NBASGA Files Suit for Fracking Moratorium

23 06 2014

COLE HOBSON Times & Transcript

Calling it a “historic day,” the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) announced it has formally filed a statement of claim against the province of New Brunswick.
“We are asking the courts to place a moratorium on the development of unconventional shale gas and oil in our province until such time as long- term, population-based scientific studies demonstrate that it can be done safely,” said chairman Roy Ries at a press conference on Monday at the Capitol Theatre.

The three plaintiffs are Ries, Jim Emberger and Carol Ring.

“NBASGA did not take the decision to launch court action lightly, but we were given no choice,” Ries said.

Ries noted that the money for the court case was fundraised over the past several years and was donated by those who opposed the industry. The group has raised $100,000 thus far and noted they will continue to fundraise.

NBASGA say they will provide the courts with independent, peer-reviewed scientific studies and research documenting the “potentially catastrophic threat to human life and the environment posed by developing unconventional shale gas and oil deposits.”

Ries said they plan to document the “damage to health and the many illnesses associated with the industry, including cancer in adults and congenital heart defects and low birth weights for babies born near shale gas wells,” as well as the “life-threatening contamination of air, water and land associated with the development of shale gas using current technologies.”

“Our water, air and land are the sources of life on the planet. We will document that the unconventional oil and gas industry is also a threat to the very planet itself through its acceleration of climate change,” Ries said, calling the proceeding of the industry “madness.”

NBASGA lawyer Larry Kowalchuk said the ball is now in the government’s court to respond to and said at this point it’s hard to say how the case will proceed or how long the legal action will take.

“Until we win,” was Ries’ answer when asked about the length of the court proceeding.

Emberger meanwhile said he feels they have a “slam dunk” type case to put forward and he feels this legal action carries more clout than some of the calls for moratorium in the past which he said were “ambiguous.”

The NBASGA is referring to their case as “The Science Suit” and say they will be asking the court to make a decision based on science.

Kowalchuk said he believes the industry proceeding goes against Section 7 of the Canadian charter of Rights and Freedoms, which includes the right of all Canadians to health and clean drinking water.

The New Brunswick government has repeatedly rejected calls for moratoriums and said they are confident the industry can proceed safely.

Emberger said he believes the disconnect between the two sides comes down to “wilful ignorance” on the part of government, as he said the government hasn’t yet adequately shown studies and data that show the industry can proceed safely.

On the other hand, Emberger said they will present a variety of studies that show that there is risk involved. He pointed in particular to a recent call from the Council of Canadians, which called on the Atlantic premiers to ban fracking, following a Council of Canadian Academies report last month.

“We are urging New Brunswick Premier David Alward to stop shale gas development in the province,” said Emma Lui, water campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “There have been fervent protests against shale gas development and with SWN’s expected return this summer, Alward is not doing his government any favours by moving full steam ahead with fracking.”

In letters to the premiers of New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the Council writes: “Despite the fracking boom in some provinces, the Council of Canadian Academies report makes clear that we do not know enough about key aspects of fracking like well leaks, the safety of fracking chemicals and cumulative impacts. Fracking is not safe and poses risks to water sources, climate change and public health.”

The letter raises a number of concerns including leaks from incompletely sealed wells, chemical migration underground and in the flowback and well deterioration and impacts of leaks on groundwater and on greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

While Council of Canadians Atlantic Regional Organizer Angela Giles and National Water Campaigner Emma Lui commended Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia for putting a temporary freeze on fracking, they are calling on these provinces to outright ban the practice.

More to follow.

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