Time for some anger on fracking

Published on August 21, 2014

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.