Reprint by permission: The Argosy
Residents protest and say “frack off” to shale gas developers
Over the past several months the anti-shale gas movement in New Brunswick has gained tremendous momentum. This month, organizers prepare for a march in Fredericton
on Saturday, November 19. This event is following four such marches which took place this summer and fall. Over 1, 000 people gathered in Fredericton to march in August, 600 people attended a September march in Moncton, seventy Hampton residents staged a protest in October, and about fifty-five people in Cornhill protested later that month as well.
The NB government has failed to convince a significant number of residents of the necessity for and safety of shale gas development. In September, Corporate Research Associates surveyed residents in Moncton and Saint John about their opinions of shale gas exploration.
In Moncton, forty-five per cent of respondents—forty-one per cent in Saint John—were opposed. In both cities about thirty per cent of respondents remained unsure. The NB government’s reassurances don’t completely convince Mount Allison students either. Fourth year student, Jenna Strang, weighs the pros and cons: “Money, that’s the benefit, right? The thing is NB isn’t making an enormous profit and we’re sacrificing our land, water, air – our way of life! For me, the cost of losing our healthy environment to shale gas companies isn’t worth any amount of revenue, especially the little we’re currently getting.”
Emily Mann, a third year student, takes an even stronger stand: “I feel extremely uncomfortable with the way in which the provincial government is handling this issue. They are allowing it to occur despite the fact that drilling sites are vulnerable to well blow-outs, explosions, pipe failures, fires, and uncontrollable flow of fracking fluids. It just doesn’t seem right.”
The trustworthiness of shale gas development companies was called into question recently when Seismotion, a subcontractor for Windsor Energy Inc., began seismic testing in Sussex, NB the night before the Sussex Town Council was to vote on such testing. Seismotion went ahead early because it claimed the wait would cost $60,000. The RCMP has begun an investigation of Windsor Energy Inc. after the NB Department of Natural Resources
filed a complaint. Troublesome anecdotes circulate within the province concerning the experiences Penobsquis, NB residents, and people living in Dish, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas,and Pennsylvania. The residents of Penobsquis are currently embattled with Potash Corp in a hearing before the New Brunswick Mining Commission (NBMC). The people of Penobsquis are attempting to gain compensation for lower property values and lost water they claim are a result of seismic testing and mining operations in their community.
The level of legal expertise available to the two parties and the ability to finance this hearing is highly asymmetrical, favouring Potash Corp. This hearing is the first ever in NBMC’s history and sets a precedent for citizens challenging extractive industries for financial compensation.
Calvin Tillman, the former mayor of Dish, Texas, toured NB in late October to share his experience with shale gas development. Within Dish there are eleven compressor stations and over twenty pipelines. Before completing his second term as mayor, Tillman and his family moved because of health problems believed to be the result of poor air quality and noxious odours.
Last year, Pennsylvania’s fracking woes were made public by the 2010 film Gasland. These events and reports have contributed to growing skepticism in the province as New Brunswickers develop a consciousness of the potential risks associated with shale gas development.