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NEWS: Rapid shale gas development threatens Canada’s water

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “Canada’s fledgling shale gas industry faces a growing clamour for tighter regulations and greater protection of local water sources amid fears that aggressive drilling techniques carry a heavy environmental cost.”

A report commissioned by the water program at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs says, “To date, Canada has not developed adequate regulations or public policy to address the scale or cumulative impact of hydraulic fracking on water resources. …(Without a more robust regulatory approach) rapid shale gas development could potentially threaten important water resources, if not fracture the country’s water security,”

Ben Parfitt, the report’s author, “said the federal government is virtually absent from the discussion, while provinces issue oil companies with individual water-use permits despite having little understanding of the cumulative impacts of increasing drilling activity, no public reporting on the chemicals or amount of industrial water withdrawals and no systematic mapping of the country’s aquifers. … The pace of the shale gas revolution demands greater scrutiny before more fracture lines appear across the country.”

“While the industry claims there is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing has contaminated aquifers, the researcher cited a number of cases in the United States where ground water was tainted during nearby drilling activity. And there is no requirement in Canada for companies to disclose what chemicals they use in fracturing – as there is in several states. As well, there has been no assessment in (provinces across Canada) of how the industry will be able to dispose of massive amounts of waste water that is produced during the drilling, a key concern regarding possible surface water contamination.”

“In Canada, companies like Talisman, Encana Corp., and U.S-based Apache Corp. are planning massive investment in northeastern B.C. and western Alberta, notably in the prolific Horn River and Montney plays. Companies are also eager to develop Quebec’s Utica shale zone and in New Brunswick. As well, the industry is applying the drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques to other oil and unconventional gas fields in Alberta and Saskatchewan…”

In early September, the Canadian Press reported that, “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.”

The full Globe and Mail article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/canada-not-ready-for-shale-gas-boom/article1756636/?cmpid=rss1. Parfitt’s report can be read at http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/archive/00942/Fractured_Lines_942842a.pdf.

A recent blog on our intervention at the Ontario Energy Board can be read at http://canadians.org/energyblog/?p=320, another on its impact on water can be read at http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/mvk/2010/10/dont-frack-our-water.

More of our blogs on fracking can be read at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=fracking.