Oil & Gas - West coast group wants time out on fracking

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Angie Payne

A local concerned citizens group has joined in on the mounting opposition to fracking. This week, Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan expressed his concern over the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process used in the oil and gas industry.

Fracking is the process of injecting water and chemicals into underground rock formations. It’s meant to break the rock apart, freeing trapped shale gas and oil.

The group is calling for a moratorium on fracking in this province.

“Currently there are absolutely no guidelines, rules or regulations around hydraulic fracturing for Newfoundland and Labrador,” Angie Payne stated in a news release on behalf of the group.

The technology is banned in France, Ohio and Vermont and is under review in Nova Scotia, Quebec, P.E.I. and New York, according to Payne.

“Newfoundland and Labrador would be wise to learn from the mistakes made in other places and think carefully before letting any hydraulic fracturing project go ahead,” she said.

Shoal Point Energy has requested an amendment to allow fracking in its current project on the Port au Port Peninsula. The company would like to frack as early as April of this year. The amendment request is under review by the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.

The main concerns are around the chemical composition of the fracking fluid and the associated wastewater produced. Companies are not required to fully disclose information about the chemicals they use in operations.

Studies on health effects of chemicals used in fracking are alarming, according to Payne.

“We have no proper facility to accept the enormous amount of waste water produced in fracking and our municipalities are not adequately equipped to deal with any accidents,” the news release stated.

According to the release, studies from 2011 in the Marcellus Shale Formation — which has often been compared to the Green Point Shale Formation in western Newfoundland — show a 7.2 per cent failure rate in wells where fracking is used.

Western Newfoundland residents have made their feelings known during public consultations and meetings, the group says. Oil and gas development has to be safe and the environment and people’s health need to be protected.

“Some people are for oil development and others are against it,” said Payne. “But, we all agree that the safety of our residents, our environment and our emergency responders is the highest priority.

“The resource is not going anywhere. We need time to assess the risks. We need time to put in place the necessary regulations, provincial policies and safety mechanisms.”

Meanwhile, NDP environment critic George Murphy has written to Environment Minister Tom Hedderson to express his own concerns about fracking. He is urging the government to take steps to minimize any potential for damage from the process.

Murphy says fracking “has the potential for widespread, irreversible damage to water, soil and possibly ground stability.”

He is calling upon the minister to ensure the company gets a full environmental assessment before proceeding with the fracking. He also wants assurances drinking water will be kept safe.

The Western Star

Organizations: Oil & Gas, Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.The

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, France, Ohio Vermont Nova Scotia Quebec New York Port au Port Peninsula Western Star

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Recent comments

  • Rob
    August 29, 2013 - 14:45

    One of the developers of the technology used in hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania now opposes its use given its "inherent dangers". ie. years of leaks and other other issues. Do the yes men and yes women here know more than this Ph.D who helped develop the process?

  • PHIL C.
    February 13, 2013 - 00:40


  • jansonnl
    February 12, 2013 - 16:10

    perhaps shoalpoint should contact Gasfrac (no wastewater, fracking with propane)

  • Mark
    February 11, 2013 - 08:02

    I can't believe all these negative comments here. Why does it have to be that you're either all for it or completely against it with no in-between!? I support oil and gas development. Sure most of my family works in the oil patch and I see the benefits it has, and continues to accrue to this province. But for Christs sake before you make a comment about folk groups and comparing the geology of Alberta to the geology of western Newfoundland, do a bit of background research. Fracking has the very real potential for causing irreparable harm to the environment. Watch the recent Nature of Things on fracking in North America or the documentary Gasland. They include real places with real people where fracking has become a very serious concern, particularly for drinking water supplies and air quality. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to ensure this practice is subjected to a full environmental assessment. If it is determined that negative impacts are not likely, then hey, frack away.

    • VRP
      February 11, 2013 - 10:15

      I'm with you, Mark. Let's have the evidence, the empirical data - from both sides! It is easy to have "concerns" over the "irreparable harm to the environment.". Every environmentalist with a six word vocabulary - pristine, unique, ecology, ecosystem, sustainable, fragile - has "concerns" about everything from baby seals to sunspots, and they can get face time with media simply by using two of the buzzwords in the same sentence to describe their concern. Evidence is always some other's responsibility. And, that responsibility quite often involves proving a negative, ie, that hydraulic fracturing is not dangerous, that the existence of 6 million seals does NOt prove the herd is not in danger. So, let's cut the cliches and ask the same of both sides to the dispute: EVIDENCE.

  • N Tucker
    February 10, 2013 - 19:51

    How can one not want to produce oil when we need it for everything, eg tires, ashfalt, cosmetics, energy for cars, planes, ships, trains, electricity, and a million other purposes, not to mention the jobs, and GOV. RIVENUE. Our existance depends on it.

  • J
    February 10, 2013 - 17:03

    So, Ms. Payne, as France generates 80% of its electricity from Nuclear power I can assume you support Nuclear Power?

  • Bob
    February 09, 2013 - 21:33

    Quite frankly I totally agree with fracking and reaping the benefits that oil and gas will give. BUT, why in gods name would they want to frack when we have absolutely ZERO infrastructure. No oil and gas company should be allowed to frack until ALL measures of resources and safety have not only been met, but exceeded.

  • newfie in alberta
    February 09, 2013 - 18:09

    Wow, fraccing is soooo controversial. Sure, Alberta hasn't been fracking in their resource plays for 50 years. Go on with ya! Is that true? Sure, I thought all those chemicals are bad fir ya and that all de wildlife and beautiful scenery, sure all a dat would a been destroyed, wouldn't it? Well, I do apologize, but we here in alberta are doing quite fine, fraccing and all(fraccing is how it's spelled by people whoe actually have a clue about the process). I drink water right from the tap, where my tap water comes from the wapiti river, and there's about, oh, 5,000 wells within 100km radius of the river that has been fracced(multiple times), and we in grande prairie are doing just fine, one of the highest average per person salaries anywhere in the country, great scenery, lots of wildlife and all. So you can have your meetings and do your studies, we'll continue to frac and enjoy scenery, and especially, enjoy the money and the good economy that fraccing greatly contributes to.

  • vrp
    February 09, 2013 - 16:56

    Would it be intemperate to ask of Angie Payne's qualifications to assess fracking? Like how far underground did she get before becoming a "spokesperson" and a member of a folk group? So many of these people have opinions as substantive as a ball of cotton candy attached to a helium balloon, and they expect people to take notice of their indiscriminate pontificating simply because they have command of a few buzzwords interlaced with the appropriate cliches.

  • carogers
    February 09, 2013 - 14:26

    For the love of all that is sensible STOP this before it even gets going here in our province. Fracking has been proven to cause issues with ground water and therefore wells. Here's some info from communities where fracking was not stopped and this is what they ended up with: One small town in Pennsylvania called Dimock has been devastated by Fracking. Cabot oil and Gas drilled dozens of wells that had problems with cement casing on so of those wells caused contamination of local water wells, driving down property values and causing sickness. In some cases, levels of methane in some Dimock water wells are so high that residents are able to set water aflame as it comes out of their taps. In 2010 the state environment fined Cabot $240,000 and to shut down the project in the area of 14 homes within 30 days. After an investigation by the Land Trust Association found the state identified 1, 435 violations. The same thing has happened in Alberta BUT no investigation occured there and the companiew are now pushing this technology onto other Canadain prov like us. IF THERE EVER WAS A TIME FOR ALL NLERS TO STAND TOGETHER AND SAY A RESOUNDING NO THIS IS IT!!!!!

  • Francis
    February 09, 2013 - 14:03

    He says this, she says that. The problem in our society today is that we have no objective studies of anything controversal. There is really no relevance to facts. All you have to look for an example is our news media, whether that be in print or other forms to see that there is no objectivity, only agendas. I for one would like to see news media look at both sides of an issue and let readers/viewers make informed decisions. And on another note, hell is also going to freeze over.