We Say No – Joint Statement

K’JIPUKTUK (Halifax) — The panel reviewing hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia has completed its community information sessions across the province. Dr. Wheeler has been clear that much is still unknown about the risks and benefits to Nova Scotians.

During this review, the Native Council of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association have announced their official opposition to fracking.

Given that:

•    All three political parties have stated that the existing moratorium will remain until fracking is proven to be safe;

•    The panel has not proven that there is common understanding of the full extent of risks associated with fracking;

•    The panel has not proven that fracking can be done safely at this point in time; and that

•     Members of the aboriginal community have indicated that they do not give their consent for hydraulic fracturing.

We, the undersigned organizations, call for a legislated moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia for at least ten years.

We also recognize Indigenous title rights as upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, and that a moratorium on fracking must remain in place until the Mi’kmaq community gives its consent.

 

If your organization would like to endorse this statement, contact:

Jennifer West, Geoscience Coordinator, Ecology Action Centre

442-5046, 471-3301 (cell), groundwater@ecologyaction.ca

 

Canadian Federation of Students – Nova Scotia

Canadian Youth Climate Coalition

Council of Canadians

Citizen Action to Protect the Environment

Divest Dalhousie

Eastern Shore Forest Watch

East Hants Fracking Opposition Group

Ecology Action Centre

Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia

Genuine Progress Institute Atlantic

Greens of Haligonia

Hants Federation of Agriculture

Halifax Environmental Justice Collective

Inverness Chapter, Council of Canadians

KAIROS Atlantic 

KAIROS Halifax

No Farms No Food

Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group

Nova Scotia Citizens Health Care Network

Parrsboro Shore Anti-Fracking Group

Public Service Alliance of Canada

Responsible Energy Action

Sensible Energy for the North Shore

Sierra Club Atlantic

Tatamagouche Centre


joint statement logos

 

 

 

 

Public Information Sessions

Profile Picture 4Upcoming information sessions are being held around Nova Scotia.  Attend and voice your concerns!!!

The review panel is hosting public meetings to present their draft recommendations for government.  Plan to attend and share your concerns about the papers, the review process or about fracking!  Click here to download a toolkit for the public sessions!  A schedule of sessions is provided below.  

The panel is releasing papers on different topics, and invites the public to respond to papers for two weeks after each release.  Visit the review website to read their papers and write to hfreview@cbu.ca to submit your responses.

Share any concerns you have with not only the review panel, but also with your local MLA, the Minister of Energy and the Premier.  Your voice must be heard!

Location

Address

Date and Time

Sydney Cape Breton University, Verschuren Centre Room CS 1041250 Grand Lake Road, Sydney, Nova Scotia, B1P 6L2 July 16 (5 to 7)
Port Hawkesbury Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, 606 Reeves St. Port Hawkesbury, NS, B9A 2R7 July 17 (6:30 to 8:30)
New Glasgow Pictou County Wellnes Centre2756 Westville Road, RR3 New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, B2H 5C6 July 21 (12 to 2)
Tatamagouche Tatamagouche Centre259 Loop Route 6, RR#3 Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, B0K 1V0 July 21st (6:30 to 8:30)
Amherst The Dominion Public Building, 98 Victoria St. Amherst, NS, B4H 1X6 July 22 (12 to 2)
Truro Rath Eastlink Community Centre, 625 Abenaki Rd, Truro, NS, B2N 0G6 July 22 (6 to 8)
Noel(Kennetcook) 

Halifax

Noel Legion, 8706 Hwy 354, Noel, NS B0N 1P0  

Kings College, Alumni Hall, 6350 Coburg Rd. Halifax, NS, B3H 2A1

July 23 (12 – 2) July 23 (6 to 8)
Yarmouth Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Yarmouth Branch341 Main Street, Yarmouth, NS  B5A 1E7 July 24 (11am to 1)
Windsor Windsor Community Centre (Hants County War Memorial Community Centre)78 Thomas St., Windsor NS July 24 (6:30 to 8:30)
Whycocomagh Whycocomagh Waterfront Centre 9650 Hwy 105 Whycocomagh, NS B0E3M0 July 29 (6 to 8)

 

Response to Paper 5: Water

This is a response to the draft paper titled “What are the interactions between unconventional gas resources and water resources? Input quality and quantity requirements and water treatment needs and impacts” (referred to as the “draft paper”). The draft paper does not provide a reasoned scientific evaluation of the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing on water resources. Overall, the draft paper offers superficial consideration of the risks.

The draft paper gives relatively little consideration to the risks of water contamination posed by the hydraulic fracturing industry from cradle to grave and beyond. The analysis of risks to water needs to include the risks:

(i) from trucking contaminants to and from the site;

(ii) leaks from ponds, tanks, lines and other surface spills;

(iii) of intermediate and long term migration of contaminants, long after active hydraulic fracturing on the site ends;

(iv) posed by the extraordinary legal, technical and financial burden borne by the government and citizens to prove the source of contamination and the existence and extent of liability of the polluter;

(v) of contamination that occurs, or is discovered, long after hydraulic fracturing on a site ends and the operator and owner have liquidated, gone bankrupt or are otherwise beyond the reach of the law; and

(vi) posed by contamination that cannot be remediated or cannot be remediated quickly enough or is beyond the financial means of government and citizens to remediate. To the extent risks are considered, there is a paucity of scientific authority cited. In some instances, sweeping conclusions are made with almost nothing offered to support them. For example, that existing regulations are sufficient in any respect.

The draft paper largely ignores and often takes positions contrary to the positions taken by the Council of Canadian Academies (“CCA”) in the 292 page assessment the CCA prepared after a four year long study at the request of Environment Canada captioned “Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada” (“CCA Report”). The draft paper generally takes the tack that there is sufficient information to answer some very important questions that have been raised about the potential impact of the hydraulic fracturing life and death cycle. The CCA Report concludes that in many respects there is simply not enough scientific information and not enough time has elapsed to determine the risks and how those risks might be mitigated. The draft paper does not explain why the authors have taken such a different approach with such a different result. This is notable as both the pending panel review and the CCA Report aspire to be evidence based. The draft paper needs to explain where the scientific bases are found for taking such a different approach and reaching such a different result.

The draft paper fails to take into account the relative paucity of information available about the risks posed to our water by hydraulic fracturing and the risks of rushing to judgment. The CCA observes (CCA Report at Page 7):

“The strongly contrasting views of shale gas development point to the need for
much more extensive and comprehensive studies. They also point to the need to consider past experience when dealing with new forms of environmental risk. Retrospective analysis suggests that western societies — driven by technological optimism and a belief in the desirability, if not inevitability, of economic expansion — have often underestimated the risks posed by the introduction of new technologies. The detailed study by the European Environment Agency, Late Lessons from Early Warnings, documents numerous examples in which evidence of adverse environmental impacts from economic activity was discounted based on justifications that seemed logical at the time but turned out to be incomplete at best (EEA 2001, 2013). These examples include factors that are relevant here, such as the demand for employment and economic development, and the tendency of advocates for new technologies and economic activity to assert that a lack of proof of harm is equivalent to a proof of safety. At this stage in shale gas development, there are many unanswered questions. This should be taken as an indication of the need for more and better information…” [emphasis supplied]

The draft paper fails to recognize the significance of the risks and the cumulative effects of hydraulic fracturing. The CCA observes (CCA Report at Page 13):

“Some risks, such as cumulative impacts on the land and contamination of groundwater, are more problematic: either we do not know enough about the probability of the risks or, where we do, they may force difficult trade-offs.”

The draft paper suggests that there is scant reason to be concerned about the potential risks to groundwater, based on the premise that the fracturing occurs at an impermeable level of the earth. Paper fails to acknowledge there is no such thing as impermeable layers of rock. The CCA (CCA Report at Page 12) states:

“A major environmental concern regarding shale gas development — regional groundwater contamination — hinges on the flow of fluids in low permeability but commonly fractured geological strata. However, because past scientific interest has largely focused on high permeability rocks (aquifers and petroleum reservoirs), fluid flow in low permeability rocks is poorly understood. Thus, the basic scientific knowledge needed to evaluate potential risks to groundwater on the regional scale is largely lacking. 

 

 

In areas where peer-reviewed studies are available, they do not necessarily agree. For example, there is a substantial range of expert opinion on the extent of fugitive methane emissions from shale gas development.

 

 

Some of the possible environmental effects of shale gas development, such as the creation of sub-surface pathways between the shale horizons being fractured and fresh groundwater, gas seepage from abandoned wells, and cumulative effects on the land and communities, may take decades to become apparent.” [emphasis supplied]

[at Page 79:]
“…verifying the stability of the hydraulic conductivity properties of the
overburden during and after hydraulic fracturing requires sophisticated in situ strain measurements and long-term monitoring, neither of which has been done. Wang (2013a, 2013b) conducted geomechanical modelling to assess changes in stress conditions in response to gas extraction from the Utica shale region in Quebec that suggest that the caprock may experience an increase in bulk hydraulic conductivity.” [emphasis supplied]

[at Page 72:]
“A common misconception in some of the literature is that the Intermediate Zone typically has strata that are impermeable, such that they completely protect or isolate the FGWZ from the deep strata containing gas and saline waters.” [emphasis supplied]

 

At Page 11, the draft paper states “The Council of Canadian Academies, 2014 noted:” and then includes this statement from the AWWA “At this time, AWWA is aware of no proven cases of groundwater contamination directly attributable to hydraulic fracturing.” The paper implies that the CCA cited this quote as an important point of evidence or otherwise adopted the AWWA position. The authors of the paper have either misread or misinterpreted the CCA. The quotation of the AWWA position is included by the CCA, to illustrate the multitude of weaknesses in the AWWA position.. The CCA paper describes this position as “common in non-peer reviewed literature.” The CCA then goes on to delineate the problems with the AWWA statement, based on peer reviewed articles. Among the points the CCA makes (CCA Report at Page 67) are:

a) [Tilley and Muehlenbachs (2011)] … “clearly point out the limitation of relying on absence of evidence to support the more general statements of no proven effect that are reflected in the AWWA statement.”

b) “Note also the distinction between contamination “directly attributable to hydraulic fracturing,” as the AWWA stated, and the larger array of processes associated with shale gas extraction, which may also include wastewater reinjection and cross-contamination between Intermediate Zone layers and shallow groundwater due to poor or absent cement seals surrounding oil and gas industry wells.”

c) “… confidentiality requirements dictated by legal investigations, combined with the expedited rate of development and the limited funding for research, are substantial impediments to peer-reviewed research into environmental impacts.” Vidic et al. (2013)
The CCA Report sums up by stating:

“It is important to recognize three issues here:
(i) sufficient data to evaluate the claims (for and against) of contamination related to hydraulic fracturing have not been collected;
(ii) sufficient data to understand the various possible pathways of contamination that may occur in the future have not been collected; and
(iii) the time frame to judge potential long-term, cumulative impacts has been inadequate.

 

A claim that shale gas developments have no impacts on groundwater needs to be based on generally accepted science including appropriate data obtained from the groundwater system using modern investigative methods. To the Panel’s knowledge, such data have not been collected. Moreover, because intense development in most shale gas plays has been taking place for less than 20 years, questions about the longer-term cumulative effects cannot yet be answered. Experience from other types of contamination shows that impacts on groundwater typically take decades to develop and become increasingly difficult to remediate.” [emphasis supplied, at CCA Pages 67-8 Section 4.1]

The CCA also had the following points to make about the unverified claim that there has never been a documented instance of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing:

[CCA Report at Page 7] “…claims, particularly those related to the migration of hydraulic fracturing fluids from deep underground into regional groundwater resources, are difficult to evaluate because of a lack of baseline data and scientific monitoring, and because the time-frame in which adverse effects may manifest is long. Claims there are no proven adverse effects on groundwater from shale gas development lack credibility for the obvious reason that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Further, groundwater has been affected due to incidents such as loss of containment due to faulty well casings or leakage from holding ponds.”

[at Page 96] “Although there are published claims that no proven or verified impacts of shale gas development on groundwater exist, more recent publications and reports dispute these. The burden of proof should not be on the public to show impacts, but on industry to verify that their claims of performance are accurate and reliable over the relevant scales in space and time. There is reason to believe that shale gas development poses a risk to water resources, but the extent of that risk, and whether substantial damage has already occurred, cannot be assessed because of a lack of scientific data and understanding.” [emphasis supplied]

Also germane on this point but ignored by the draft paper, is the analysis by the CCA at Page 72 of the CCA Report:

“Even when the depth of the source gas is clear, the pathway from the source to shallow groundwater is difficult if not impossible to discern because of the complexity of natural fracture systems and a lack of system characterization and monitoring to assess these systems. Furthermore, contamination may go undetected because of an absence of ongoing monitoring and sampling of domestic wells, dedicated monitoring wells, or other borehole sampling devices.”

The attitude expressed in the draft paper is inconsistent with the position taken by the CCA above. The paper turns the burden of proof upside down: “Insufficient evidence exists that links hydraulic fracturing at depths greater than 300 m to aquifer contamination.” The burden is not on the public to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that contamination occurs as a result of hydraulic fracturing. The burden is upon the panel to find incontrovertible evidence that negates all reasonable possibility of contamination. The paper should read “insufficient evidence exists that hydraulic fracturing is not linked to aquifer contamination.”

The draft paper does not consider cumulative effects that are an express concern of the CCA (Report at Page 5): “…risks do not exist in isolation and can give rise to cumulative effects.

The draft Paper does not consider the existing pathways for migration of toxins, that are reflected these findings by the CCA nor the dearth of hard information on the underlying rock structure (CCA Report at Page 29):

“The sedimentary basins in Nova Scotia are part of the broader Maritimes
Sedimentary Basin and underlie the northern and eastern parts of the province. Geologically complex, with numerous faults and fractures, they are nevertheless seismically stable. Nova Scotia is very much a frontier in terms of onshore petroleum exploration; because few wells have been drilled, information about shale gas (e.g., the possible extent of deposits, rock mechanics) is sparse.” [emphasis supplied]

 

The draft paper does not address Environment Act precautionary principal.

The draft paper does not address First Nations’ water rights.

The draft paper does not address impacts on aquatic life needs (not farm fish). Impacts on aquatic life vary by species, location (freshwater bodies, wetlands, rivers, streams, mud flats, estuaries, the Bay of Fundy, the Minas Basin, Cobequid Bay, the Northumberland Strait etc), and in particular those species that are threatened or endangered.

The draft paper gives virtually no consideration of surface water contamination risks. For example, the paper does not consider risks posed by storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater. The CCA Report states (at Page 93):

“Flowback water is usually stored in lined surface ponds or tanks before being
either treated on-site or off-site in a specialized treatment plant, reused to fracture another well, or reinjected into a deep saline formation. Lined ponds, even when built with double liners, are rarely free from flaws and can be expected to leak over time. Similarly, the permeability of clay-lined ponds can be increased by the salinity of the stored flowback water (Folkes, 1982). …”

“In addition, surface ponds can overflow as a result of significant precipitation (e.g., during heavy rain storms).”

The draft paper fails to acknowledge that existing Nova Scotia groundwater regulations and monitoring cover an extremely narrow range of substances.
The draft paper fails follow through with the following conclusion in the paper: “it is too difficult to review the occurrence of all of the possible contaminants in groundwater…” One core topic of this paper should have been to address all the material contaminants in groundwater (naturally occurring and introduced by well operators) that would be released in flowback water, not just a superficial discussion of arsenic. By way of example only, the draft paper fails to consider naturally occurring lead, radon and salts being released.

The paper fails to take into account the public health risk posed by the release of arsenic, with a suggestion that Nova Scotia Environment treatment guidelines for homeowners provide sufficient protection.

Draft paper fails to consider the submission made to the panel by Duncan Keppie, PhD., the leading geologist in Nova Scotia, about natural rock fractures increasing chances and range of escape of fluids and gases.

Available scientific information cited in submissions to the panel was ignored. The draft paperignores Mark Tipperman’s 75 page submission on releases of contaminants and the plethora of authorities cited and almost innumerable occurrences of water contamination arising from hydraulic fracturing. The draft paper also appears to ignore more than 200 references submitted to the panel by Jennifer West. See for example: A 292 page report prepared for and under contract with European Commission DG Environment, Support to the identification of potential risks for the environment and human health arising from hydrocarbons operations involving hydraulic fracturing in Europe, prepared by AEA Technology, plc, http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/energy/pdf/fracking%20study.pdf:

That is a comprehensive analysis of the risks and potential impacts of fracking. The report concludes that:
1. each fracking site presents a high risk of contamination to groundwater and surface water; and
2. on a cumulative basis, fracking sites present a high risk to groundwater, surface water, water resources, air quality, biodiversity, noise levels and traffic. Id. Page vi, Table ES-1

The draft paper fails to take into account the shortages of potable water that will result when contamination does occur and the difficulty and cost of providing alternative water sources.

The draft paper fails to take into account the potential need for water wells tapping into the earth at the deepest levels possible as fresh water sources come under increasing pressure from global warming, agriculture, waste and overpopulation.

The draft paper fails to consider this finding by the Council of Canadian Academies assessment (Page xvii):

“Some of the possible environmental and health effects of shale gas development may take decades to become apparent. These include the creation of subsurface pathways between the shale horizons being fractured and fresh groundwater, gas seepage along abandoned wells.”

The draft paper does not cite a recognized authority, let alone an authority familiar with Nova Scotia’s geology for its conclusion about the length of hydraulic fractures. Instead, the paper cites a law school article for the following proposition: “fractures generated by hydraulic fracturing typically extend approximately 100 m vertically and approximately 200 – 300 m laterally (King, La Vergne Bryan, & Clark, 2012).” Assuming the law review article is correct, the paper should consider not simply the typical vertical length of fractures but the full range of fracture lengths. One study showed that a fracture extended for 600 meters. Hypothesis was that it connected with a natural fault (and ns shale is highly fractured) http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/natural-gas/news/2013/07/initial-findings-of-the-department-of-energy2019s-study-on-groundwater-contamination-from-hydraulic-fracturing
The draft paper fails to consider these related findings in the CCA Report:

[At Page xii] “A risk to potable groundwater exists from the upward migration of natural gas and saline waters from leaky well casings, and possibly also natural fractures in the rock, old abandoned wells, and permeable faults. These pathways may allow for migration of gases and possibly saline fluids over long time scales, with potentially substantial cumulative impact on aquifer water quality.” [emphasis supplied]

[at Pages 80-81] “overall, the limited scale of studies that have detected thermogenic gas and other contaminants in drinking water wells near shale gas operations and the particular conditions in the study regions inhibit drawing firm conclusions about contaminant pathways. Even if baseline data did exist, it would not be possible to clearly differentiate contamination through natural pathways from that caused by previous or current drilling activities, leaky well casings, or from active fracturing. Without good baseline data, the task is immensely more difficult. Thus, in most cases, definitive claims in either direction can neither be proven nor disproven without better information from, for example, suitable science-based groundwater monitoring systems and from improved understanding of mechanisms of gas seepage from rigorous site-specific studies.”

 

[at Page 77] “There is only minimal reference literature and no peer-reviewed literature that assess the potential for the various chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids to persist, migrate, and impact the various types of subsurface systems or to discharge to surface waters.”

The draft paper leapfrogs from one isolated fact and the existence of regulations to a conclusion unsupported by any authority or logic: “Caustic soda is also used to process drinking water in some facilities in Nova Scotia as it is highly effective at adjusting pH and poses minimal health risks. In the case of the drinking water facilities, regulations and inspections are required by government to ensure that this chemical is safely applied and handled. Therefore, under the assumption of a strong regulatory framework, it would be anticipated that chemical agents could be safely managed and applied for hydraulic fracturing.

The draft paper ignores this finding by the Council: “not enough is known about the fate of the chemicals in the flowback water to understand potential impacts to human health, the environment, or to develop appropriate remediation. Monitoring, assessment, and mitigation of impacts from upward migration are more difficult than for surface activities. The greatest threat to groundwater is gas leakage from wells for which even existing best practices cannot assure long-term prevention.”

The draft paper fails to consider the difficulty if not impracticality of treating hydraulic fracturing flowback water by any method. As the CCA notes (CCA Report at Page 94):
Minimal research has been conducted on this aspect of shale gas development [treatment of flowback water]. In addition, the costs of treating flowback waters to achieve ecological and human health and safety standards are generally very high with uncertain regulatory outcomes.

The draft paper ignores this finding by the Council (at Page xvii):

“Full disclosure of chemicals and the chemical composition of flowback water is a necessary but insufficient step in the assessment of the environmental risks associated with drilling and fracturing. Information is also required on potentially hazardous chemicals produced down-hole by chemical interactions under high temperature and pressure. This includes information on concentration, mobility, persistence in groundwater and surface water, and bio-accumulation properties, for each chemical on its own and as a mixture. This represents a major gap in understanding of the potential environmental and human impacts of hydraulic fracturing, and of how to mitigate accidental releases of chemicals or flowback water to the environment.” [emphasis supplied]

The draft paper more or less assumes that technology or private industry has or will find a means of treating flowback water to a state where it is harmless; and that Nova Scotia standards for water quality take into account the 700 odd contaminants currently known to be employed by the hydraulic fracturing industry as well as the contaminants in the fractured earth that are released by hydraulic fracturing. The draft paper does not even mention some of the contaminants are hazardous at extremely low level concentrations, for example endocrine disruptors.

The draft paper fails to recognize that there is not nearly enough scientific data to adopt an appropriate regulatory scheme or even a safety plan. The CCA concludes (CCA Report at Page 13) that:

“…well-crafted, rules will not suffice if they are not supported by good quality environmental information and enforcement. As explained above, much of the information required to assess the environmental risks posed by shale gas development either does not currently exist or is not publicly available.” [emphasis supplied]

The draft paper does not address the prospects for treating aquifers and surface water that are contaminated by hydraulic fracturing. That would have to include what is feasible with today’s equipment and scientific understanding, what the financial costs are, how much time would be required, how those costs would be paid with solvent and insolvent polluters, how the costs would be paid in those instances in which the identity or liability of the polluter cannot be established to the satisfaction of the courts, and how the costs would be paid before the identity and liability of the polluter is established. Nor does the draft paper address the feasibility and expense of supplying potable water for citizens, agriculture and other industry when their water supplies are contaminated.

The draft paper cannot reasonably rely and does not explain how the authors believe they may rely on an analogy to other industrial uses, to make the assumption that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely with a water safety plan and monitoring. “Water safety plans would ensure that chemicals used by the industry are publicly declared and appropriate monitoring programs and risk mitigation programs are designed and available for public scrutiny. This approach would provide transparency and consistency as exists in other industries and processes such as drinking water treatment practices.” Hydraulic fracturing bears no resemblance to the overwhelming bulk of industrial uses. Plans and monitoring that might be adequate for industrial uses within an industrial zone at a limited number of fixed locations, are unsuited for hydraulic fracturing, that do not entail the introduction and release of as many as 700 contaminants, with cumulative effects.

The draft paper asserts “the Environment Act is an Act that could be complemented with specific regulations for enforcement and compliance of onshore petroleum resource sector. Further, as per the Activities Designation Regulations, the water requirements for hydraulic fracturing would require proponents to provide a comprehensive groundwater and/or surface water technical analysis and would also be required to provide public consultation prior to water withdrawal.” But this framework is woefully inadequate. The paper fails to consider that private citizens have no effective means of enforcing the Environment Act or its regulations, the Act and its regulations place the onus on the government to prove a violation in the case of contamination, enforcement occurs after contamination does, and this does the public very little good. Furthermore, you have failed to consider there is effectively no viable recourse for most private citizens in this Province whose water is contaminated because the Courts in Nova Scotia require a citizen prove negligence, the cost of baseline, ongoing and future testing for potentially 700 or more contaminants is prohibitive and the difficulty of proving which operator caused the contamination will often be insurmountable.

The draft paper fails to consider the extraordinary difficulty or impossibility, and extraordinary decades long expense of monitoring by citizens. Even if ordinary citizens had the financial resources to pay for the required testing the paper fails to consider the technical requirements that are part of EPA and other judicially recognized methods of water contaminant testing, the expense of shipment of samples to EPA or other credible laboratories that perform tests on the 700 odd contaminants, or whether there are any laboratories in the Province or Atlantic Canada who are qualified, equipped and staffed to test for vast numbers of contaminants in samples submitted by 1,000s of Nova Scotians, let alone for 1,000s of wells, on an ongoing basis. Instead, the draft report simply reflect the expectation that the public should bear the expense and burden of testing, to enable the hydraulic fracturing industry to discharge and release its contaminants. “Residents must also play a monitoring role by having their water regularly tested, beginning before any production activity, which should already be a best practice.”

The paper does not consider how expensive and difficult it would be under existing law for ordinary citizens or even the Provincial government, to meet the existing burden of proof to establish liability on the part of well owners and operators for contamination of ground and surface water, including without limitation intended, costs of qualified technicians and equipment to withdraw and handle sample, shipping costs to qualified laboratories, laboratory tests, experts to investigate, evaluate, prepare reports and testify, litigation expenses including lawyers’ fees, discovery expenses and expert witness and travel fees.

If hydraulic fracturing is permitted in the Province, it needs to be governed by statutes and regulations that impose:

(i) iron clad “no-fault strict liability” upon the operators and owners of the hydraulic fracturing industry, not “best management practices” or voluntary water safety plans that are negotiated on a case by case basis and on insufficient scientific evidence; and

(ii) shift the burden of proof from the government and citizens to those engaged in hydraulic fracturing.

In conclusion, the draft paper does not take into account the plethora of scientific research and analyses available that address the risks of hydraulic fracturing on water resources. Neither the draft paper or anything along the lines of the draft should be included in the panel’s report. The panel cannot fairly rely upon this draft paper in formulating even draft recommendations to the provincial government.

June 19, 2014
Respectfully submitted,
Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition Steering Committee

For full report with appendix, please click here

Response to paper 4: Well Integrity

The Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition (NOFRAC) believes that the Hydraulic Fracturing Review Well Bore Integrity discussion paper (“discussion paper”) provides a thorough outline of problems and impacts from gas seepage behind the well casing system, including the scale and implications of the problems with aging and abandoned wells. This discussion paper echoes findings made by the Canadian Council of Academies (CCA) that much more needs to be known about the various risks of shale gas extraction.

That said, on very central questions the discussion paper makes numerous sweeping statements for which very little or no supporting evidence is offered. These statements often are at odds with the evidence-based conclusions in the CCA Report on the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada.

  • Unlike the CCA Report, the discussion paper juxtaposes recognition of leaking well issues with a description of improvements in well construction and offering the opinion that the “incidence of leaking wells can easily be reduced.” (p.17) There is no reference to performance data.  Contrast this to the CCA Report:

The oil and gas industry has substantially improved on the practices used for cement sealing wells over the past decade, and there is no doubt that the cements used today are much more effective. However, the degree of improvements claimed has not been independently tested or verified.”  (p.58)

 

 

Natural gas leakage from improperly formed, damaged, or deteriorated cement seals is a long-recognized yet unresolved problem that continues to challenge engineers. Leaky wells due to improperly placed cement seals, damage from repeated fracturing treatments, or cement deterioration over time, have the potential to create pathways for contamination of groundwater resources and to increase GHG emissions. The issue of well integrity applies to all well types, including water and conventional gas or oil wells. Several factors make the long-term impact related to leakage greater for shale gas development than for conventional oil and gas development. These are the larger number of wells needed for shale gas extraction; the diverse chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations; the potential development of shale gas resources in rural and suburban areas that rely on groundwater resources; and possibly the repetitive fracturing process itself.” (p. xiii Executive Summary)

The CCA Report also says :

Information concerning the impacts of leakage of natural gas from poor cement seals on fresh groundwater resources is insufficient. The nature and rate of cement deterioration are poorly understood and there is only minimal or misleading information available in the public domain. (p. xvii Executive Summary)

  • More than once the discussion paper minimizes the human health consequences of methane gas leakages as at (p.1): “the consequences of such leaks, although negative from a climate change perspective, are not a great threat to health because natural gas is not a toxic substance.” The CCA Report goes to some length in the chapter on Water to explain that the effects of methane gas leakage into groundwater are a major question needing study.

The issue to be addressed here concerns the potential impacts of this type of natural gas leakage on groundwater quality. An important associated issue concerns other water quality aspects, that is, the biogeochemical processes that may attenuate the gas during transport by groundwater in freshwater aquifers away from the leaky wells.” (p. 84)

 

The biogeochemical processes that consume methane can increase hardness (calcium and magnesium concentrations) and produce hydrogen sulfide which, depending on the pH and other factors, may cause a rotten egg smell. According to Vidic et al. (2013), ‘methane can be oxidized by bacteria, resulting in oxygen depletion. Low oxygen concentrations can result in increased solubility of elements such as arsenic and iron. In addition, anaerobic bacteria that proliferate under such conditions may reduce sulfate to sulfide, creating water and air quality issues.’ However, all of these impacts have not yet been confirmed in field investigations in areas of shale gas development. 

The methods needed to assess the effects of methane contamination have been developed in studies of other types of groundwater contamination but have not yet been applied to assess the impacts of methane leakage from leaky oil and gas wells. Therefore, the degree to which the assimilation capacity of the groundwater zone for methane leakage will prevent long-term deterioration of groundwater quality remains unknown.” (p. 85)

The CCA Report concludes that:

the much larger number of wells needed for shale gas extraction, and the occurrence of shale gas development in areas of substantial rural and near-urban populations relying on wells for drinking water, suggest that the consequences of leakage will be correspondingly greater than for conventional oil and gas development.” (p.217)

  • The discussion paper makes repeated references to the “relatively straightforward task to establish good regulatory practices” without any reference to questions of effectiveness and performance of regulatory regimes. The CCA Report states:

 “The Canadian regulatory framework governing shale gas development is evolving and remains untested. … Advanced technologies and practices that now exist could be effective to minimize many impacts, but it is not clear that there are technological solutions to address all of the relevant risks, and it is difficult to judge the efficacy of current regulations because of the lack of scientific monitoring. The research needed to provide the framework for improved science-based decisions concerning cumulative environmental impacts has barely begun.” (p. xx Executive Summary)

  • The discussion paper concludes: “Moderate tectonic stresses and strong rock mean that wellbore instability during drilling will be largely absent; high quality wellbores lead to higher quality primary cementing operations, and therefore fewer cases of leaking wells.” (p.18) Again, no supporting evidence or analysis is offered. This appears to be at odds with the CCA statement noted above, that “the nature and rate of cement deterioration are poorly understood” and to the CCA suggestion that industry claims be subjected to more rigorous scrutiny. The question also remains, even if the quality is higher, what will the percentage of leakage be and over what time period, with what effects on water quality and GHG emissions, and is this an acceptable level of risk?
  • The discussion paper suggests that intermediate strings of casing may not be necessary in Nova Scotia. This appears specifically at odds with the CCA on this question (p.44). Nor does this discussion paper reflect the central importance that the CCA Report attaches to knowing much more about the geology and hydrogeology of the Intermediate Zone of geological strata.
  • The discussion paper states the common argument that “there is apparently no known case of fracturing liquids or gas migration from the target horizon [the shale bed being fractured] directly up through the rock mass to the surface or into shallow aquifers.“ (p.12) And compelling supporting evidence is offered that propagation of fractures all the way up to the groundwater zone or the surface are both unknown and extremely unlikely.  But the CCA Report queries at length the considerably more likely potential for transmission of fluids and gas indirectly, via natural faults, especially through the little studied or understood Intermediate Zone  [pp. 7, 69, 72-76, 78-79].

Nova Scotia would do well to heed the CCA concluding remarks to their chapter on Water:

“Although there are published claims that no proven or verified impacts of shale gas development on groundwater exist, more recent publications and reports dispute these. The burden of proof should not be on the public to show impacts, but on industry to verify that their claims of performance are accurate and reliable over the relevant scales in space and time. There is reason to believe that shale gas development poses a risk to water resources, but the extent of that risk, and whether substantial damage has already occurred, cannot be assessed because of a lack of scientific data and understanding.

The main potential cause of groundwater contamination is expected to be from upward gas migration along well casings or in combination with natural fractures causing entry of gas over extended time into freshwater aquifers or into the atmosphere. In aquifers, the gas may be assimilated by natural geochemical processes, but these same processes may release natural contaminants such as metals and hydrogen sulfide that could degrade water quality.” (p. 96)

Concluding Comments:

While the discussion paper touches on many of the potential problems, it also appears unrealistically optimistic that problems will not occur to any significant extent in Nova Scotia, and if they do, that they can be “easily” identified and fixed. This is where we believe the paper should be amended to integrate and reflect analysis of actual performance. Phrase such as “easily repaired,” “easily monitored”, “issues will be minimized,” “can reasonably be left to effective monitoring” do not reflect available evidence.

Analysis of post 2009 shale gas wells in Pennsylvania by Dr. Tony Ingraffea concludes, “Thorough analysis of well integrity data in “modern” wells with “tough” regulations indicates significant failure rate continues.”  Ingraffea found higher well failure rates in modern unconventional wells than in conventional wells. [1] Information from Saskachewan’s Auditor General indicates that the government is unable to keep up with reclamation of leaking wells, and the wells represent significant potential cost to taxpayers.[2]

The natural “can do” approach of industry and of engineers that issues of monitoring can be resolved in some nebulous manner is not a reasonable formula for preventing harm. A realistic assessment indicates that Nova Scotia already has problems monitoring and cleaning up even a few industrial sites, let alone the prospect of the widely distributed intensive industrial infrastructure characteristic of shale gas development.

We urge the panel to amend this paper to realistically reflect the steep challenges; to base their recommendations on reasonable standards of risk, and thorough sober assessments of monitoring capabilities.

 

Steering Committee, Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition

June 19, 2014



[1]

http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/data/Ingraffea_Science_of_Shale_March_2014abbrev.pdf, slide 19

http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/ingraffea.pdf,  Well bore integrity: Failure Mechanisms, Historical Record, and Rate Analysis, Slide 11

 

[2]

http://auditor.sk.ca/pub/publications/public_reports/2012/Volume_2/2012v2_31_CleanupWells.pdf

NOFRAC response to paper 3: resource estimate

The most recent paper, “The Potential Oil and Gas Resource Base in Nova Scotia Accessible by Hydraulic Fracturing,” does not contain information to support a potential oil and gas base in Nova Scotia.  The paper does not address resource quantification beyond existing wide-ranging estimates, and makes it difficult for a non-technical reader to follow the author’s logic in coming to the papers conclusion.

 

  • This paper has the tone of a promotional brochure for the oil and gas industry, and does not reflect a balanced conversation about the potential resources, transportation issues, potential local use of the resource, environmental costs, downgrading of resources in other jurisdictions, and potential for higher recovery based on non-existent technologies.
  • The report highlights that companies carefully scrutinize risks and uncertainties for their investment, but there is no mention of the majority of wells in this industry which do not produce economic volumes, nor is there mention of the rare “sweet spots” in this industry- the only source of significant income for many plays across North America.  There is significant discussion right now around natural gas Ponzi schemes, investment bubbles, and downgrades of companies on financial indexes.  These issues are not addressed in either the economic paper nor the resource potential paper.
  • There are considerable inconsistencies around the size of the resource- in some sections stating there is high potential and in others stating that the potential is unknown.
  • This report does not sufficiently cite the source of their information for many sections, making it impossible to assess the credibility of statements.
  • The report makes no mention of existing resource exploration experiences with Triangle or Petroworth- these are significant test cases for this area and would highlight many complicating factors (geology, regulations, enforcement, waste management, etc).
  • The lack of information in this report about the Windsor-Kennetcook basin is an indication that the government does not have the capacity to meaningfully assess or to research Nova Scotia’s geological resources.
  • Since the release of this report, the US government has downgraded the estimate for the Monterey Shale in California.  Since the Monterey is the most similar to the Windsor-Kennetcook basin, it is important to include this information, and describe realistic consequences of resource downgrading, as has occurred across North America.
  • The author introduces the topic of roads and bridges in this chapter without addressing the costs of maintenance and replacement of infrastructure after industrialized traffic passes over them for a number of years.  The road repair priority for the province is a reflection of current road uses and not the industrialized traffic that occurs in rural fracking areas.
  • Resource estimates in the conclusion should be coupled with the likely rate of recovery (5-25%) and any potential downgrade amount in similar plays (95% in the Monterey) to give a more realistic view of the potential resource.
  • Coal bed methane is an important resource to discuss in the Nova Scotia context however a meaningful review would include coal bed methane in every chapter.  As CBM was not mentioned in the previous chapter on economics, it is misleading to mention the resource potential of CBM when the economic costs and benefits have not been previously addressed.

 

Paper 3 does not provide any additional useful information about the potential oil and gas resource base in Nova Scotia accessible by hydraulic fracturing.  Information provided in this paper, and in papers provided by Dr. Duncan Keppie and the Post Carbon Institute suggest that Nova Scotia is not likely to have significant shale gas resources which could be recoverable through hydraulic fracturing.

 

- Steering Committee of the Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition

2014-06-04 NOFRAC Response to Paper 3

NOFRAC Response to Paper 2: Economics

Response to Hydraulic Fracturing Review paper 2: Petrolelum Operations: Costs and Opportunities 

Paper does not provide economic analysis of risks and benefits, does not meet standards for an evidence-based review

The second Nova Scotia Hydraulic Fracturing Review paper Petroleum Operations: Costs and Opportunities (May 2014) (Paper 2) does not provide an economic analysis of the risks and benefits of HF in Nova Scotia, although this is what lead author Michael Gardner was appointed to do.[1] A full and objective assessment of costs, risks and benefits is required for informed decision making.  Instead of providing an evidence-based, balanced assessment, this paper is weighted towards unrealistic promotion of the benefits of developing unconventional gas, while minimizing risks and costs and providing misleading assertions.

  • In tone and content, this paper is strikingly different from, and in many places contradictory to, the detailed scientific analysis carried out by the Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction, Council of Canadian Academies (CCA Expert Panel), May 2014. This paper ignores evidence from many peer-reviewed scientific articles and the CCA Expert Panel’s documentation of potential risks and costs arising from hydraulic fracturing for unconventional gas.
  • Paper 2 is strikingly unbalanced. It contains 12 pages detailing how industry activities are carried out and how they might benefit Nova Scotia. Much of this information is irrelevant or could be integrated into the primer. Following this detailed industrial information, we find a sketchy page and a half devoted to “community concerns.” The “community concerns” section does not provide a full, detailed assessment of risks to communities and their potential costs.

The paper outlines only five risks: all other costs and risks [documented in peer reviewed papers, by the Expert Panel, and other evidence] are simply omitted.

For example, economic risks to tourism, agriculture, wineries and other industries are ignored, as are risks to property values. These potential impacts on individuals and businesses, as well as municipal and provincial revenues are part of the economic picture. Economic costs to government or the public are also ignored, for example, there is no mention of the need for significant provincial investment in monitoring and enforcement should shale gas be permitted, nor to potential increases in health care costs, or legal costs of holding companies responsible if damages occur.

  • In contrast, the CCA Expert panel report states, for example, “Land impacts may include deforestation … and adverse effects on existing land uses such as agriculture and tourism.” The Expert Panel also notes “the cumulative effects of the large number of wells and related infrastructure required to develop the resource still impose substantial impacts on communities and ecosystems. … [and] require monitoring for potential fluid migration over long time scales to assess impacts.
  • Paper 2 places as much emphasis on discounting risks as it does to listing them. In the community section, risks are downgraded to “concerns,” described as “actual and perceived” and “concerns resulting from uncertainty about how HF works and the nature and security of safeguards in place, eg casing and cement.”.

Dismissing concerns about water contamination as misinformed or easily dealt with contradicts the CCA Expert Panel report, which notes:

◦     Natural gas leakage from improperly formed, damaged, or deteriorated cement seals is a long-recognized yet unresolved problem that continues to challenge engineers. Leaky wells due to improperly placed cement seals, damage from repeated fracturing treatments, or cement deterioration over time, have the potential to create pathways for contamination of groundwater resources and to increase GHG emissions (p. xiii);

◦     The greatest threat to groundwater is gas leakage from wells for which even existing best practices cannot assure long-term prevention (p. xiv); and

◦     Information concerning the impacts of leakage of natural gas from poor cement seals on fresh groundwater resources is insufficient. The nature and rate of cement deterioration are poorly understood and there is only minimal or misleading information available in the public domain (p. xvii).

This is just one example of a pattern of unsubstantiated assertions throughout the paper which imply that risks can be dealt with by simple measures (such as regulations or requirements for bonds to cover potential road damage). These assurances, like those about well integrity on page 4, contradict existing evidence.

  • The economic risks to communities presented in this paper do not reflect the broad amount of research that indicates costs to communities can be significant. The Canadian Council of Academies Expert Panel report notes the potential for “disruptive effects on communities and land; and adverse effects on human health.” We see no logical reason for including a full statement of potential economic benefits separate from a full statement of potential economic costs and risks, even given that those costs cannot be precisely quantified, and could be elaborated in future papers. That this paper does not even mention and acknowledge the legitimacy of potential costs and risks in full is not only an omission but a decision which reflects bias.
  • The financial benefits of offshore and unconventional gas are not comparable. The section noting how much financial benefit has come from the offshore should be omitted as a misleading comparison. Instead, information relating to the short life span of unconventional gas fields, few sweet spots, overall unprofitability of most wells, downgrading of supply estimates and minimal impacts on local community incomes should be included for a realistic assessment of potential benefits. For example, see Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2014.

Paper 2 does not meet standards for an evidence-based review to accurately assess economic impacts of hydraulic fracturing. The paper has significant, multiple problems in tone and content that cannot be corrected by minor changes to the present draft.  This paper should not be included in the final report. NOFRAC recommends that the panel start from scratch to develop a new paper providing an unbiased, evidence-based assessment of the economic risks and benefits of development of unconventional gas using hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia, as originally planned.

Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition, May 26, 2014

NOFRAC critique of HF paper 2 may 26


[1] See announcement of appointment December 6, 2013.

Ken Summers, Submission to HF Review

Ken Summers lives in Minasville, within sight of the two drilling sites in Kennetcook NS.  He has written numerous articles on fracking activities and fracking remnants.

Read his full submission here:

Ken Summers, Submission

Excerpt:

“There is a pretty universal consensus that the civil service was unprepared for regulating this very new and still rapidly evolving form of hydrocarbon extraction. But as an explicit statement this is only made by government Ministers of the day, and has been delivered as damage control required by increasing scrutiny of questionable past actions. There is no evidence of examination of patterns, and implications for the future. Quite the opposite: unsubstantiated assurances are made of “lessons learned,” given with the same air of certainty that earlier had been given that matters had always been under control.”

Geoffrey May, Submission to HF Review

Geoffrey May is an active environmentalist and resident of Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton.

Read his full submission here:

Geoffrey May, Submission

Summary:

“It simply isn’t possible for me to present all the known reasons that shale gas
industry should not be allowed in Nova Scotia, or anywhere else. In the past three years of
studying the issue, the evidence against shale gas has increased, and absolutely no
information has emerged in support of any of the industry’s claims. Reassuring cartoons, and
other fantasy evidence presented by industry have been shown time and again to be nothing
but misleading propaganda. Shale gas is not a bridge fuel to a low carbon future, but sabotage against clean non emitting energy development. Shale gas, in almost every regard is the polar opposite of what it’s proponents claim. Rather than the truth lying somewhere between what proponents and opponents claim , it is worse than it’s strongest critics know. Between whatever arbitrary cut off date your panel uses , and the time of your reports release , new information will be published on shale gas, and that new information will add to the existing catalogue of horrors released.”

Alicia Pettis, Submission to HF Review

Alicia Pettis and her family live and grow their own food in Upper Stewiacke.

Her full submission:

Dear Wheeler Review Panel,

I’m not a great enough writer to submit a long letter filled with anti-fracking articles for you to review. I’m sure that you have received plenty of those already, as there is a mountain of research facts out there showing how destructive fracking can be.

 

My husband & I moved to the Upper Stewiacke area in Nova Scotia just under 3 years ago. We left our well established professional careers to come to this area to pursue our dream of farming.  We operate a Permaculture based farm. We grow all of our produce without the use of herbicides or pesticides. There are 2 motivating factors for me wanting to do all of this;

1 – I lost my mother to cancer 5 years ago.  I believe that high cancer rates today are based on poor air quality, and poor food quality.

2 – Based on poor food quality found in grocery stores today, I wanted to take control of what is going into my body and be able to provide this option to other consumers.

 

So this brings me to the matter of fracking.  If the province of Nova Scotia does not continue it’s moratorium on fracking, or put a ban on it completely, I’m pretty sure companies like Forsent Energy will renew their lease and their exploration in Colchester County. Right up the road from me to be exact.

 

If that happens, sadly I will have to shut my farm operation down, sell my home and land, and leave.  I will not stay around to witness the imminent destruction. I refuse to stay and be poisoned.

 

I hope and pray that the Wheeler Review Panel will recommend that the province of Nova Scotia continue it’s Moratorium, or ban fracking.

 

Thank you for your time,

Alicia Pettis

Michael Jensen, Submission to HF Review

Michael Jensen is a farmer and resident of Scotsburn NS.  In his submission, he paints a picture of the future in the North Shore of Nova Scotia that is vivid and more than a little scary.

Read his full submission here:

Michael Jensen, Submission

Summary:

“The North Shore should develop a “success plan” for the next decade, of course, but shale gas development should have no part of it.

The risks far outweigh the paltry and temporary rewards; the potential benefits are transitory and fraught with long-­term side effects; the infrastructural tensions are virtually insurmountable; the economic impacts are profoundly disruptive; the sociocultural stresses are probably catastrophic.

Having written and rewritten this multiple times (and edited out a great deal of 
detail), I’m even more convinced that the fracking conflict embodies an inflection 
point – a “Y” in the road –which will determine the future of the region.”

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