Letters to the Editor

Implications of shale gas drilling for citizens and descendants

The issue of shale gas drilling should be a great concern to all citizens of this province as the quality of our lives and our descendant’s lives will be greatly impacted. 

I am greatly offended that the term “fear mongering” has been advanced when concerned citizens voice their educated concerns regarding the negative impacts drilling for shale gas will have on our environment. Remember that we live in a country where “Freedom of speech” is a right. 

Before leaping to the thought that shale gas will bring much needed moneys to our province, consider the cost. Our environment will be negatively impacted, our roads will be damaged by all the heavy traffic, our picture perfect province will become an industrial site, and our water will become toxic. The tourism, fishing and farming industries as well as our health will be impacted. Our water tables will very likely become toxic if you consider the fact that millions of gallons of our water will be laced with toxic chemicals and used in each hydraulic fractured well. Where will this fracking water go? Back to our streams, rivers, water table. 

There exists no processing site capable of handling the quantity of toxic water that will result from just one fractured well and there will be many. Furthermore, it is completely unacceptable and in direct conflict of interest that the gas industry would be responsible to test our well waters. An impartial party should be appointed to collect samples and do this testing. Sad isn’t it that our beautiful province will forever be changed but much sadder is the fact that nature will be impacted and we will never be able to turn back the clock. 

It baffles me as to why our leaders would want to pursue this endeavour. The situation feels hopeless, but it is in the hands of our elected officials and I plead with them to take a step back and undertake a study to enable them to make the right decision, the decision to protect our water. Remember we can live without gas but we cannot live without water.

Celianne Cormier
Mundleville, New Brunswick

Premier Acknowledges Downside to Shale Gas

It is always interesting to watch some politicians try out talking points on a subject to see if they resonate with the public.  Apparently, the Alward Conservatives believe they’ve found a couple of good ones on the highly controversial topic of Shale Gas exploration in New Brunswick.  Lately, they’ve been saying that in order to pay for social programs they promised they’d deliver, the Province requires the additional revenues generated by Shale Gas exploitation.  What an absolutely terrifying statement that makes about the sorry state of our economy and the province’s books!  In passing, the Premier may want to apologize to our dedicated teachers, doctors, nurses and civil servants for implying the only way to ensure to deliver a ‘top quality’ education or health care like Alberta’s is to inject more money into the system.  Relying on money we don’t even know for sure we’re going to get to pay for vital social programs reminds me of the story I once heard about people whose retirement savings plans consist of playing the lottery – how’s that working out for you folks? 

Further, the Premier is suggesting we hold our collective noses and move forward on Shale Gas anyway for the sake of the poor, our children and our health, though not in so many words.  That he is even using such an argument implies that he acknowledges there’s a down side to moving forward on this energy source, but the benefits outweigh the costs.  What costs, you ask?  That brings me to the second talking point the government is using to convince us to allow Shale Gas in NB.  It is arguing that since most of the money we receive in the form of transfers from Ottawa comes from revenues generated from Alberta and BC oil and gas, and if we’re willing to accept such ‘dirty money’ (paraphrasing), we should be willing to do our share by allowing similar resource development in NB since we’ve already been ‘tainted’ by accepting this money.  Therefore, the logical conclusion we must draw from his argument is that the costs to which he is referring are that revenues from oil and gas exploitation come with a significant environmental impact.  Thank you, Mr. Premier, for finally tipping your hat to the elephant in the room.   We are therefore all on the same page regarding the environmental costs of Shale Gas, i.e. the dangers posed to the air we breathe and the water we drink.  Where opponents of Shale Gas And the Green Party differ from the government is that we believe the cost to New Brunswickers is too high, and we must look at alternatives rather than move forward with this risky proposition.   Once again, to be perfectly clear here – the vested interest opponents of Shale Gas have is in clean air, fresh water and good health for all of us.  It’s probably not necessary to spell out to you all what vested interests Government and industry have in going forward on this resource.

Greta Doucet
Interim Leader
Green Party of New Brunswick

***For whatever reason Blogger outlines this piece in white. We can only assume it's from cutting and pasting it from the e-mail Ms. Doucet sent us. We are by no means highlighting it as better than other letters here. It's just a technical glitch we can't seem to fix. If anyone can tell us how to correct it, we would welcome it. Thank you. -ED.

What I meant to leave you (Before Shale gas)
Upon our death, my beautiful girls Kaleigh and Kirby,
We leave you our beautiful, but humble home. A view from every window that even Mother Nature would envy. The forests behind us that reveals a new secret every day. The flowers that bloom the most amazing colors every year, the backyard where we buried our best friend of 14 years, our dog Jake. We leave a path to the stream below us for our grand babies, that we don't even know yet, but already love. I hope our love for nature pours from our hearts to yours. And you carry that onto our grand children, teach them to love and respect the beauty we have left.
Mum and Dad
---Now snap out of it...
The reality is that if the shale gas companies and our government get their way you will receive the following: the beautiful but humble home will be worth nothing. You will not be able to give it away nor sell it. You won't be able to live there, because the water will be poisoned. The view from the windows, will be that of well pads, thumper pads, gas lines, 24/7 traffic and trucks carrying toxic chemicals. 
There will be no stream to play in, as the water will have been used for drilling. The forest, forget it. That will be clear cut to make way for heavy equipment.
So really all we will be leaving you is a worthless house and pieces of land. You may also have to pay our expensive medical bills because we will probably have died from cancer caused by the chemical toxins on our own land. 
So the next time you see us going out the door with our 'Say no to shale gas' signs, petitions and pamphlets, understand, we are protesting our right to leave behind a clean, safe environment for you.
Mom and Dad - Janice and Mike Gotell

A little different perspective on the Shale Gas Bubble
Experts, such as Jan Lundberg, have said we hit Peak-Oil in 1971, however it’s been cleverly covered up until the Unconventional Shale Gas bubble hit the fan, creating the frenzy with which governments everywhere are selling out their citizens’ rights to a safe, clean environment.   Now, Al Jazeera English reports the Saudis have exaggerated the amount of their remaining supplies by 40%.   But, of course,  there IS an alternative.   Running a nation is possible on renewable energy.  It is shown to be possible in countries such as Portugal and Denmark .     As Gandhi said   “..there’s enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed”.   But in countries such as Canada and the U.S.  where “more is better”  and “growth is good” these words fall on the deaf ears of governments.
At the same time as Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute states we are on the post Peak-Food downslope,  we are busily converting a majority percentage of our corn food crop into biofuel.   As drought in Australia, China & Texas and other countries decimates crop harvests and floods in other crop-producing countries further destroy world food supplies, we still research what other crops can be turned into biofuels.   And famines kill hundreds of thousands in the Horn of Africa.
Despite one of the wettest summers on record in NB, a province with an abundance of pristine streams and rivers, many experts are saying that we are also on the downslope worldwide from Peak-Water.    However, despite overwhelming opposition from its citizens, our government is proceeding full-steam ahead with a flawed technology called hydrofracking that has been shown  in Pennsylvania and other states and in our own Penobsquis to have catastrophic effects on the environment,  to sell out our pristine water to the Gas Industry.   At least 4 million gallons of our pure , clean water is used to frack one well once -  and each well is fracked multiple times.    We do not know yet how many wells may be planned for NB but in NY state the plan is to drill 75,000 wells .  
The “easy” fossil fuels have been used up.   What we have left are Dirty Tar Sands Oil, Dirty Shale Gas, and O&G dangerous deep-sea drilling.   Governments are salivating over the prospects opening in the Arctic.   The Oil & Gas left comes at an impossible cost.    What the Trade-Off amounts to is destruction of vast areas of the planet and its climate in order to continue to fuel our Industrial Civilization by fossil fuels.
Mary Delavalette, Porter Cove, NB

The Meaning of Paint Markings on Roads

We are currently using two colors of paint on the road to mark locations related to our activities.

1.  We use orange paint to show the location of geophones, which are basically listening devices for the seismic program.

2.  We use blue paint in two ways:  

a.  To make a mark on the road with a blue number beside it. These marks and numbers indicate vibrator location points where seismic sound waves will happen for a short period of time. 
b.  To make a blue dash on the road without a number.  This dash indicates where a vibrator location point would have been if a house or well WAS NOT located within the buffer area. It is basically a placeholder which we mark to minimize confusion over which point should be used. 

All paint we use is biodegradable and will wash away after a few rainfalls. In addition to the paint, we also use GPS to mark locations. 

If you need more information or would like to discuss it, please let me know.

Mike Rhodes
Geokinetics Operations Manager

Environment official's professional opinion on shale gas footprint differs from Alward

In David Alward's remarks in response to the anti-shale gas protest in Fredericton, he referenced his trip to British Columbia. He is quoted as saying, "The first wells were drilled in 2008-09 and I was able to see the paths, quite frankly the footprint is small."

I recently received material from the Department of Natural Resources through a Request for Information action, concerning a trip to British Columbia by Ministers Northrup and Blaney, plus other members of the government's working group on natural gas development. Here is a direct quote from the report filed by the Department of Environment representative on the trip:

"My general impression from the fly-over is that if New Brunswick sees a similar scale of development, it will leave a significant physical footprint, as a result of seismic line clearing, road construction, gathering line construction, well pad construction and ancillary facilities."

Perhaps Mr. Alward can tell us why his conclusion differs so much from the professionals from the Department of Environment who were sent out to evaluate the situation in B.C.

Jim Emberger
Taymouth, NB

Shale gas industry in Arkansas ineffectual in boosting economy enough to help education

Paul Robichaud, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, recently stated that if New Brunswick wants a better education system, natural gas is the answer. He cited claims that gas royalties helped Arkansas schools move from the "lowest to the highest." This industry talking-point was accepted without examination.

I am an international education consultant, with a specialty in assessment, who has much experience with state school improvement programs and the No Child Left Behind provisions in the United States. To evaluate the claim that the Arkansas school system is now in "the highest," one must ask, "The highest in what category?"

In 2003, the Arkansas school system ranked 49th of the 50 states and was found to be unconstitutional by the Arkansas Supreme Court, because it failed to provide adequate and equal services to all students. It was ordered to make changes to school district operations. These changes included developing programs to improve communication among grade levels, and instituting a data collection system. N.B. educators already have these tools.

These administrative changes are the category of Arkansas's improved rating. It is similar to a teacher acknowledging a "most improved" student. Despite Arkansas' good effort, they are still ranked 36 out of 50 states in student achievement. In 2009, only 29 per cent of the state's fourth graders scored as proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading, and only 36.3 per cent were proficient in math, well below N.B. levels.

Arkansas' progress is commendable and not to be discounted. But to assert that they have moved "to the highest" is simply false. At most, they can be said to have moved "up from the bottom' of rankings among the 50 states.
In any complex system it is difficult to draw conclusions about causative factors. Last year, Arkansas received millions of dollars in federal funding ($156.4 million just for its school nutrition programs). Might federal funding be one of the reasons for the modest gains in student performance?

Other questions include: if shale gas is so good for schools and the economy, why is Arkansas still ranked 48th out of 50 states in poverty, and why do 24.9 per cent of its children live in poverty?

Arkansas was also one of seven U.S. areas awarded special grants to deal with its disproportionately large number of cases of asthma and breathing illnesses in both urban and rural areas. Would the government comment on the correlation of that fact with an increase in shale gas production?

The government should be investigating actual research and not just repeating industry hype.

Marcella Emberger
Taymouth, NB

Meeting atmosphere was surreal

An atmosphere of surrealism surrounded the government's meeting for 'stakeholders' in shale gas development in Fredericton, June 23.

Foremost was the fact that the government framed this issue as a 'game-changer' then closed the event to the press. Is there ever a reason to exclude the press from such vital issues?

Then came the absurdity of DNR Minister Bruce Northrup unveiling regulations to protect water wells from drilling activities, because all the 'stakeholders' were present. Interestingly, the rural communities whose wells are the subject of those regulations were not considered 'stakeholders,' and were also excluded.

The government's entire approach to shale gas development is surreal and evokes the edict from Alice in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts - "Verdict first, Trial later." They invited a new and risky business into the province and will now figure out how bad it is and how to regulate it.

Other insults to reason and democracy include holding the meeting on a Thursday morning to minimize protests. Protest is also lessened by keeping metropolitan populations 'safe' from development. While municipal watersheds are off-limits to drilling, rural watersheds are not.

New Brunswickers know that our great water resources are all connected. What happens in the country will end up in the St, John, the Miramichi, the Kennebecasis, etc.Where shale gas is established, rural and urban areas suffer from increased respiratory problems and asthma.

In my opinion, the risks from shale gas are real, lasting, and will be spread to everyone. In my opinion, the benefits are speculative and short lived.

Jim Emberger
Taymouth, NB