Read the studies on fracking

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I write in response to Barry Stagg’s letter that is in favour of fracking in western Newfoundland (The Telegram, Aug. 2.)

I am not convinced that large-scale oil-fracking operations on the west coast will be beneficial. Fracking is a far less labour-intensive industrial process than what is involved in an oil rig. According to a report released by the Cornell University department of city and regional planning (Susan Christopherson, 2011), jobs created by fracking tend to be short-term, mostly during the well-construction phase.

Those who are hesitant about fracking have many reasons to be and there is more to be concerned about than just the “spectre of pollution from drilling materials.”

In addition to the difficulties involved in storing, transporting and disposing of fracking chemicals (those that do not remain in the ground, that is), one must also consider the release of uncaptured methane gas from the wells (a very potent contributor to climate change), air pollution, toxic leaks at the fracking site, the depletion of freshwater supplies to service the fracking wells, minor seismic activity, and heavy truck traffic on a coastal road system that is not equipped to handle it.

I suggest that Stagg consult the following three studies.

The first one came out of Duke University (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. 108, no. 20, pp. 8172-76), and it examines water contamination from fracking in over 50 private wells in the Marcellus Shale in the Pennsylvania area. The methane contaminating the water has been traced to the shale layer targeted by fracking operations. Even though the shale is thousands of metres below the aquifers, the methane is able to reach them probably through cracked cement casings in the well bore; cracks in the casings could be occurring because of minor tectonic activity. Fracking also creates new and unanticipated fissures in the ground, potentially creating pathways for the methane gas to migrate upwards.

The second study is a major book written by Tom Wilber, “Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale” (Cornell University Press, 2012). This is a very balanced book on gas-fracking in mostly Pennsylvania. The book documents widespread risks associated with fracking, the difficulties involved in trying to obtain redress from a particular company responsible for contaminating private water wells, and the inability of regulators to keep up with the pace of shale-gas development.

The third study is a 93-page inventory on water contamination caused by fracking, compiled by environmental consultant Jessica Ernst.

While some fracking proponents continue to claim that the process has been used safely in Western Canada in 200,000 wells, we read in the Ernst report that groundwater contamination due to fracking is, in fact, a real problem.

In 2012, the Alberta Energy and Resources Conservation Board released a report admitting that fracking near Grande Prairie had contaminated fresh water with toxic chemicals used in the fracking fluids. Nor are these incidents anomalous.

They are numerous enough to give any intelligent citizen cause for doubt. I am not against economic development. However, I believe strongly that such development must not come at the price of public health and environmental protection.

Edwin Bezzina

Corner Brook

Organizations: Cornell University department, Duke University, National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. Cornell University Press Alberta Energy and Resources Conservation Board

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, Western Canada Grande Prairie

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Recent comments

  • Trisha
    August 16, 2013 - 17:36

    Good for you Robert, keep Facking on buddy. Most of the complainers have no idea what they are talking about. They dig stuff up from years ago from different countries on the net and think they are scientist who know it all. Let them believe what they want. The government PC, Liberal or NDP are going to approve it anyway. Just like Muskrat falls. They are not going to turn their backs on opportunity like this. They need to pay bills too, big bills I might add. Government is like a business they are not turning their back when they can make a profit. Alot of the ones bad mouthing fracking are parks of canada and ones in the tourism business, so who really are worried about the money. Can't wait til they start fracking maybe the ones in Alberta may get a chance to come home to their families.

  • Robert Hiscock
    August 16, 2013 - 01:18

    I work in the oilfield in completions, of which fraccing plays a major role in unconventional plays. Matter of fact, I'm fraccing right now! So Frac you! And I did want to point out to the know it all that fraccing is actually a highly labor intensive job versus the drilling rigs. 20+ men per frac crew, 5 on a drill rig. Where do these people get their information? I feel like if some of these people had their way we wouldn't have paved roads, for fear of damaging the sacred environment! Shhheessh! I live in G.P. For every Newfie who's not on the frigging dole, come out here and make something of yourself. I gotta room to rent!

  • J
    August 15, 2013 - 19:33

    I wonder how many fracking opponents have their own septic systems. I wonder what is the likely of their own crap spoiling the groundwater before anything 2-3 kms deeper. As a drilling engineer who has designed and drilled shale gas wells I can tell you that I'm more worried about the massive amounts of water used to frac the wells that I am about ground water comtamination - but I guess that the next phase in the bag of tricks. Much akin to having global warming not pan out and then changing to climate change.

  • Chris
    August 15, 2013 - 14:52

    "Ohio magnitude 4.0 earthquake linked to fracking."--The New Scientist...."Fracking likely cause of water contamination – US experts fear"--Blackpool Gazette (UK)...."How fracking affects a community in Pennsylvania."--BBC..."‘Fracking’ chemical found in town’s aquifer."--MSNBC..."Fracking tests near Blackpool 'likely cause' of tremors."--BBC..."Study Finds High Levels Of Arsenic In Groundwater Near Fracking Sites."--Huffington Post..."Ohio quakes raise fracking questions."--Aljazeera....Only a complete idiot would suggest that there is any absolute proof that any industrial process, let alone one that involves explosives, nasty chemicals and very high pressure hydraulics, is totally safe.

    • david
      August 15, 2013 - 15:19

      Only a complete idiot would Google any eco-warrior "flavour dui jour" like fracking, list any and all 'word hits' online and, without even bothering to simply even READ any of them, present them as incontrovertible proof of anything at all.....other than the power of the internet to subvert and act as a powerful surrogate for real knowledge and scientific research in the Age of Populist Stupidity.

  • EDfromRED
    August 15, 2013 - 14:19

    Methinks the poll/comment manipulators the PC's used have been hired on by the oil companies. Their arguments seem to come from the same talking points.

  • EDfromRED
    August 15, 2013 - 13:00

    The pro-frackers all have one thing in common: they don't live in the fracking areas where loss of, or poisoning of drinking water could happen: Texas towns run out of water due to fracking … They have visions of themselves drinking Perrier water while those affected get sick and die.

    • david
      August 15, 2013 - 14:19

      The internet causes cancer....I just know it. So that's that then.

  • real westcoaster
    August 15, 2013 - 11:28

    Which future might that be there carogers? The last time I looked there isn't much of a future on the west coast. No industry = no people. So who's going to take care of you in your old age when there's no one around? I forgot, your son who's working and making a good living in that polluted waste land or cheese factory which he refers to; we call Alberta. "You people are dillusional." Also, did you notice how all these anti-industry yahoos always end their rant with "I'm not against economic development." How the hell are they going to get the oil out of the ground people?

    • Trisha
      August 15, 2013 - 13:18

      You are soooo right. How exactly do they expect to get the oil/gas out of the ground. Fracturing comes hand-n-hand with the oil industry. It was started 60 years ago. The industry has been going through major changes so they meet todays safety demands and regulations and people are still stuck in the past. I am just so glad we have hundreds of people who know exactly what fracturing is and how it all works. The majority don't have a clue about it. And as for the question remains, I am familiar about the studies, and the facts. "FACTS"", today based on the process today not 60 years ago, not ten or even five years ago. I can tell you for a fact Canada does things different than in the states. Yes the companies here in Canada are owned by the ones in the states, but Canada has it better regulated. The way the waste are disposed of for one is completely different. The recycled water here in Canada which cost the companies way more, compared to dumping it in other countries. This is just a couple very small examples. When people want to discuss studies. Lets discuss studies from today, in Canada with todays Canadian regulations and process. There are thousands and thousands of fracs going on every single day here in Canada. 1 more fact is pesticides being sprayed on farmlands and forest do more damage than fracturing. I could go on and on and as for the question remains. I know a whole lot about fracturing. A lot more than 90% of the people who are fighting against it. Another fact the movie Gasland that everyone keeps making reference to, was just that a movie. It was made up in Hollywood and NOT based on facts. Science fiction. Just like the movies 2012, Alien and Twister. LOL all science fiction movies. Imaginations running wild. People in NL don't even know when something good slaps them in the face. It's ridiculous all these people who know nothing about the process just fighting against their own future.

    • Chris
      August 15, 2013 - 16:22

      Read the report by Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs....Also, Gov. John Kasich (R) said: “You have a situation where we are not getting the jobs, [the oil and gas companies are] taking the resources, and all their profits and they’re heading home.”....The lack of jobs growth for Ohioans living on fracked (and now polluted) land appears to be yet another sad case of communities getting sucker punched after selling out to fossil fuel companies....And, you think this won't happen in Newfoundland?....Good luck on that.

    • wfcoaker
      August 15, 2013 - 17:35

      At least he'll be living on the Mainland when he needs to be taken care of. Once the fracking starts, he'll have to go up there to get a bit of fresh water. I thought this kind of reckless "develop or perish" mentality died with Joey.

  • Trisha
    August 15, 2013 - 09:59

    And Carogers, I just wanted to add your Son must be in a different Grande Prairie than I lived in, because I never seen anything that looked like swiss cheese, not in any part of Alberta actually. I seen lots and lots of flat land, with farms, oil pumps, houses many thriving businesses from the oil field spin off, But nope no holes in the ground. Nothing that I would say even remotely looked like swiss cheese. Is your son working there. If so that's great, to have a job and live in a thriving economy. I knew the feeling, then I moved back to the west coast of Newfoundland. It's very sad. One child I know brought a Onion to school for her lunch. Her Dad is out of a job. No EI Left and trying to get on the fly in/out positions in Alberta. Hopefully it works out for him, so he can FEED his babies!

    • The question remains
      August 15, 2013 - 10:46

      So, are you familiar with the studies or do they even matter to you? At what point to we sacrifice our environment for a few year's work and a few bucks?

    • david
      August 15, 2013 - 10:57

      Notwithstanding the hyperbole and vapid nonsense of this "save the environment" shtick ---- do you ever tire of that drivel?! ---- In case you haven't noticed, the "environment" here is hardly a pristine bit of eco-paradise now. This place is literally one big garbage pit. In fact, I'll bet you every cent you have that Saskatchewan is an objectively, remarkably, and noticeably cleaner place to live in than Newfoundland all its "Swiss cheese" glory. I've been's very nice...and prosperous to boot. And I've been's really not. Anything.

    • Chantal
      August 15, 2013 - 11:20

      "...hyperbole and vapid nonsense of this "save the environment" shtick " That says a lot. Perhaps you should take that line to the "eejots" at the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Trish
    August 15, 2013 - 09:46

    I lived in GP too for a long time, my husband still flys in/out from there. To be honest I loved it there. I moved back because my family is here. There is a growing economy that Alberta should be very proud of. Something people who live in NL don't know much about. If our Island is the next Alberta that would be fantastic. Come on oil companies, there are people starving and waiting for the big economy boost. That probably won't happen because there are too many blinded people here. So as for the children who's parents don't have a job and are living on a very tight budget, maybe you can have milk and fruit next week or month. The prices are so high for these things the average person can't afford them. Feeding a family these days is a privilege!

    • david
      August 15, 2013 - 11:04

      People here aren't blind....they just fall into one or both of these groups: 1) delusional and oblivious about the state of Newfoundland's actual "environment" (on a relative basis, this place is a cess pool) ; and 2) weaned on free government money for so long that they resent jobs. The private sector economy is so insignificant that no noe even knows it exists. People think the guv'munt cheque IS the economy, and they just like ski-doing all winter.

  • Nigel C.
    August 15, 2013 - 09:26

    I'm not in Grand Prarie, David. What does the landscape look like to you? Can you see it from the west coast?

    • david
      August 15, 2013 - 11:59

      It looks exactly like every other landscape.....that's the entire point, Nigel. Unless your head is buried in the dirt, which it sounds like it is.

  • carogers
    August 15, 2013 - 07:13

    My son lives In Grande Prairie he describes the landscape as having been "raped by oil companies" because he says it looks like "Swiss cheese". Is this what we want for our future.

    • david
      August 15, 2013 - 08:34

      So your son lives in Grande Prairie...does he like it there more than in Newfoundland? If so, why? And did he inherit his hypocrisy from you, or just come up with it himself?

    • david
      August 15, 2013 - 08:42

      Carogers: Your son apparently has precise x-ray vision that allows him to see miniscule holes many hundreds of meters underground. I would think he could find a lot of lucrative work with that btalent anywhere in the world he wanted to live. He's apparently not very impressed with Grande Prairtie, so is he a bit dim? Or maybe he just exaggerates and lies.

    • Chantal
      August 15, 2013 - 09:05

      Hyprocracy indeed! CAROGERS is presenting an observation. Name-calling only reflects on you, David. Also, one doesn't need x-ray vision to see the landscape.

    • david
      August 15, 2013 - 10:50

      Ah, my biggest fan and stalker... What name did I call her? I can't seem to see one anywhere. You can't keep pulling that one out of your arse everytime you fell like it you know...your credibility is already awfully low, and this stuff don't help.

    • Joe
      August 15, 2013 - 15:23

      I guess someone didn't read the Editorial(Play Nice). David how many times can you post without stating a single fact. I think we have enough of your sarcasm.

    • Chris
      August 15, 2013 - 16:04

      David, so far you've posted seven comments, but, instead of contributing to the discussion, you belittle and/or try to discredit other posters. Obviously, you have nothing substantial to say.

    • david
      August 16, 2013 - 07:22

      Anything to add on the topic, Joe? No? Odd.