Time for some anger on fracking

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I wish to address a column published in the Saturday, Aug. 16 Weekend Telegram which I found to be biased. It was written by Randy Simms and concerns the topic of fracking. I feel it necessary to speak out against this column, as I am deeply concerned with the public being misled.
As Simms points out, there’s money to be made from fracking.

Who would be surprised to know that there is more money to made by getting more oil out of the ground more quickly?

I hardly think anyone questions that. What they should be questioning is whether the non-financial cost of doing so makes hydraulic fracturing worth it. That’s not a question that Simms even attempts to address.

The old-timey feel (fracking! It’s been around for decades! It’s almost traditional!) and the appeal of “jobs! jobs! jobs!” contained in his column might lull someone into believing fracking is safe. This is simply not so, as there is a lot Simms chose to omit.

For instance, the fact is that fracking fluid requires thousands of gallons of highly toxic contaminants, with many operations even refusing to disclose their “proprietary” blend of chemicals.

These gallons and gallons of contaminants have been found to include hundreds of chemicals, including many known carcinogens and toxins.

The creation of the fluid also requires one million to eight million gallons of fresh water to be used per well, per fracking.

That essential fresh water is then lost forever from the water cycle. We can never get it back.

We may be surrounded by ocean, but we need as much fresh water as we can get.

It is required for life, and constitutes just three per cent of all water on Earth. This water is rendered far worse than useless to us, as the contaminated fluid goes on to pose a disposal problem. It is left to evaporate in open air ponds or sealed into injection wells.

Either way, it goes on to carry additional risks, including increased air pollution and the possibility of it having to be transported off-site.

Simms is correct in pointing out that there is a very large number of currently operating wells. There are thousands of wells in the U.S. alone. A 2011 Environmental Protection Agency report estimated that more than 140 billion gallons of water was needed to run those gas wells, not to mention the accompanying billions of gallons of chemicals to go along with it. When we add to this the fact that methane, the biggest greenhouse gas of all, is a prominent byproduct of fracking, it is obvious that sites in existence are bad news.

Apart from the huge drain on essential natural resources, methane production from processing and the safety risks, we cannot even be assured that waste water will stay safely contained. This is something Simms fails to mention entirely, but it is essential knowledge for anyone wishing to be informed on the process. It is already known that methane and other toxic chemicals leach into groundwater during the fracking process.

 That is a fact. It is pure blindness to refuse to acknowledge that the act of fracking itself is poison.

A Duke University study found that methane levels in private water wells are an average of 17 times higher in wells within 1,000 feet of a natural gas drilling site. Fracking chemicals are already doing immediate and lasting environmental damage.

The number of documented environmental infractions and cases of water contamination number in the thousands. The water contaminated by fracking sites has ruined many lives already through sensory, respiratory and neurological damage.

The environmental costs are not just great, they are extreme, and they have proven themselves to be extremely dangerous.

It sickens me that a study is even being undertaken to consider hydraulic fracturing in Newfoundland. This feels too much like the first step in letting the oil companies have their way — a first step down a dark road.

I had better be careful.

I can feel myself growing angry, and Simms’ column cites Premier Tom Marshall’s advice to keep “emotions” out of our decisions regarding fracking. (After all, Marshall visited a single fracking site, and things seemed good!)

I will try to remain emotionless, but it requires a disturbing lack of empathy to remain unmoved by the tragedies fracking has already left in its wake.

Mr. Simms, I do not care to explore the roots of fracking, or about Col. Roberts and his phallic-sounding “exploding torpedo.”

What was happening in 1865 has virtually nothing to do with today’s chemical-laden, large-scale process.

Fracking isn’t exactly a proud tradition and just because something has a past doesn’t make it worthwhile.

I also do not care if a huge company like Shoal Point Energy might lose money over this.

I do not care if “big” oil whines when the people push back.

In fact, I desperately hope to see more and more people driven to action against the relentless domination of the oil companies, and the politicians they’ve paid off.

The province must think about a secure environmental future, as well as a financial one.

That simply isn’t possible if we allow hydraulic fracturing. In the end, Mr. Simms, your column was about one thing, and one thing only.

It’s the same thing fracking has always been about, and it’s the only argument proponents of fracking have got: money.

But greed shouldn’t be enough. It has to stop coming first.

Against the wishes of Simms and Marshall, I would advise people to get emotional.

More specifically, they should get angry.

They should feel angered by the money-blind politicians and the big companies poised and waiting to poison our natural resources for a dollar. What an insult to see our government even consider putting fuel before before water.

Fracking doesn’t belong in our province.

It is time for ordinary people to get informed and speak out.

Jenn Martin writes from Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s.

Organizations: Environmental Protection Agency, Duke University, Shoal Point Energy

Geographic location: U.S., Newfoundland, Portugal Cove

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Recent comments

  • ckane11@cfl.rr.com
    August 24, 2014 - 16:12

    Excellent article by Ms Martin. The disastrous impact of fracking on people and communities in the US has been will reported. Newfoundlanders should learn more from the experience of Americans who agreed to allow fracking on their lands The GasLands films are rich source of information from the perspective of the people who have lost homes, health and livelihood from fracking activities. Cathy Kaen

  • Charles Murphy
    August 21, 2014 - 13:21

    Sorry, I meant to say, " Crack something " its ruin for life.

    • Frack the Earth for Money
      August 22, 2014 - 13:37

      Fracturing is a word. Fissile is a word. Frack is not a word. See crack turn in to track or crack again or frack after a third attempt. If it is a word, Apple doesn't have it in its spellcheck.

  • Charles Murphy
    August 21, 2014 - 10:31

    @ Nichol, It not the question, the size of the company. Its come down to. will its harm our " Environment? and the health of our people? that the question, not the almighty dollar. Please don't get me wrong, I'm for " Development ". But not any " Cause ". Until someone can show me this water is safe afterwards. Then I'm onboard. And by the way, Please explain to us, how can anyone frack something without " Cracking " it? Because when you crack someone, its ruin for life, it become useless.

  • Nichol
    August 21, 2014 - 09:48

    Sadly, the writer speaks from a very polarized (and very limited) view on the subject of fracking. Our society will continue to be powered by hydrocarbon based fuels for many, many years, in spite of the grand exhortations by our Government of the benefits of 'renewable' energy available from Muskrat Falls. Society has not yet found a viable method of powering the ships, aircraft and trucks necessary for the movement of the essential goods needed all over the world, which power our economies. The efficiencies of modern combustion engines is incredible today, when compared to the fuel guzzling polluters of the 70's and 80's. Today's emission standards are very stringent and continue to improve. That is where we need to make gains...not in the simplistic view that we need to stop fracking, because of emotions stirred up by the anti-fracking zealots on their web sites. As I said in my comment on Mr. Simms' article, fracking is being carried out in the Monterey play in California, with some of the most stringent environmental regulations in the world. Many offshore wells have been fracked, interestingly enough, in the protein rich North Sea, where this has been done successfully for years. I never see a protest any time the NL Government announces a new offshore oil deal. Do you somehow think that there is no risk in deep cold water drilling? This is the new frontier for fracking. Your research should tell you that Shoal Point Energy is not a 'huge' corporation, but what is known in the business as a junior oil company. The location of their leases also indicates that they won't be using fresh water. Fracking can easily use salt water, particularly when you are surrounded by it.

    • Colin Burke
      August 30, 2014 - 09:35

      Some of the goods, not all, moved all over the world are essential, but why is it so essential to move them all over the world? Can't most of the goods which really are essential be produced by the people to whom they are essential, and produced where those people live? If not, wouldn't it make sense for those people to go where they could produce those goods and continue to live there, instead of uprooting everyone in pursuit of "where the jobs are" in the oil-production industry? A really human economy would be powered not by the sale of hydrocarbons but rather by the human needs for food, clothing and shelter and the especially human need, exclusive to humans, to celebrate being able to produce these for ourselves where our ancestors did the same.

  • Laughable
    August 21, 2014 - 09:45

    LOL...Really, At Big_Bob & J, asking us to bring toxic waste to our land, for a few dollars. Ye guys are sick.

  • Big_Bob
    August 21, 2014 - 09:13

    I have not read Mr. Simms article but i can confirm that "This" article is full of holes and false claims. Canadians have been pumped so full of false stories and lies about the whole process. I blame mostly on American media. Frac or Fracing as it is spelled by anyone who knows the industry is a small but important step in completing a well. I laugh when people say "Frac Rig" and show pictures of drilling rigs or cement trucks and coil tubing services and group it all under the big nasty word "FRAC". I wish people especially in my home province would take the time and listen to a good chunk of people who work on frac crews in alberta and else where. The engineers, operators and mangers that deal with well services on a day to day basis instead of listening to people who write articles like above. Who obviously has no industry experience and has been watching to many anti-american frac videos on youtube. I have spent 15 plus years in Alberta on turn around working on frac crews and supervising well completions in a safe and efficient way. I am pro frac for western NL, i know it can and well be done in a way that puts the environment and safety first. This is Canada not America. We have rules and regulations that need to be followed. I know first hand that some American states have none or little regulations from letting the oil companies do as they please. It can not happen here. Muti-million dollar projects will be and have been shut down due to the slightest regulation fault. Please people listen to the facts that is all i ask, talk to the front line workers before drawing any conclusions. Thanks

  • Charles Murphy
    August 21, 2014 - 09:12

    J, I have a question for you, You said the water was treated and disposed of in a safe way. True? But then, you said its can be reused. True? By any chance, this safe water, is it safe for " Human Consumption " if your answer is " No", then its not safe for our " Environment ", wouldn't you agree?

  • Jerome
    August 21, 2014 - 08:15

    I grew up on the west coast, Stephenville area, there are no real jobs there, since the mill left and will eventually turn into a retirement community, if something does change. There is a need for good paying jobs that the oil and gas industry will provide, we have always heard about the oil on the peninsula and a number of companies have tried to extract it. Yes there is oil deposits on land , but the bulk is under the ocean, that in the worst case scenario will not affect the groundwater on land. No development , no jobs, no long term sustainability for the area , no jobs for young people, the area will be left for the retirees and those on welfare.

  • Perplexed
    August 21, 2014 - 07:50

    ms. Martin, if ordinary people are to speak out, I hope they will be a little more informed than you. Shoal point energy is not a ,huge company .....it is a small exploration company. Get your facts straight.

  • J
    August 21, 2014 - 06:58

    As a Drilling Engineer who has designed and hydraulically frac'd wells in Alberta I can tell you that the water we used was briney from a different sand that the fresh water aquifers are found. Not only that but we had to apply to the EUB in Alberta for a permit to draw this briney water. The EUB requires that any ground water aquifer be behind casing prior to drilling out the next section of the well. This was typically 400-500 metres for us. Think about how deep that is for a second. That's still another 1500 metres from the typical montney shale and about 3000 metres from a typical duvernay shale. Do you know how much horsepower it takes to frac rocks at these depths. That's only to frac a reservoir 20-40 metres thick. So then we have to still frac another 2000-3000+ metres to get to the water table. Wastewater is treated and disposed of in a safe manner. Typically it can either be reused or reinjected into a sand that does not have fresh water. Its obvious that the henny pennys like yourself have no idea how about reservoir engineering or drilling engineering but prat on with the talking points from David Suzuki and the like. If you can think of a better way to power our industrial economy then maybe you should get a patent and start a business.

    • Colin Burke
      August 21, 2014 - 08:46

      But why do we need an industrial ecch-on-me in the first place? And could we not provide a reasonable facsimile of the industrial, anyway, by employing a lot of people in generating electricity by human action? Would that require as many people as do drilling for oil, refining it, and getting it distributed?

    • mw
      August 21, 2014 - 08:50

      "The EUB requires that any ground water aquifer be behind casing " How long does the casing last? Does everything mining engineers do work as planned and last forever...or just 'long enough' to take it to the bank?

    • J
      August 21, 2014 - 09:56

      Again, oil wells are designed with a specific life span, say 25 years or until the end of economic production. Once that occurs the wells will be abandoned. Which is a capital E Engineered process that occurs under the Drilling Regulations in whatever state or province the well is in. Colin, are you one of these first world country inhabitants who see nothing wrong with send hand pumps to India for electricity generation so that those people can live the lives of paupers? A capitalistic society will do more to lift those people out of poverty than other feel good notions.

    • Colin Burke
      August 24, 2014 - 09:11

      J, if you are quite sure that sending hand pumps to India for electricity generation will actually increase the poverty of paupers, then I should think that that would answer the question I had posed. Otherwise, another question might seem to be whether the life of a pauper who can do things for himself, and who might be able thereby to survive, is preferable to the life of paupers who have to get money from others in order to do anything and who cannot survive unless they do get money from others: "One cannot argue with the choice of the soul," at least when it is a fully informed choice.

  • Ken Collis
    August 21, 2014 - 05:44

    Better to leave natural resourses in the ground and no one gets a dollar, you think?