said often people are being used and others, driven into debt by their own greed, see a chance for money and the oil companies take advantage.
She said the people of western Newfoundland are now being watched in Europe and all of North America for what they do in relation to fracking.
“Many fleas make a big dog move and you should continue your work in trying to stop fracking from happening in this beautiful place,” Ernst told the audience and the Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group which planned the forum.