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NEWS: Bureaucrats tell Harper government of fracking dangers, again

Postmedia News reports, “Water use and contamination are at the top of the list of environmental concerns surrounding shale gas exploration in Canada, Environment Minister Peter Kent was told earlier this year in an internal memorandum released on Monday.”

“The advice, drafted by Environment Canada’s top bureaucrat and deputy minister, Paul Boothe, acknowledged that the emerging industry is considered a ‘game changer’ in the energy market, but it also noted that most sites are using millions of litres of water and hundreds of thousands of litres of unidentified chemicals that are injected in the ground at high pressure to extract natural gas from shale rock formations. ‘There is potential for water contamination from the use and disposal of drilling muds and fracturing fluids,’ Boothe wrote in the memo to Kent, dated March 8, 2011. ‘There is also a risk of natural gas or saltwater from the formation leaking into surface water, water wells or water aquifers.'”

“The memo indicated that a typical shale gas site with average wells would use about 110 million litres of water taken from ground or surface sources, affecting aquatic flora and fauna and potentially resulting in ‘decreased availability of water for surrounding municipalities.’ It also said that the average well ‘may require between 55,000 and 220,000 litres of chemicals. Little information is available on the composition of these chemicals,’ Boothe wrote. ‘I am not aware of any jurisdiction in Canada that requires the disclosure of chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing: However, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission has announced that it may require companies to disclose chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing in the future.'”

“Boothe’s memo to Kent also highlighted the need for more research on a range of other potential impacts linked to the shale gas industry. ‘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’ Boothe wrote. ‘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.'”

“The document said that regulation was mainly a provincial responsibility, but that Environment Canada’s mandate could also cover some areas of shale gas exploration through its responsibilities to regulate air emissions, the Canada Water Act, the Species at Risk Act, and the Fisheries Act.”

“Kent announced in September that the government had launched two separate scientific reviews to examine the impacts of shale gas exploration. One review is being conducted by department officials, while the other will be conducted by the Council of Canadian Academies, a not-for-profit agency that provides science-based studies.”

In early September 2010, the Canadian Press reported, “The Conservative government has been warned that drilling for shale gas could boost carbon-dioxide emissions, encroach on wildlife habitat and sap freshwater resources. …The risks are outlined in briefing notes prepared last spring for Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis. (The briefing notes) warn the process of releasing natural gas from shale — called hydraulic fracturing or ‘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.”

For numerous Council of Canadians blogs on fracking, go to http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22fracking%22.