28 AUGUST 2010
For immediate release
A Green government would put a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until proper regulations and safeguards are put in place, according to Jack MacDougall, leader of the Green Party.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technological process used by the oil and gas industry to extract natural gas found in a rock formation called shale. This shale is located deep beneath the earth’s surface. Fracking involves pumping millions of litres of freshwater under intense pressure down a drilled well into the shale rock. The water is laced with thousands of kilograms of toxic chemicals like benzene and diesel fuel. This pressurized toxic brew causes the shale to fracture and the gas to be released from millions of tiny cavities dispersed throughout the shale.
“All that stands between permanently ruining a community’s groundwater and the fracking fluids is a thin sheath consisting of layers of metal pipe and cement that are used to line the well bore where it passes through the water table,” says MacDougall.
Kate Sindling, an attorney with New-York based Natural Resources Defence Council, attributed groundwater contamination to inadequate regulations and inadequately staffed regulatory agencies.
“Given the approach of the government towards the people of Penobsquis who lost their water supply, we have some reason to be doubtful of the regulatory protection.” said Roy MacMullin, energy critic for the Green Party. “New Brunswick’s Department of Environment has no regulations specific to this industry. I like the Conservation Council’s primer on this subject suggesting a number of remedies.”
“We read that as many as 500 gas wells may be drilled and fracked in coming years. For the Department of Natural Resources its full speed ahead, but what is the real urgency here? Shouldn’t our environmental regulations ensure no risk to our drinking water?” asked MacMullin. “And what is our energy plan to ensure adequate energy for New Brunswick in future generations?”
While Sindling acknowledged that there are many places where nothing has happened as a result of fracking, there are also many examples where bad things have happened. For example, in Dimock, Pennsylvania, a community the size of Atholville, the metal pipe and cement condom which was meant to protect the water aquifer apparently cracked from the force of the pressurized fracking fluids allowing this toxic brew to seep out and contaminate their groundwater.
MacDougall stated, “Once groundwater is contaminated, it’s ruined. For all intents and purposes it is a non-renewable resource. Most New Brunswickers depend on groundwater for their drinking water supply. Considering what’s at stake here, it is downright unconscionable that the New Brunswick government is using us, our children, and our grandchildren as guinea pigs.”