NOTE: Through an editor's error, the letter that follows did not go through The Telegram's normal verification process, and we have subsequently been unable to reach the individual who sent the correspondence to The Telegram. The Telegram regrets the error.
As a former oil and gas engineer and one who has managed hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations in Western Canada and the U.S. for 28 years, I am following the situation in your province with keen interest, having a family connection in Newfoundland. I feel an obligation to bring to your attention some facts from the industry.
I support the government with its recent decision for a moratorium on fracking.
Contrary to Natural Resources Minister Derek Dalley’s belief, the people are not emotional, but rather motivated to do the right thing for their communities.
Actually, obtaining a permanent ban on fracking would be advisable.
Although the intent of an internal government review is to gather information, it would be good practice, even best practice, to have it independent, open and based on peer-review science.
The claim by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Black Spruce Energy that 175,000 wells have been hydraulically fractured without water contamination is totally false.
From experience, companies deal with such situations by coercing landowners to sign confidentiality agreements or by promising towns and local organizations money for projects, therefore silencing them and avoiding costly litigation and protecting their public image.
Everywhere I worked in the U.S. or in Western Canada, those techniques were and are still used today to silence farmers, landowners and municipalities.
This is what is coming to Newfoundland if fracking is allowed.
Wells by fracking do leak, either during the operation or shortly after, into the aquifer, and all wells will leak over time, again, into your source of drinking water.
By the time the people are sick from the contamination and the chemicals, governments and local politicians have changed, companies gone, money is longer available, jobs are gone.
Few jobs anyway
The reality of jobs related to fracking, in terms of numbers, is very different than offshore (platform) drilling exploration.
Fracking involves a lot fewer jobs at exploration and production stage.
We usually sub-contract the work to bring qualified, experienced crews for a short period of time and hire a few locals to perform low-paying jobs such as maintenance, snowclearing and security. Hardly worth the talk about an economic boom if you compare it to what the west coast of Newfoundland will be losing in tourism and fisheries revenues.
People working in the industry are people who have mortgages, kids at school and responsibilities, and often turn the other direction when they leave the problems behind. After all, it is not their town.
That is why the residents in a posh suburb north of Calgary, where a lot of oil executives live, do not want fracking next to their homes.
This has been an issue at home for me as it proves that it is acceptable and safe for others to live with flares, truck traffic, 24-hour noise, the smell of methane — but not for their families.
There is something to learn from this.
People like me want to retire to Newfoundland and not find that fracking has destroyed the communities and families we left behind.
The province is not Alberta and has more to lose than to win with fracking.
A permanent ban on fracking looks good from where I stand.
Syd Peters writes from Calgary.