Bill Costain, second left, and Glles Michaud, right, members of the West Prince Christian Life Committee, hosted Don’t Frack PEI for an information meeting and community mobilization exercise Tuesday in opposition to fracking. From left are Leo Broderick, a founding member of Don’t Frack PEI’s steering committee, Eliza Knockwood, who presented a First Nations perspective and Don’t Frack committee members Andrew Lush and Ian Fergeron.
Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
ROSEBANK -- A drilling company in western Canada got lucky, Don't Frack PEI committee member, Andrew Lush told listeners at an information meeting on fracking Tuesday night at Westisle Composite High School.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, explained Don't Frack PEI resource material, is a process where sand, water and chemicals are blasted into rock formations so that deposits of gas and oil can be forced up the well. Don’t Frack PEI is worried that companies will apply to frack on P.E.I. and that the provincial government will grant permission.
The company, Lush explained, mistakenly drilled to the wrong depth and emptied fracking chemicals directly into an aquifer. There are 40 cubic meters of fracking chemicals still not recovered, he told his audience of 19 at the meeting hosted by the West Prince Christian Life Committee.
The company was lucky, he said, in that the well was being drilled in a remote area where no one was living. “In P.E.I., we’re kind of stuck,“ Lush said. “We’ve only got one aquifer. It’s all connected together.” He added that P.E.I.’s drinking water source is actually connected to Cape Breton and parts of New Brunswick. “One hundred per cent of us drink from wells; we really can’t afford an accident like that.”
Eliza Knockwood provided a First Nations perspective on fracking, stressing the need to protect the water and the land. She advocated peaceful resistance to fracking and reminded everyone this is not just a First Nations issue. “It is the key things that have brought us together, and that is our water; that is our land. That’s something that truly grounds us as a people, whether you’re First Nations or not a First Nation. That’s the key element that really united us in our efforts,”she said of resistance that has already taken place and what is likely to continue.
Don’t Frack PEI committee member Leo Broderick advocated social licence whereby companies would need the permission of local residents to frack, even if government were to give its permission. “If people don’t want fracking, there should be no fracking,”he insisted. He took names of people who would be interested in attending a Saturday workshop in West Prince next month to learn more about social licence and to mobile others to add their voices in opposition.
Lush pointed out industry documents indicate that seals fail on six per cent of wells during the actual drilling process and suggested most will eventually fail, leaving environmental damage including groundwater contamination. Although there are currently no exploration permits active on P.E.I., Lush noted companies can re-apply at any time. He expressed frustration that government has not banned fracking.
West Prince resident Leona Lane said that while the physics of fracking scares her, she fears P.E.Il could be exploited because of its economic situation. “I’m terrified that they look at a region like ours and say, ‘look, the people are poor, the people are underemployed, the people have a lower income. Let’s come in, build them a community center,’ like they did in one of the smaller communities in the states, ‘be good corporate citizens, because they want the jobs.’”
Lush agreed that some communities around the world are being bribed into allowing the fracking to go ahead without giving consideration to the potential for long-term environmental damage.
Besides water contamination, Lush said the heavy truck traffic needed to haul large volumes of water and chemicals to and from the well sites would damage roads and create potential for environmental damage through spills and accidents. There would also be potential for contaminated water, stored in ponds, to leak out or overflow under the weight of snow, he advised.
Lush said companies would force as much as 20 million liters of water and a cocktail of chemicals into one well and they only get 30 to 70 pee cent of it back. Proprietary rights, he said, protect companies from having to disclose the chemicals used in their fracking process, but he stressed that water analysis has determined that many“nasty chemicals” are utilized. Since 2009, he said, companies have been refracking the same wells when pressure drops off. He acknowledged companies have been doing vertical fracking for decades, but only since 2005 have they been using deviated wells which allow them to drill underground horizontally for up to four kilometers. “That means they can frack underneath your land without your permission,” he stated.
Even Islanders working in oilfields out West, Knockwood said, oppose fracking here, “using their voices to say, ‘We don’t want home to look like it does where we work.’”
Lush said benefits from gas and oil extraction would be short-lived but the damage could be permanent.
“They will have to last forever,” he said of the abandoned well casings after the wells run dry, “and they will all fail.”