Dear Editor: This past week, Shoal Point Energy released a scoping document and project description for two exploratory fracking wells in western Newfoundland (found on the C-NLOPB website).
On the surface, the prospect of two fracking wells does not seem intrusive, but one has to envision what such exploration could lead to: a string of many fracking wells along the west coast. Indeed, a large number of wells is necessary to make oil extraction in such shale deposits commercially viable.
To understand what this could mean, one should look at other examples where fracking is practised on a wide scale: North Dakota and Pennsylvania, for example.
I have read a great deal on these two contexts and I believe that the costs of allowing fracking in western Newfoundland would far outweigh any potential short-term benefits.
Certainly, the construction phase of the wells would see hotel occupancy rates increase as foreign workers came here to build the wells. There would also be construction jobs for local residents.
However, one must remember that a fracking well is not an oil rig or an oil sands project. Fracking is a capital-intensive industry, not labour-intensive. Once well construction is finished, the labour involved drops dramatically.
Moreover, fracking comes with a host of environmental problems that would undermine our growing tourism industry and impede our ability to fight climate change.
Fracking for oil requires the flaring of excess methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. There is moderate to significant noise associated with the drilling, which takes place 24 hours a day.
Fracking requires the use of enormous quantities of water and chemicals that have to be transported to and from the wells. That would see a striking increase in heavy truck traffic on a very limited road network.
In their public talk in Cow Head, company representatives noted that the used chemicals would be transported to Nova Scotia.
One wonders if Nova Scotia would be willing to accept so much toxic waste over the next 10-20 years.
It should be noted that western North Dakota, an area that has seen much oil fracking, has thousands of waste pits storing such material and there have been leakages and problems associated with them.
Why do tourists come to western Newfoundland? The images that bring them here show a pristine coast of unparallelled beauty. To put a string of fracking wells, with their gas flares, along that coast and along Gros Morne National Park would, I believe, discourage visitors, especially those who come from jurisdictions where fracking is banned or is highly controversial.
Some argue that an adequate regulatory framework exists to handle the negative effects of fracking, or that such a framework could be easily developed. Yet, the current political climate is moving in the opposite direction, towards environmental deregulation.
One can cite as evidence the changes made to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in 2012, changes that were widely condemned by scientists and environmental groups.
The provincial Department of Environment and Conservation is currently experiencing massive layoffs, which would undermine its ability to track the impact of fracking on wildlife.
I can sympathize with people who want jobs here in Newfoundland and Labrador and not in Alberta. However, in my mind, fracking does not offer a long-term viable solution.
Edwin Bezzina, Corner Brook