Dear Premier Alward:
Your support of “responsible” shale gas development and “ensuring the safety and security of homeowners and our groundwater supply” may sound reassuring, but it assumes that there is, in fact, a responsible, safe and secure way to do those things.
Unfortunately, all the evidence to date demonstrates clearly that shale gas development always involves serious levels of pollution and contamination of water, soil and air. It also demonstrates that the infrastructural adjustments required to support that development bring serious negative changes to the landscapes in which they take place — increased traffic, noise, disruption of wildlife and damaging effects to both flora and fauna, including serious health problems for people.
The process of hydraulic fracturing places large quantities of dangerous, often carcinogenic chemicals into the ground, and about half of them stay there, interacting with the soil and water in ways that are neither fully known nor predictable. The half that is recovered must then be dealt with on the surface, presenting even more opportunities for contamination of the air, the soil, and the groundwater and for irreparable damage to plants, animals and people.
Furthermore, the migration of methane from gas wells in fractured shale into water wells thousands of metres closer to the surface has already been reliably reported in hundreds of places, and has now been scientifically verified. It will not be long before science also verifies the migration of other toxic substances released by drilling and fracturing deep underground.
There is no way to accurately control the effects of the shale gas development processes and guarantee the health and safety of the people who occupy the land. You know this as surely as we do. What will you do with that information?
Granted, there probably is no industry that doesn’t involve some opportunities for human error to create environmental problems for people. But shale gas development in particular is so highly distributive geographically that it would bring its serious hazards to a huge portion of our province, enabling irreversible damage to water tables, people, property and our way of life on a frightening and unprecedented scale. The negative impacts are long-lasting problems we’d be passing on to future generations. Every gas well is a potential source of serious, life-threatening effects.
I think it is worth considering the likelihood that any political party with the courage to say no to the temporary royalty income from this dangerous industry, to stand up for the health and safety of our people, will win grateful support at the polls. Similarly, any political party that shows such callous disregard for the health and safety of its people that it is willing to expose them, against their wills, to the loss of property, security, health and the heritage that their land represents, will be treated with appropriate scorn and dismissal.
In which category will your decisions place your government and the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick? What legacy will history record for you and your administration?
Will it be you or will it be your political opponents who take the high road on this crucial issue and win the hearts and minds of your people?
It would be good to remember that your party’s success in the last provincial election came not so much from approval of your platform as from a total rejection of the Graham Liberals’ ineptitude and high-handed disregard for the wishes of New Brunswickers.
The voters of this province are watching what your government does with intense personal interest, and I believe they will not shrink from creating a second one-term New Brunswick government if they see their interests and wishes being ignored yet again.
Opposition to shale gas development in New Brunswick is growing. The personal risks are too great. Reassurances by your ministers of environment and natural resources, saying that your government is taking a slow and careful look at the options, don’t wash. If these people can visit Arkansas and Pennsylvania and still believe shale gas might be good for our province, they are either blind or bound by a predetermined course of action. A bad decision made after slow and careful consideration is even worse than one made as an uninformed blunder. When the problems begin, we will know that you saw it coming and made a conscious decision to place New Brunswickers in harm’s way, to choose profits over people.
Your people are justifiably alarmed, and we will not be satisfied with boilerplate political responses that ignore our concerns while fabricating a plausible-sounding rationalization of approval for a patently dangerous and historically damaging industry.
Mr. Premier, this is your chance to become the champion of your people. You can take up the challenge and lead the fight to preserve our way of life for all of us and for our children’s children, or you can ignore the growing evidence against shale gas, turn a deaf ear to the wishes of your people, and pass that leadership opportunity to those who will form our next government.
Shale gas exploration and development in New Brunswick must be stopped permanently.
We await your government’s decision with anticipation, trepidation, hope and determination.
Do the right thing! Keep us safe! Make us proud!
Armand Paul is a spokesperson for the Penniac Anti-Shale-Gas Organization.