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Fracking Parliament Hill to demand action from Harper government

Fracking on Parliament Hill

Photo: The Council of Canadians posing as company “Frack Corp” with a 14-foot fracking rig to stage a mock fracking wastewater spill on Parliament Hill. 

A Council of Canadian Academies expert panel will release a 260-page study on fracking this morning. The report was requested in September 2011 by then Environment Minister Peter Kent.

The Globe and Mail reports, “Canadians face a Pandora’s box of potential environmental and health risks as the oil industry charges forward with hydraulic fracturing techniques…, says a new report for the federal government. …The expert panel concluded that there simply isn’t enough known about the impacts of (fracking) to declare it safe, and that key elements of the provinces’ regulatory systems ‘are not based on strong science and remain untested’ while there is virtually no federal regulation. …The council concludes that public trust can only be achieved when additional, independent research provides answers to nagging questions – before intensive drilling occurs.”

Shortly after this report was launched in 2011, Kent told CBC that, “(While) the exploitation of natural resources is not actually regulated by Ottawa, the federal government could step in and restrict the practice if the review by Council of Canadian Academies finds certain environmental ‘triggers’, such as the chemicals involved posing a threat to waterways with fish. …’If there is a need for a certain sort of action, we certainly under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act have that authority and wouldn’t hesitate’… ‘If we were to find that there was significant broad environmental risk, then we would have to consider ways of acting to limit or control it’…”

The question now is will the Harper government act given this study. The answer appears to be no. In the Globe and Mail article about the Council of Canadian Academies report, spokesperson for federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq says, “We believe that shale gas deposits can be developed safely, responsibly, and in compliance with the strict environmental policies and regulations in place.”

Years ago, the Harper government was also told by its own advisers that fracking is dangerous.

In an internal memorandum dated March 8, 2011, Environment Canada deputy minister Paul Boothe told Kent that, “There is potential for water contamination from the use and disposal of drilling muds and fracturing fluids. There is also a risk of natural gas or saltwater from the formation leaking into surface water, water wells or water aquifers. …(Fracking could potentially result in) decreased availability of water for surrounding municipalities. …Other environmental impacts include but are not necessarily limited to air emissions (greenhouse gases and air pollutants), habitat fragmentation, and the increased traffic needed to transport water, chemicals, and equipment for shale gas production. Further work is needed to assess the risks associated with shale gas development in Canada, including quantity of water used, surface and groundwater contamination, and emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants from shale gas facilities.”

And in the spring of 2010, the Canadian Press reported that briefing notes prepared for then Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis warned that fracking “could draw heavily on freshwater resources and significantly increase Canada’s overall carbon-dioxide emissions. The documents also say projects in areas without infrastructure may require the construction of roads, drill pads and pipelines, which could create ‘extensive habitat fragmentation’ for wildlife.”

The Council of Canadians intends to take action to push the Harper government on this issue. The Canadian Press reports, “Today, the Council of Canadians will stage a mock wastewater spill using a 14-foot fracking rig in a demonstration against fracking for natural gas extraction.” While iPolitics reports, “Later this morning, the Council of Canadians will be fracking wastewater onto the Hill from a 14ft replica rig on their way to delivering a petition to MPs with signatures of over 10,000 Canadians.”

Fracking postcards
Photo: More than 10,000 signed petitions calling for a ban on fracking.