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