Dear Editor: As concerned citizens of Kippens we are distressed and disturbed that Shoal Point Energy is asking for an amendment for approval to start hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at Shoal Point on the Port au Port Peninsula site as early as April, 2013.
Fracking is a controversial drilling process involving the injection of thousands of litres of water and chemicals underground at a very high pressure in order to create fractures in the shale rock to extract the oil and natural gas.
It is our understanding that the Canadian Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board would oversee and endorse public consultations, as part of an organized and thorough environmental assessment before granting an approval for hydraulic fracturing to take place.
We understand that the meeting conducted by Shoal Point Energy in Piccadilly on Nov. 13, 2012 was not endorsed by the Canadian Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and therefore, not a valid public consultation.
At best, it was an information session with no true consulting, or public forum taking place as there was very little publicity concerning the meeting. The media was not present due to inadequate notice. There was no independently researched science-based information delineating the pros and cons or comprehensive discussions on the environmental impacts to human health.
Having read the 15 page ”Amendment to the Environmental Assessment of the Port au Port Bay Exploration Drilling Program,” we have many serious concerns. Presently in Newfoundland and Labrador there are no provincial or regulatory guidelines in place for hydraulic fracturing. Shoal Point Energy has included in their amendment a vague list of “typical” additives, yet leading hydraulic companies use over 750 compounds in their fracking fluids, of which 650 are known or possible carcinogens.
Some are even radioactive — see “Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing” 2011 by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, available online.
George Langdon, CEO of Shoal Point Energy stated in his interview on the CBC Morning Show, Jan. 29, that, “I am not a chemist and I don’t know exactly what all these things mean on their own.” In response to the question about the chemicals used during fracking, Langdon said, “It’s very correct to have concerns about these things.” These comments are not very reassuring and add to our alarm.
We have great concern about possible exposure to toxic or radioactive chemicals that can be transported up to the surface from deep underground and held in containment ponds on site. The risk of cracks or spills and the possibility of seepage into the ground, therefore polluting groundwater is very high. This is especially valid considering the heavy rains, storms and high winds we often get on the west coast. The amendment did not adequately address the manner in which toxic wastewater will be treated or disposed of.
Shoal Point Energy vaguely mentioned the use of tanker trucks to transport the fracking waste fluids with no mention of the disposal destination.
There was little discussion on the heavy use of these noisy tanker trucks carrying hazardous chemicals or toxic waste water through our communities, over our already heavily used roads. With the elevated risk of spills or accidents, this should be a major worry for all of us.
We would like definite answers that are not addressed in the amendment as to where the chemical waste will end up.
Also, there was no discussion of fire concerns if accidents do occur and the ability of volunteer firefighters to handle toxic waste and emissions on or off the fracking site.
The resulting pollution from the release of methane gas and other airborne toxic fumes from gas flares would be another significant environmental hazard that would impact on human health. The huge effect on tourism, and our fragile ecosystem was not discussed in the amendment.
Valuable local areas, such as the Gravels Walking Trail, in Port au Port West, are in close proximity and will be negatively affected by the fracking process. Tourists and residents alike love this trail for its scenic coastlines. Many locals and visitors use this trail to keep fit and stay healthy all year round. A full scale fracking site in view, complete with flare stacks, will negatively impact this scenic vista. How sure are we that the fishing industry in Port au Port Bay will not be affected by horizontal drilling underneath the marine bed? How sure are we that all marine and coastal wildlife will be protected? How sure are we that the lobster spawning grounds in Port au Port Bay and the salmon runs up Fox Island will not be negatively affected? Shoal Point Energy has yet to address these concerns.
When other provinces are banning and imposing moratoriums, or reviews on hydraulic fracturing and other countries are doing the same, we should all be scrutinizing this controversial process very closely. With the prevalence of “boom and bust” scenarios that is often associated with junior oil and gas companies, economic viability may not be as promising as the companies are expounding.
According to the Shoal Point Energy amendment, “... the number of jobs available to local residents would be limited to the drilling rig personnel and local contractors and that the majority of jobs during the exploration phase would be filled by external contractors.”
Does limited economic viability justify the very high risks to our health, our water, air and quality of life? The magnitude of the issues around fracking need to have the attention they require. Anything less would be morally wrong and totally irresponsible.
We feel the risks are too high.
The deadline for the amendment approval is Feb. 11. If you are concerned, please contact: Max Ruelokke, firstname.lastname@example.org.; your local MHA and Premier Dunderdale.
Kathy Marche and Marjorie Robertson, Kippens