Fracking: Decisions must be based on more than money

Published on July 2, 2014

Dear Editor: I refer the letter to the editor on June 9, from Sharon McLennon, first vice-president and chair, Oil and Gas Committee, Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade.

The board of trade vice-president stated that the completion of the CNLOPB Strategic Environmental Assessment report  “is an important milestone in the industry’s development” and that “science-based decision-making” is part of the “key pillars of our policy on responsible economic development.”

The Newfoundland and Labrad-or Fracking Awareness Network, along with 20 other organizations and sectors, including fisheries, tourism, religious groups and the Newfoundland and Labrador College of Family Physicians also strongly advocate for a comprehensive, science-based review.

But we insist this to be independent and including a health-impact assessment of hydraulic fracturing and other associated technologies associated with unconventional oil exploration and extraction. And so it seems that everyone wants scientific information, but when it becomes available, it is being ignored.

The Council of Canadian Academies was mandated by the federal minister of Environment to assemble an expert panel to assess the scientific state of knowledge about the impacts of shale gas petroleum exploration extraction using hydraulic fracturing in Canada.

The council is a not-for-profit organization that supports independent, science-based, authoritative expert assessments. The report notes that few peer-reviewed articles on the environmental impacts of shale gas development have been published. They stress that society’s understanding of the potential environmental impacts has not kept pace with development, resulting in gaps in scientific knowledge about these impacts.

The expert panel also states that the health and social impacts of shale gas development have not been well studied.

The council notes that there can be advantages in “go-slow” approaches to allow for additional data collection, to permit adaptation to the implications of new information and to encourage integration of multidisciplinary expertise.

That’s good advice to the parties, but so far, the report seems to be ignored by both federal and provincial governments, the CNLOPB and the board of trade.

If you want the science everyone seems to be talking about ... read it.

It is available at http://www.sci

enceadvice.ca/en/publications/assessments.aspx. And when you are done, let us make a decision together as a region.

The CNLOPB has conflicting roles for petroleum industry development, worker safety and environmental health. Its predominant focus is on oil and gas exploration and development. They are losing credibility and legitimacy with the general public. The CNLOPB conducts strategic environmental assessments to supposedly determine if it is appropriate to proceed with oil and gas development in Newfoundland’s gulf waters and, at the same time, it is allowing seismic testing, issuing licences, making land ownership and control agreements with oil companies and otherwise facilitating oil and gas exploration and development. I believe a regulator should not be a facilitator at the same time. There should be a separate independent regulatory agency for worker safety and environmental protection as recommended by Judge Robert Wells.

We feel that the support expressed publically by the board of trade as being “a significant opportunity for quality of life in the greater Corner Brook area and western Newfoundland” is premature. Fracking operations in other parts of North America have turned regions into highly industrialized zones. If “quality of life” is merely measured in financial terms, Ms. McLennon might have a point, but surely those of us who chose to live here are appreciating our region for far more than mere dollars in our pockets.

Energy projects like the proposed wind farm are a far better fit for the region and would also create economic growth and really show leadership on the world stage.

Simon Jansen, Newfoundland and Labrador Fracking Awareness Network, Corner Brook