Thursday, April 25, 2013

COMPANY FAILS TO EASE FRACKING CONCERNS: Important questions remain unanswered, say concerned citizens

The Port au Port /Bay St George Fracking Awareness Group April 23, 2013 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Important questions remain unanswered, say concerned citizens

Port au Port East, NL: Black Spruce Exploration’s David Murray is failing to address local concerns about fracking even as he makes the media rounds, says the Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group.

Mr. Murray is the head of the newly-formed company which plans to use horizontal slickwater hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to drill for oil/gas at Shoal Point on Port au Port Bay as soon as September or October of this year.

Mr. Murray has been in damage control for the last couple of weeks after hundreds of concerned citizens turned out for an information session in Port au Port on April 7 to ask hard questions about the effects of fracking on their communities, their health, the environment, as well as on other industries in the area such as fishing and tourism.

So far Mr. Murray’s statements to the media and to the local municipalities have been evasive, unclear, and at times, even by his own admission, exaggerated. More answers are needed, says Bill O’Gorman of West Bay, before our government decides if this is something we will allow in our province.

Here are the top questions that remain unanswered:

·   Will there be a mandatory disclosure of the exact chemicals used at each specific drilling site? The most striking finding of a 2012 Cornell University study, according to its authors, was that any links between health and hydrofracking cannot be studied at all until companies start disclosing the exact chemical compounds they are using to frack. Mr. Murray has provided both The Georgian and The Western Star with a list of ‘typical’ fracking fluids from the US Dept. of Energy’s 2009 shale gas primer, but this list is misleading even by its own account. The small print on p. 63 has this to say: “the specific compounds used in a given fracturing operation will vary depending on company preference, source water quality and site-specific characteristics of the target formation.  The compounds shown above are representative of the major compounds used in hydraulic fracturing of gas shales.”

·   Where will the fracking wastewater go? Nova Scotia? Mr. Murray has stated several times over the last weeks that the wastewater from western Newfoundland drilling sites will go to Nova Scotia. However, as CBC News and other sources have recently reported, Nova Scotia is still figuring out how best to dispose of its own radioactive waste water after Triangle Petroleum fracked two wells in Hants County between 2007 and 2009. Nova Scotia has halted all fracking permits until at least 2014 as they await more information. Cape Breton County recently endorsed a complete ban on fracking.

·   200,000 wells fracked in Canada without contamination? Mr. Murray recently recanted a statement he made before the Corner Brook Board of Trade that 200,000 wells had been hydraulically fracked in Canada without “groundwater contamination.” Mr. Murray, quoting literature from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, was forgetting the case of Jessica Ernst, of Rosebud, Alberta, who is suing Encana for contaminating her water with so much methane she could set it on fire. Mr. Murray, a Calgary native, also appeared unaware that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties recently voted to ask their government for tougher fracking regulations. Also, what about the issue of non-disclosure agreements and gag orders?

·   Where will the water come from? Freshwater or salt? Although the company has stated publicly that it will use saltwater to frack, there have been reports that Black Spruce will still need to use freshwater to get below the aquifer. Is so, where will the freshwater come from? Salmon rivers? Ponds?

·   How many jobs? Mr. Murray speculates that 50 jobs will be created in the first year and there could be 500 more if the project goes forward. Even if these numbers are correct, will these jobs go to outside teams as in prior fracking projects? Will there be enough jobs to risk killing off other more sustainable industries such as tourism and the fisheries? Black Spruce’s partner, Shoal Point Energy, has admitted that in the exploratory phase most of the jobs would be filled by “external contractors.”

·   Who is Black Spruce Exploration? Black Spruce is a brand new outfit that has yet to drill a well. Its partner, the Toronto-based Shoal Point Energy, is also small, with less than a dozen employees. Shoal Point’s president George Langdon has admitted that the Green Point shale is “a bit of a wild frontier still” with shale that, unlike other deposits in North America, is broken up and difficult to drill. Should the health of Newfoundlanders and their local communities be put at risk while inexperienced junior oil companies experiment with new slickwater hydraulic fracturing techniques that have not been proven safe?  

1) US Dept of Energy, Shale Gas Primer, p. 63
2) “Nova Scotia Fracking Water Disposal” CBC News
3) Alberta Association of Municipalities Resolution:
4) Amendment to the Environmental Assessment of the Port au Port Bay Exploration Drilling Program, 12
5) “Small Company Exploring Potential Huge Shale Oil Find in Western Newfoundland,” Canadian Press
For more information, contact Robin Durnford at or 709-641-0004.

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