Digging Deeper Into New Brunswick’s Fracking Controversy

Mon, 2011-08-08 15:24TJ Scolnick
TJ Scolnick's picture

Digging Deeper Into New Brunswick’s Fracking Controversy

In ever greater numbers, New Brunswickers are speaking out against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and the exploitation of the densely packed unconventional gas sitting below ground. Until now, opposition to drilling has been disparate with some 30 civic groups, many communities and individuals speaking out, but on their own. Now, it seems that the opposition is unifying under a common voice in order to send a firm message that “No Means NO” [pdf] when it comes to fracking in the province.

The August 1st Fracking Day march and protest in Fredericton, co-organized by 16 environmental and community groups, was a huge success drawing a crowd of around 1,500 people as well as representatives from the opposition political parties, all on a provincial holiday. The many groups opposing fracking and unconventional gas are hoping for another breakthrough as they have been invited to the community of Taymouth by the Taymouth Community Association for the second formal meeting to form a common voice and to build short and long term province-wide strategy to stop drilling.
Speaking out against fracking with a unified voice is important considering residents and communities’ deepening concerns over the health and environmental impacts (like carbon emissions and freshwater contamination), as well as fears over property damage. According to the Conservation Council of New Brunswick (CCNB Action), more than 1/7 of provincial land has been allocated for potential drilling sites across 100 communities. Drillers are also holding titles which permit seismic testing in Fredericton itself.

Many New Brunswickers are wondering why companies think drilling is a done deal and why there has been so much government support without adequate public debate on whether or not fracking is such a good thing.

It is telling when you consider that the government visited Arkansas to learn how that state manages gas, and that a key player in the province is Southwestern Energy Co. (a.k.a. SWN Resources in Canada), a company facing numerous lawsuits in Arkansas and Pennsylvania over the damages caused by its drilling.

In an effort to temper public opposition, the government hosted a Provincial Forum on Shale Gas in June, but the event was a closed door meeting largely attended by government and industry, with few environmental and community groups invited.

Rallying outside of the forum were some 300 people. Vicki Oland of Durham Bridge protested outside and clarified her anxiety about the drilling process:

“I’m a citizen concerned about fracking, and I am also concerned about the seismic testing they are going to do for fracking.”

“They haven’t looked into the human health aspects of which there are many and yet they say they’re going to allow fracking.”

She also said that rather than trying to reinvent the wheel and pitch fracking as a safe process, the government should be talking to those jurisdictions that have banned the drilling method.

Jim Emberger of Taymouth also attended, saying that:

“You’re going to get half or two-thirds of central New Brunswick that basically from the sky will look like an industrial park.”

“This is such a short-sighted adventure.”

Emberger spoke of the industry tactic of dividing residents and communities: “Industry always does this to try and split the community.”

NPR’s ‘This American Life’ [podcast] discussed the gas industry’s divisive tactics in the Township of Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, where Range Resources has leased 95% of the township’s lands, is influencing policy, and is pitting residents against one another into groups of haves and have nots.

The government’s meager engagement is secondary to the campaign to frame gas drilling as safe, which is dividing opposition groups, residents and communities.

Coinciding with the Shale Gas Forum, Natural Gas Steering Committee Chair and Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup announced regulatory reforms to the gas industry:

●    conduct baseline testing on all potable water wells within a minimum distance of 200 metres of seismic testing and 500 metres of oil or gas drilling before operations can begin. These will be minimum requirements and may be increased depending upon the situation;
●    provide full disclosure of all proposed, and actual, contents of all fluids and chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing (fracing) process; and
●    establish a security bond to protect property owners from industrial accidents, including the loss of/or contamination of drinking water, that places the burden of proof on industry.

A plan to allow gas rich communities to receive royalties from drilling is also proposed.

After the June Forum and Northrup’s announcement, one group formerly opposed to fracking suddenly reversed its call for a moratorium. Bethany Thorne-Dykstra, the President for the Citizens for Responsible Resource Development, held a joint news conference with Northrup stating: “We are willing to meet the government half-way by dropping our request for a moratorium.” She also took a shot at anti-fracking groups like the CCNB Action to emphasize her group’s change in direction.

Dividing and conquering may be backfiring however, since the Citizens for Responsible Resource Development reversal is encouraging calls for groups, residents and communities to join forces.

Access the “No Means No” declaration here.

Previous Comments

Funny how these “protestors” always show up right on cue with professionally-printed signs.

Yes professionally printed signs made out of none other than….petroleum!

Funny how anonymous shills for the fracking industry always show up first, and in force, in any blog on this issue. A cynic might conclude that they were tipped off whenever one is posted.

Yes, because usually when a PR company runs a well-funded web site like d’Smogblog, they want the posts to remain completely secret.

Thank you for confirming that the fracking industry keeps its astroturfers on alert.

“Speaking out against fracking with a unified voice is important considering residents and communities’ deepening concerns over the health and environmental impacts (like carbon emissions and freshwater contamination)”


Uh, so let me get this straight?

In New Brunswick, the city of Saint John currently dumps “currently discharges 16 million litres of raw sewage into its harbour and streams every day. This is equivalent to six Olympic-sized swimming pools every 24 hours. The practice has been going on in Saint John for hundreds of years. Although Saint John is not the only municipality in Canada that dumps untreated wastewater into its environment, it is unique in that its outfalls flow into local streams, forming open sewers that run through the center of the city, thus creating third-world sanitation conditions in Canada’s oldest incorporated city.” (Wikipedia)

And, yet, instead, these idiots are protesting much-needed natural gas development in a have-not province, based on completely misinformed spurious fantasies of ground water contamination from fracking?

In northeastern BC, and other areas, fracking has been used for over a decade. No groundwater has ever been contaminated from it. Nor is it very probable. Fracking takes place THOUSANDS of feet below the ground surface. Water wells and natural aquifers occur – at most – at levels of a few HUNDRED feet below the surface.

There is no “fracking controversy”, as the headline squeels – other than the “controversy” the PR company that runs d’Smogblog is trying to gin up.

If these nincompoops were really concerned about pollution – and they’re obviously not – they’d be doing something about the Bhopal in their very own harbour that they’ve been creating since 1604. This isn’t about pollution or the environment at all. They just want to put a stop to prosperity and energy use.

If these clown ever gave a crap about “the environment”, it would just be flushed down their toilet, into a local stream, and straight out into Saint John’s harbour.

I nominate this person to have the very first SWN well drilled immediately outside his or her residence. If he/she would be following the news at all, they’d know that fracking is causing problems in BC, the US and many other areas. A persons who reverts to name calling to support their argument usually has a very weak argument.

You may think my argument is “weak” – but at least it’s better than what you’ve got: No coherent argument whatsoever.

As it happens, my family’s land has 3 gas well sites. All three have been previously fracked. Our water wells remain fine and nobody has been turned into a brain-eating zombie. Don’t believe everything you read on this propaganda site.

I know how much that must enrage you, but if I told you how much money we’re paid for having those wells on our property, they’d probably come after you with a butterfly net and have to put you in a straightjacket.

And by the way, there are plenty of rules about how close a wellhead can be situated to homes.

Its not difficult to understand that if you already have wells on your property and you have already gained financially because of them, then you’d be all for shale gas development. We’ll see how you feel in a few years after dozens and dozens of new wells are drilled around you and the air has turned foul and you can’t drink the water or sleep because of the constant noise. It’s the cumulative effects of gas development that we fear and we have the documented environmental and risks assessments to back that position up. If you want me to send you some of them, let me know.

The wells on our property are not new. They’ve been there for about 9 years. No problems, just income.

And “dozens” of wells? Try HUNDREDS of wells in my area.

“… and the air has turned foul and you can’t drink the water or sleep because of the constant noise.”

Buddy, you really live in a fantasy world. Why on Earth would “the air turn foul”?! Ever since the invention of what scientists and engineers call “pipes”, we no longer have to transport natural gas to customers in leaky straw baskets. You really don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about, do you?

And as I said, my water and everyone else’s water is fine. Why wouldn’t it be?

Also, what is this “constant noise” you’re talking about? Gas wells really don’t make any noise at all – which is more than you can say for windmills. A gas well is a simple thing: a pipe sticking out of the ground with some valves on it. How much “noise” do you imagine that makes?

The only noise I hear is people laughing at naive fools like you, who believe the fairy tales David Suzuki tells them.

I don’t want you to send me any of your nonsense. I live in the middle of gas country, and you blatantly don’t know the first thing about it. And you want to “educate” me?! LOL! Get a job.

Yours is a typical response to any offer to debate this issue. We ask for someone, anyone to refute the concerns regarding the information we have and all we get back is avoidance of that and as well as verbal abuse. If I could, I’d only want to teach you how to be more respectful of people.

Anon True Heart “the believer” says: “Yours is a typical response to any offer to debate this issue.” Debate? He has real world experience that refutes your studies, and you say it’s a debate?

Then you go on to claim he is not refuting your belief structure? Actually, he just had refuted with real world experience.

You, finally end by whining about treatment? Sheesh!!!!!

He may or may not have real world experience but he still hasn’t specifically refuted anything - just avoided as usual. Its good to see that no adverse effects have happened in his area but there are many areas that have had problems - the risks are real. What about the 5ooo or so non-disclosure agreements reported to have been signed between the industry and property owners?

The studies and assessments I refer to are real risk assessments by real health professionals and real environmental impacts assessments by real environmental engineers. Are you afraid of reading words that conflict with your belief structure?

Anon True Heart “the believer” claims: “…he still hasn’t specifically refuted anything - just avoided as usual.” But, he did with his personal experience. just because it does not match your beliefs does not negate it. Studies can be wrong and experience can be too limited, but experience will almost always surpass studies for veracity.

As for drinking water wells, are you using one? I am, and would not be concerned with drilling several thousand feet below my 315 foot well.

I also did research on gas/oil land I was interested in just a couple of months ago. Guess what, there was no evidence of fracking or drilling damage to potable water.

Finally, you rely on appeals to authority, “…real environmental impacts assessments by real environmental engineers.”, and I reply, much of the CAGW has been provided by real scientists. So what? The vast majority of peer reviewed scientific materials are, over time, proven wrong.

I do note your “real environmental impacts assessments by real environmental engineers. ” reports are not claimed as peer reviewed. So, I repeat, Are you afraid of reading words that conflict with your belief structure?

No, I only afraid of reading words that conflict with logic.

And I’m afraid you’ve just had your ass handed to you. Again.

“Yours is a typical response to any offer to debate this issue.”

No, my response is more typical of someone dealing with a gob-smackingly ignorant six-year-old. The reason you find my response “typical”, is that you probably get that response from most people.

And, get real. You haven’t “offered” any “debate”. All you’ve done posted your litany of vague and self-evidently ludicrous claims.

“We ask for someone, anyone to refute the concerns regarding the information we have …”

There’s nothing to refute! YOU made the claim, YOU back it up. Please give us some evidence of these “ear-splitting” gas wells you’ve fantasized, that are supposedly causing everyone around here to lose all their sleep? Where is this “foul air”? Why does everyone around here have perfectly fine well water, when you insist that it now “undrinkable”?

But tell me, what amount of evidence would EVER dissuade you of your nonsensical beliefs? Obviously, the fact that I have lived in, and experienced gas country personally, for most of my life, and have told you that you are wildly mistaken, just isn’t good enough to budge your intractable notions.

I suggest that NO amount of direct, irrefutable evidence will EVER make you let go of your silly notions. Your belief isn’t based on logic or evidence, so anyone would be wasting their time trying to convince you of your erroneous beliefs.

“If I could, I’d only want to teach you how to be more respectful of people.”

LOL! Tell you what – stop acting like a gullible buffoon, and maybe some day, someone *might* give you some respect. Like most people, I have no respect for fools.

Well, here’s a conundrum:

Why would anyone protest at the production of a “benign” form of energy, which is portrayed as a win-win for all, if they were not experiencing negative environmental consequences?

Why would the fracking industry engage in a hard-nosed campaign to cover this up, other than to protect their profits?

Incidentally, the fact that you’ve resorted to puerile ad hominem attacks shows that you’ve already lost the argument.

Tell you what. We should plan to meet in person to discuss this issue. That way you could call me names to my face. What do you say?

That last message was for recyclenot.

Yeah, it was kind of interesting indeed, I am kind of thinking about the next move..
Chris Harris
Risk management consultants

Finally, Anon True Heart “the believer”, resorts to veiled threats?!???? How immature and illogical can he be?

Anon True Heart “the believer”, you really do need to come out of your parent’s basement in the city and come out to the country where real world wells (water and otherwise) and real world septic systems exist. BTW, septic systems are just a few hundred feet difference (at most) in depth from that of the drinking water wells. Septic systems are also much, much closer to the drinking water well than any of those gas wells.

Hand dug outhouses and water wells have been placed in relatively close proximity (tens/hundreds of feet) for many generations prior to today’s technologies. And you are concerned with gas/oil infiltration over distances measured in miles?

You actually want us to believe your research when real world experience shows otherwise with millions and millions of examples and generations of human experience.

Nothing moree than fear mongering! Pshaw! You are past ignorant!

“And, yet, instead, these idiots are protesting much-needed natural gas development in a have-not province, based on completely misinformed spurious fantasies of ground water contamination from fracking?”

Welcome to New Brunswick pal.

June Forum and Northrup’s announcement, one group formerly opposed to fracking suddenly reversed its call for a moratorium. Development

tag: dr dre earphonesBethany Thorne-Dykstra, the President for the Citizens for Responsible Resource

View the YouTube: Fracking Hell; the untold story and then let me hear what you have to say.

New Brunswickers live under the tyranny of a giant Company that controls all media outlets thus their freedom of speech is aborted. And will N.B. government listen to the people. How about an inquiry on shale gas exploration! Or, would that be too democratic? How about investigative journalistic reporting on the issue. N.B. would have to import journalists for that! The Giant Company will discredit those who seek truth and democracy on the issue.


On Thursday, Congressional Democrats introduced a set of four bills aimed at countering the environmental harms from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the continuing shale gas rush.

Four Representatives — Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis of Colorado, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois — and one Senator, Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, together announced the proposed legislation, dubbing the bills the “Frack Pack” and saying they were designed to roll-back loopholes in existing federal laws....

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