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Plan to bring fracked gas to GTA not worth risk to Great Lakes

The Council of Canadians filed submissions with the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) on Friday calling into question the viability of a pipeline expansion project that would bring fracked natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shales in the northeastern U.S. to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Reports prepared for the Council show that the cost for energy companies to meet water, environmental and public health regulations as well as a decline in natural gas availability would result in increased costs for customers.

Enbridge is proposing a pipeline expansion project for the GTA, claiming it’s needed to meet demands of future customer growth from 2015 to 2025.

“When much-needed environmental regulation catches up with the fracking industry, the shale deposits of the U.S. Northeast are unlikely to provide reliable supply to Ontario consumers,” says Steven Shrybman, legal counsel for the Council of Canadians. “The role of the OEB is to protect the public interest with respect to energy supply as well as promote energy conservation and efficiency. We believe it needs to closely examine the wisdom of expanding expensive infrastructure to increase Ontario’s dependence on shale gas development, which has a very large carbon footprint, when conservation and efficiency measures will be far more sustainable.”

“More fracking in the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations will not only threaten the Great Lakes as a whole – with massive water withdrawals, potential water contamination and pipeline leaks, and hazardous waste risks – but also won’t benefit communities in the long run,” says Emma Lui, water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “Water is a public trust and it is a government’s duty to manage it for the benefit of today’s and tomorrow’s generations.”

The reports were prepared by fracking experts David Hughes, the president of Global Sustainability Research Inc.; Anthony Ingraffea, a professor at Cornell University; and Lisa Sumi, an environmental consultant specializing in energy and extractive industries.

Hughes’ report highlights that natural gas production from the Marcellus and Utica Shales will only decrease in coming years because of the decline in natural gas availability in wells, fields and plays and because community demands for bans on fracking will limit shale gas development.

Ingraffea’s report points to the potent impacts methane emissions have on climate change and how using fracked natural gas as a ‘bridge’ to renewable energy sources is counterproductive.

Sumi’s report provides a thorough review of the potential dangers of fracking and the current and needed regulations to address water contamination, air pollution, health impacts and hazardous waste management in the Marcellus Shale region. She concludes that meeting these needed regulations will come at a cost to industry, which will be passed on to customers.


Read more about fracking and the Great Lakes.