Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fracking costs outweigh the benefits

Fracking puts our waterways at risk, not to mention
 our drinking water and air quality
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" comes to mind as I follow the issue of fracking in New Brunswick. My eco-mind weighs the rosy economic picture that dominates the debate against the fact that fracking is considered one of the top five environmental challenges facing the globe today.
No issue garners that status without some scientific weight behind the worry.
More and more research is coming to light suggesting that the economic cost of fracking (not to mention the social and environmental cost) might far outweigh any economic benefit we could ever hope to realize from the industry.
With just a little bit of digging you'll find more info on what all the worry is about. As an example, the Drilling down series includes months worth of investigative journalism by The New York Times that exposes the key concerns about the industry and shows what it's like for communities living with the fallout of the shale gas bubble.

To form a fair opinion on the issue, New Brunswickers need an honest assessment of the costs and benefits of shale gas extraction. But we're not getting that. Aside from the fact that the Provincial government's online information reads like it was cut and pasted from industry fact sheets, its nothing-bad-could-happen tone is naïve. Governments in many areas have either banned or suspended fracking and others are labouring over whether or not to allow it because a mountain of evidence is accumulating demonstrating that the economic, social and environmental cost is too great to make it worthwhile.

We all need to weigh in on the debate and, regardless of where you stand on the issue, here are some things you need to consider:

* Each well could use up to 80 million litres of fresh water to extract the gas (according to government data). And the government has no idea how many wells could be developed in the province. Our supply of fresh drinking water isn't bottomless.

* For each well, the fracking water could contain up to 800,000 litres of fracking "fluid," a mixture of known toxins. Fracking water is further contaminated with radioactive residue naturally occurring in the rock.

* Contaminated fracking water - that's billions and billions of litres of untreated waste water - will work its way into the Kennebecasis River, other nearby waterways and drinking water.

* There are significant air quality issues associated with fracking. New research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found breast cancer rates were increasing in counties in Texas with the highest natural gas air emissions. Meanwhile rates were declining in all other counties.

* The government speaks highly of a new regulatory framework under development to protect our air, water, livelihood - everything we know and love about living in Southern New Brunswick. But how do you build any trust or confidence when an exploration company snubs exploration regulations?

All economic development requires compromise but with fracking the trade-off might be more than you bargained for. If it sounds too good to be true...

No comments: