Hydraulic Fracturing in B.C. why was this allowed to happen?

“To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival.
-Wendell Berry-“

The re-airing of the November 5, 2011, Global TV’s program 16:9 segment: “Untested Science” has opened my eyes to something that should not have been allowed to happen.  I emailed the following letter to the Premier of British Columbia looking for answers to my concerns for the environment and the lives of families in the wake of hydraulic fracturing.

Todays “stone”:  Day 8  smooth and round, shimmering, wet, coated with toxic waste, sadly untouched

Dear Premier Christy Clark:

As a resident of British Columbia, I have serious concerns about the environmental issues surrounding the practice of hydraulic fracturing that is underway in several areas of Northern B.C.  Yesterday, I viewed a re-airing of the November 5, 2011, Global TV’s program 16:9 segment: “Untested Science”.  I have taken the time since to research the process and its harmful cumulative impacts on the environment and human health.  There is vast environmental impact documentation, much controversy and various world-wide bans and moratoriums on this hazardous process.

The government of B.C., whose mandate is to represent the people and protect the environment of B.C., has allowed Talisman Energy and Canbriam Energy to proceed without “an extensive process of public consultation,” as promised by Energy Minister Rich Coleman in BC’s Legislature on June 1, 2011?

In one of the fracking zones near the town of Hudson’s Hope, Talisman Energy and Canbriam Energy were each granted 20-year, 10 million liters/day, water withdrawal permits (and by the way contamination of said water) by the B.C. government, without any notification to the public, let alone holding ‘extensive’ consultations and discussions.  It is fundamentally wrong for a government mandated to represent its people to skip the process of consultation and environmental impact review given the serious documented implications inherent with hydraulic fracturing.

The under the table decision to allow Talisman to repeatedly “frack” a planned 1400 wells in the corridor from BC Hydro’s Williston Reservoir to the Farrell Creek with fracking lease concessions north of Hudson’s Hope will impact negatively on the lives of families living in the area as well as the environment for decades upon decades.

The process of “fracking” uses up to or more than 4,000 cubic meters of water which is treated with toxins before being injected underground each time.   Large amounts of contaminated and possibly radioactive water returns to the surface up the well bore.  Environmental concerns with hydraulic fracturing include the potential contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the potential migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, the potential mishandling of waste, and the health effects of these.

Documented incidents of contamination include improper/inadequate disposal of fluids, and environmental concerns such as water quality, fish kills and acid burns.  The shocking demonstration shown on the 16:9 television segment whereby water drawn from a kitchen tap explosively ignited when lit by a match is a startling revelation of the implications of hydraulic fracturing.

Emissions that are routinely vented from this process include particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide methane, ethane, liquid condensate, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which contain benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene.   Health effects of exposure to these chemicals include neurological problems, birth defects, and cancer.   Further, when these emissions are mixed with nitrogen oxides from combustion and combined with sunlight the result is ozone formation. Ozone has been shown to impact lung function, increase respiratory illness, and is particularly dangerous to lung development in children.

The documented detection of methane and other chemicals such as phthalates in private water wells impacted by hydraulic fracturing in the area is alarming.  Fresh drinking water is undeniably the most basic of human needs for families of B.C.

Fresh air quality, yet another basic human need is being compromised by the fracking process resulting in elevated levels of disulphide, benzene, xylene and naphthalene which have been documented as detected in the air causing families living in the area to be affected by headaches, diarrhea, nosebleeds, dizziness, and muscle spasms .

It is unconscionable to allow the emission of carcinogens and neurotoxins which cause the families near the sites to suffer chemical exposures, accidents from industry operations, and psychological impacts such as depression, anxiety and stress.

In the very least there should be strict laws and regulations fully implemented compelling companies to handle their own flow-back waste through effective disposal of fracture fluids rather than sending them to public water treatment facilities.

Other governments have taken the alarm raised seriously.  For example:

-New South Wales has a moratorium in place on the practice of hydraulic fracturing and a ban of use of evaporation ponds by existing fracking mines.

– Quebec has temporarily suspended hydraulic fracturing development pending an environmental review.                                                                                                                                   -Hydraulic fracturing was banned in France in 2011.

-There is currently a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in South Africa’s Karoo region.

-In Lancashire, UK, operations were suspended after two small earthquakes subsequent to drilling operations.

I would appreciate a written response to answer my questions:

What will the government of British Columbia do to rectify this damaging error in judgment which has allow hydraulic fracturing to devastate our environment and the lives of families living in its wake?

What, Premier Clark, is your plan regarding this serious environmental crisis which is underway in the headwaters of our most glorious northern wilderness?

I understand that there was initially a call for the resignation of Energy Minister Rich Coleman.  What action has been taken with regard to his irresponsible actions in this matter?

What role or lack of action did the Minister of the Environment, Terry Lake, have in this matter?

Just exactly where does the buck stop on this one…who is responsible for the lack of consultation and environmental impact review?

Do we have an environmentally sound government conscience working for us here in B.C.?



One thought

  1. Your letter to your prime minister is very much like the one I sent the president of my united states. One of Obama’s staff members replied to me that the president prefers to allow these types of issues to be handled at the local government level. Of course the local officials have told me for 5 years now that it is out of their hands. Maybe out of their hands, but not out of their pockets. I too often ponder the very simple question of ‘how could this be allowed to happen?’ There is simply no country in the world today where “the people” have a voice. Corporate global greed is running things, period. The earth in north central Arkansas is being hurt beyond repair. Keep the Faith! Earth First!

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