Being a Canadian artist faced with an imminent Federal election on Monday May 2, 2011 and B.C. provincial election not too far off, I like to think of myself as reasonably well-informed. But then I watched GASLAND (2010) directed by Josh Fox. I felt sick and like I had been duped somehow. Not a good a feeling, I assure you. This documentary film is about hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for natural gas in the United States. From the looks of things, these drilling practices appear to, possibly, place our potable drinking water and health and safety in North America at risk. That’s a rather worrisome possibility and worth a close review.
Don’t be fooled by the occasional discrediting remarks about this Sundance Festival winning film – keep digging and see where they are coming from. Put simply – it’s a mess. I am feeling physically ill from the disheartening circumstances we find ourselves in. In order to come to terms with its content, this film requires broader research. I have settled on these links to get you started.
Gasland: A film by Josh Fox (close the annoying donation popup and read – then, if you want, go back and donate) http://www.gaslandthemovie.com
PBS interview with Josh about Gasland (March 2010)http://video.pbs.org/video/1452296560
Gasland – Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasland as it outlines the film and a few critiques about points of accuracy that Fox addresses in greater detail this link here http://1trickpony.cachefly.net/gas/pdf/Affirming_Gasland_Sept_2010.pdf.
The practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” using a cocktail of substances lots of water, is impacting or is likely to 34 States in the United States. And, though this is not covered in the film, it is also happening in northeastern British Columbia and has just been suspended in Quebec until the potential health and environmental impacts are better understood. GASLAND holds out one small ray of hope for the possibility of legislation that could prevent this disaster from happening in the Pennsylvania watershed that supplies drinking water New York City and Philadelphia. Who knows. In a link to a related article about Pennsylvania at the end of this post it doesn’t sound very promising. But in British Columbia and in Canada? Without a change in political will, I sense there is little hope for legislative intervention:
According to a report from B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission, the oil and gas sector was permitted to use (and contaminate) 86 billion litres of surface water in 2009 alone, and would thus not be regulated under the new ground water regulation. Annual groundwater use was not reported, but is a small fraction of the 86 billion litres based lifetime groundwater well production for natural gas (6.6 billion litres).
How can this be? I feel like I’ve been blindsided. Where are our water and air protections? What is going on? Could MY Canada really be playing a fool’s game and allowing extraction of natural gas using hydraulic fracturing with minimal scrutiny into the potential consequences? It appears so. In fact, The GreenMuze reports:
… the BC government has been pushing drilling for unconventional sources of natural gas since at least 2005, offering $50,000 (€36,500) royalty credits for every well drilled before December 2008, and selling oil and gas “sub-surface rights” at a fever pitch.
Both BC and Saskatchewan have been courting the industry with lax or no environmental regulations and promises of low royalties charged to the companies. The Petroleum Services Association of Canada (PSAC) predicts a 10 percent increase in drilling in BC in 2010, mostly in the Montney shale field of northeastern BC and the Horn River Basin near Fort Nelson.
In 2006, researchers for West Coast Environmental Law published a report noting that the oil and gas industry had identified at least six areas of BC holding coalbed methane (CBM) natural gas potential: Peace country in the north east; Elk Valley in the southeast; Vancouver Island; the south central interior (around Merritt and Princeton); northwestern BC (around Telkwa and Iskut); and the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Nanaimo Daily News (Nov. 7, 2009) reported that Vancouver Island’s CBM gas deposits – stretching from Chemainus to Parksville, and in the Comox-Campbell River area – are currently not of interest to the industry. Nonetheless, a group called Citizens Concerned About Coalbed Methane-Vancouver Island, has for the past year been pushing for development under its action plan, “Building a Safe Future for CBM.”
In 2008, BC took in a record $2.4 billion (€1.75b) from these leases, which is now its biggest source of royalties’ income.
Fracking is also in high demand in the Bakken natural gas field in southern Saskatchewan, where 1,000 wells have been drilled and fracked over the past five years. PSAC is predicting 1,935 new wells will be drilled there in 2010, and 300 new wells in Manitoba. As a result, Alberta has just announced that it is removing environmental and regulatory “hurdles” in order to entice the natural-gas industry back.
Huge shale developments are also planned for Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Utica shale gas field in Quebec covers an area of 5,000sq.km (1,930sq.m) that runs along the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Quebec City.
The industry is especially interested in the Utica shale because it is close to the New York City market, with export capacity available on TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline system. If the US curtails natural gas development in the Marcellus shale, the Utica could provide gas to the New York market.
GASLAND and my related research, cited at the end of this post, scare the pants off me. I had no idea this was happening and it has been going on awhile now.
SHORT RANT: I am appalled by our human greed and how we do things knowingly on so many levels to our earth and ourselves that cannot be repaired. Once we contaminate our soil and our oceans, and lose our drinking water it doesn’t really matter how much natural gas we have – the risks are not worth it. As you can tell, I have an opinion about this. If we can’t safely extract natural gas without destroying our water supply we need to be changing our dependency on fossil fuels. And if that needs to be done faster, then let’s do it, before it is too late. I hope you take the time watch and read for yourself. Shared knowledge is power.
ACTION: Feeling a little like a small chicken shouting the sky is falling, I am compelled to take action. What am I going to do?
First ACTION: With mostly environmentally friendly cleaners, scour the house until it shines. DONE! I never start a big project without a clean house. It seems to interfere with a person’s ability to think or at least this person’s ability to think.
Second ACTION: Get my voting decisions sorted out. DONE! If you are Canadian, here are some sites that will help you strategically vote in our next federal election:
You may like this video “I vote for Canada” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jISlelzxKyI I like it because it moves away from party positions and into what it is we want to see.
Vote Compass was a fascinating exercise in clarify where the parties stand on various issue in relation to where I stand http://federal.votecompass.ca/ No real surprises – just nice to see it laid out.
I also have found the Catch 22 approach useful http://catch22campaign.ca/
Then the Swing 33 convinced me to donate $100 to the Liberal riding in Esquimalt http://swing33.ca/
And just in from Avaaz: Canada: Democracy = Majority
Third ACTION: Find ways to raise awareness. In progress.
Step one – write blog post. DONE! I include some of my photographs to remind us about our sacred relationship to our planet earth.
Step two – invite. Hum…. how might the Creative Potager community be able to spearhead a creative project to expand our awareness and take strategic action. I wonder? Do you have any ideas? What might we do?
Step three – Ask. I now ask that you help by sharing this post through twitter, facebook and on your own blogs. Because Josh Fox can’t change a thing on his own, neither can I and neither can you. But together we can and will make a difference. With grace, compassion and humility, I pass the next ACTION over to you!
Sprout question: How might fracking and natural gas extraction influence your creativity?
More BC and Canada research:
A Fracking Disaster in the Making: Report by Andrew Nikiforuk http://thetyee.ca/News/2010/10/15/FrackingDisaster
Shale gas decisions in Quebec raise questions about B.C.’s approach http://ourwaterbc.ca/blog/shale-gas-decisions-in-quebec-raise-questions-about-b.c.2019s-approach
No right to water in Canada http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/water/2011/03/10/no-right-water-canada
Our Water Secretly Sucked Away by Shale Gas Industry by Ben Parfitt, March 15, 2011 http://ourwaterbc.ca/our-water-secretly-sucked-away-by-shale-gas-industry
Letter outlining shortcomings of British Columbia’s Water sustainability Act Policy Proposal http://ourwaterbc.ca/find-out-more/oil-gas-considerations-for-bcs-new-water-sustainability-act
Talking Points document that was supposable dropped by an oil and gas representative when leaving a landowners property. There is no source given by Green Environmental Coalition but whether this is true or not – the talking points are well worth reading:
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FromMayne Island,British Columbia,Canada
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