Cdn Bar Assoc. Holds Forum on Shale Gas in NB

9 02 2014

Report on Fracking presentation sponsored by the Canadian Bar Association
Moncton Feb 9 2014- George Griffin

On Feb 8 The Canadian Bar Association presented a fact finding public presentation on the process of hydro-fracturing ( Fracking) . It was held in one of the theatres at Crystal Palace Dieppe ( Moncton ). A capacity crown quickly filled the theater and many were turned away.

The event was very respectfully attended and people were there to find out the facts from three different sources. Representing the economic aspect of the process was Pierre-Marcel Desjardins among many of his accomplishments, and there are many he received a Phd on Economics from the University of Austin Texas. Now a professor of Economics at U of M

Sherry Somerville New Brunswick Natural Gas advisor from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers presented on behalf of the industry.

Jim Emberger of the Taymouth community association presented observations and information collected via the Anti Shale Gas Alliance.

Each of the three presenters were given a half hour or so to present their observations then alter all three had presented questions ( written ) were taken from the floor for presentation and response from the respective presenters.

On the economics side it was explained by Mr. Desjardins that the model used to calculate gains in the industry was the “Input/Ouput Model. This is the model being used in the U.S. to mitigate Production of Shale gas. He explained the Economy of Scale factors an pointed out that once the initial procedures were in place that profits by adding more wells created more economic return.

He touched on the difficulty of projections saying it was “Very Difficult” as factors including limitation of studies and the fact that it is not as stable an investment sector as other areas. He presented values based on FTE indicators. See link for explanation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full-time_equivalent

The industry was represented by Sherry Sommerville. Her presentation outlined the present state of gas and oil extraction in the province.

Many statistics were presented on both sides. There were however many unanswered questions.

The question of how and to who the list of chemical additives in the fracking water were disclosed. It appear they are disclosed but not to the public. Fact finding is urged in this matter as it is of critical interest to everyone. It was noted that the EPA ( Environmental Protection Association, U.S.) had granted exceptions to it’s rules to accommodate the process. The question was asked how could we say if it harmless but in order to allow it we had to exempt it from established protection standards.
It was noted that the process has the lowest Rate of Return on investment of all energy production methods with the exception of the Tar Sands.

It appears well casing failure rates are increasing past the previous rate of 5% in the first year to 7%
Regulations can not change the laws of physics. The fining of large industry for breaking rules is not effective as fines are so low it is just factored as a cost of doing business. It has been noted that there have been violations everywhere the methods are being used.

The methods now being employed are still being developed as full forward application of these methods on a large scale are only a few decades old.

The difficulty of writing regulations for unseen future problems was noted.

Rules will also be altered by “ Variances’ which had been the usual work around approach used by industry when needed.
The application of the “Best Practice” and “Industry Standards” to validate the processes used contain a lack of established practices to allow of reasonable assessment. One example given was that if a jurisdiction has any testing of water at all it is the industry standard as compared to jurisdictions ( Tar Sands ) where there are none at all.

In legal procedures Industry claims there can be no basis to proceed citing a lack of “Baseline Data”. The lack of disclosure regarding the content of fracking fluids prevents any reliable baseline data from being compiled.

Leading economists are very unclear as to what the returns will be after the bills for infrastructures are paid. The health sector should be prepared for an increase in demand. The statistic regarding incident of serious injury and mortality in fracking approaches was seven times the average for other industry approaches.

When questioned whether the price of the peace of “Environment for all”, to gain “economic advantage for a few” was mentioned. The response from industry dealt with incidents and not with overall change in culture. It seemed to indicate the concept of environment has only to do with business procedures and not on the overall effect of the presence of the extensive industrial construction in a non industrial environment.

“No quantifiable study” had been done to understand the effects on and cost of infrastructure.

When Industry was asked what they would do with used frack water that would have to be treated or disposed of, the only present plan in place would be to truck it to a treatment facility in Ontario. IN ground Sequestering is nor not allowed in New Brunswick and is under scrutiny as evidence has been showing that contaminants infiltrate over much greater distances than previously suspected.

The point that the industry is “Self regulating” in many areas was likened to the analogy of the Fox looking after the chickens.

When asked about the possibility of this process “pulling the province out of it’s present deficit”, it was indicated that there was no solid economic basis at this point in time where that effect could be reliably counted on. The lack of how royalty money would finally be used (Royalty Setup) and how much it would be would make it impossible to assess reliably.

The question regarding the Validity of the Energy Institute came into question as it only deals with the production of energy from hydrocarbon based processes, oil and gas.

Mention was made that a 10 year moratorium as an election platform might be an effective approach at this time.

Synopsis.

Judging from the crowd response in the full theatre it is evident that there is a great deal of concern on a number of aspects regarding our future here in New Brunswick. The sense in the room that the polls presented by industry do not reflect the present day concerns of people. As long as there is no current polls or even a referendum on the subject we will continue to be in the dark regarding what the majority of citizens would really want done.

An approach to developing our economy that would be more diverse would take longer to establish but would be more healthy in the long run and less vulnerable to ever shifting changes in world economies. A lesson in the value of self sufficiency seems to me missing altogether on our radar screen while there are countless examples in Europe of economies flourishing by using approaches alternative to the ones that seem to be all too driven the gas and oil industry here in Canada .We do not seem to be regarding this time of abundance as an opportunity to prepare for the day when oil and gas become less and less viable to fill our energy needs. This lack of long term planning seems to be an attribute of our four-year cycled political system where the focus seems to be maintaining the present approach at all costs.

The future for our children and grand children is at a crossroads. The path we choose may be at sometime impossible to alter. It threatens to lock us into a system where we would have to do ever more damage to our environment and culture to appease the business as usual approach which is presently being applied.

I was inspired and proud of the citizens of New Brunswick who took a Saturday afternoon to listen to the presentations. We are a very dignified and caring people.

There was some expression of frustration, which did not deter the purpose of the gathering and may have even added and element of understanding just how important this issue is to the people of New Brunswick. In light of the fact that the print media in the province is owned and controlled by the same private family with interests in oil and gas limits the options of presenting a journalistic approach where a conflict of interest is not obvious. Things seem to be handled differently in areas where this is not the case.

I would ask anyone and everyone to take some time to think about what is happening and how it will affect out future.

On a personal note, after having studies the situation for a number of years now, I can only see one way to proceed in a fair and democratic manner and that is to have a referendum which would empower the people to choose what path they would like to see taken. We will not have an effective democratic process until people can vote on “Issues” that are important to them. The business as usual approach seems to have less and less response to democratic values. We are told that our problems can be solved by taking the same direction we have always taken and got us in our present situation.

The term “poor province” is bandied about by mentioning that people have to leave to find work. This is nothing new. I left Cape Breton for that very reason. I came to this poor province 40 years ago and wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. We are not poor. We are rich in people and a rich rural culture and environment. If we were to become a “rich province” we would be paying rich prices for that dubious distinction.

George Griffin Moncton Feb 9 2014


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