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1,500 At Fredericton, NB Anti-Fracking Rally

by Miles Howe

Rally as seen through jar. Photo: Miles Howe
Rally Starts. Photo: Miles Howe
Burning Bathtub. Photo: Miles Howe
View from the lighthouse. Photo: Miles Howe
Legislative Assembly. Photo: Miles Howe
Legislative Assembly. Photo: Miles Howe
Alma Brooks from the Wabanaki Confederacy. Photo: Miles Howe
Mohawk Warrior Flag. Photo: Miles Howe
No More Fracking. Photo: Miles Howe
Concerned Youth. Photo: Miles Howe
Legislative Assembly. Photo: Miles Howe
Jim Emberger's End of Rally Song. Photo: Miles Howe

Over 1,500 people from across New Brunswick and beyond marched through Fredericton yesterday to demand an end to hydraulic fracking and shale gas exploration in the province. Concern over the effects that hydraulic fracking may have on the province's water, for this generation and for those to come, brought out strong representation from the province's English, French, and First Nations communities.

The march wound its way through town, finishing at the Legislative Assembly, where a range of speakers addressed the peaceful, but incensed, crowd.

"The Wabanaki people are not here to celebrate New Brunswick today," said Alma Brooks, a representative of the Wabanaki Confederacy. "To me New Brunswick is just a government, nothing more. You see the flag flying up there (the Mohawk Warrior flag, which had replaced the provincial flag outside of the Legislative Assembly), that speaks the truth."

Central to the growing concern over fracking in New Brunswick is the province's newly-hatched, and largely one-sided, partnership with South Western Energy (SWN). SWN is not the only company looking to frack New Brunswick, but the magnitude and scope of the Texas/Arkansas-headquartered company has the locals worried. Thanks to a March 2010 deal with the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources, SWN holds exclusive license to explore 2,518,518 'net undeveloped acres' of New Brunswick. 'Net undeveloped acres' is corporate for 'nature'.

In return, SWN has promised to invest $47 million into the province over the next three years. While upfront, $47 million might seem like a chunk of change, the untold millions in gas royalties that stand to flow out of the province make it look like small peanuts. As well, the very real potential for environmental disaster is difficult, if at all possible, to put into financial terms.

Of course, there is always the perrenial promise of job creation in exchange for resource extraction. But Derek Telasco, for one, sees this as a low-hanging fruit not even worth picking.

"People are saying there's jobs." Says Telasco, co-founder of Ban Fracking NB. "Like we're going to get these jobs here. First of all...we don't have the infrastructure for drilling like they do in Texas, Arkansas or Pensylvania...this is a new industry here. So what kind of jobs are going to be here? We don't have the people trained. You're going to get low-end, sweeper jobs, and clean-up crew, you'll be out there with a mop picking up the mess underneath, leaking. We're going to sell out our grandchildren's future in this province, we're going to take that kind of risk with our water?”

The NB government, in an attempt to placate the masses, and perhaps to save itself from being on the receiving end of a class-action lawsuit, unveiled, on June 23rd,  a framework of regulations for potential frackers in the province. Judging by yesterday's turnout, the crowd was less than satistfied by Department of Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup, and said regulations.

Northrup's regs call for baseline testing for wells in close proximity to frack jobs, disclosure of the chemicals used when fracking, and security bonds for potential household damage due to fracking. SWN, it should be mentioned, is currently facing, and has faced in the past, class-action lawsuits in Arkansas and Pennsylvania. When dealing with the hundreds of millions in profits, however, security bonds for damaged households in New Brunswick are most likely acceptable losses to a company with the girth of SWN. It should also be mentioned that as natural gas prices continue to fall worldwide, SWN will most likely be continuing on an aggressive production schedule.  

Telasco, for his part, fears that the NB government is eager to move forward on this, attempting to get their fracking dreams off the ground before the public can catch on to the risks involved. The question of clean water is understandably an emotional one, and public reaction across the province has at times been heated.

"My concern is that there's a number of issues that we're fighting against in New Brunswick." says Telasco. "One is a 25% illiteracy rate. (SWN's) not fracking right now, they're seismic testing. And (the people are) getting really scared. What I'm worried about is that somebody is going to go too far and somebody's going to get shot. In my opinion we can't lose that moral high ground that we have by having a non-violent means of protest. When there's fracking trucks, we don't have to go and vandalize the fracking trucks."

Atlantic Canada's public concern over fracking is not limited to New Brunswick. Solidarity rallies were held yesterday in Inverness, Baddeck, and Truro, Nova Scotia, Charlottetown, PEI, and St. John's, Newfoundland. Indeed, as Hazel Richardson of the Sierra Club of Canada pointed out, many in the Maritime region of Canada have been affected by fracking. As was recently revealed, the Debert Waste Water Facility, owned by Atlantic Industrial Services (AIS), and located in Debert, Nova Scotia, currently handles fracking wastewater from New Brunswick. While AIS representatives have assured the public that they are operating within their guidelines in handling fracking wastewater, this news was disconcerting to many, especially in light of the fact that Nova Scotia is undergoing its own 'environmental assessment' of hydraulic fracking.   

"There is a saying." said Richardson. "In a battle between the river and the rock, the river always wins. Not because it's stronger, but because it perseveres. The rock we face seems mountainous. The mining companies have deep pockets, and the government of our province seems so keen to snatch financial crumbs from the company plate, that it is rushing into action that is threatening our land, the wildlife, and ourselves. All of Atlantic Canada has been or is being negatively impacted by hydraulic fracturing. Together Atlantic Canadians stand and say 'No to Shale Gas.'"

 

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Topics: Environment
945 words

Comments

Hydraulic Fracturing "not fracking"

Well I see in typical maritimer fashion, people are opening their mouths without understanding what these methods are all about.  I have worked in this industry for almost 10 years and believe me, there are no threats to you guys.  This is huge business that happens worldwide, not just in western Canada.  What you don't know is that there are many ways to fracture a natural gas well, although because of costs, generally the fracs are made up of at least 80% water (Fresh), 15% sand, and 5% or less of chemical additives. I suggest you all step back and educate yourselves.  Check out different company websites that perform these activities (Schlumberger, Haliburton, BJ Services, Baker Hughes, Calfrac, Trican, Sanjel...just to name a few) These companies pride themselves on being environmental leaders when it comes to developing these techniques.  Behind every field team is an engineering department working full time to ensure safety and quality.  Cheers Whiners!

Totally right on!!

Wow! I didn't realize such environmentally responsible companies like Haliburton were assuring us that fracking was safe. Man, we should just trust them completely. Boy, are we stupid to have ever worried about fracking to begin with.

It brings to mind an interview I did with a wolf, way back in 1997. You wouldn't think wolves can speak, but this was a special wolf.

Let me just find the relevant question here...oh! Here it is...

Me: So, wolf, you're telling me that these sheep are totally safe under your watch?

Wolf: Yeah, totally. I mean, trust me. You can just send that sheepdog home now. Totally unnecessary. I know. I know. In the past, sure, I hunted sheep. But I've changed. Trust me. I promise. Listen, I even got this coyote here to vouch for me. He's totally impartial.

Me: Coyote, is this true?

Coyote: Yeah, totally. This wolf is different now. Trust him. He's gotten a bad rap, and it hurts. It hurts him inside. He hears what you say.

And really, I think you sunk your own battleship when you mention in passing that fracking usually uses 80% fresh water!

Hey! What a great use of fresh water! It's just flowing and all, not really doing anything on its own. Certainly not making anyone any money...

Let's just divert it, give it to gas exploration companies, and they can mix in 5% chemical mix. I don't even need to know what those chemicals are, because Haliburton told me they were safe. And 5% is a small number compared to 80%, right? Right?

Everyone knows that. 80 is bigger than 5 by a lot. And they'll be jobs! And come on, you hippie tree-hugging losers, water comes from bottles anyways.

Man, we're just whining about nothing. We don't even know what we're talking about. We should just educate ourselves with Haliburton facts. Thanks for showing me I was wrong. These people probably just watched 'Gasland', right? They don't even know anything. Frack baby Frack!

I think you may need to smoke

I think you may need to smoke less weed, get off of the Greenpeace bandwagon and maybe learn more about this industry.  Keep voting for the NDP loser!  Oh yeah, they don't have a leader now...shucks.

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