Quit Fracking with our Water

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.

water stone wood by TerrillWelch

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.

ladies in waiting  by TerrillWelch

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).

Source: http://ourwaterbc.ca/find-out-more/oil-gas-considerations-for-bcs-new-water-sustainability-act

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.

Source: http://www.greenmuze.com/climate/energy/2562-ugly-reality-of-fracking.html

stones throw  by TerrillWelch

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.

soft yellow tulip  by TerrillWelch

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.

vessel by TerrillWelch

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.

bee in salal blossom  by TerrillWelch

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


late sun rushes in by TerrillWelch

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:


© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

FromMayne Island,British Columbia,Canada

Terrill Welch online Gallery at http://terrillwelchartist.com

25 thoughts on “Quit Fracking with our Water

  1. Terrill, this is a wonderful collection of links and recommendations for action. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but will. We all need to scream loudly now, before it’s too late. I worry about this as much as I do the pollution of our food on a planetary level with gene manipulation. This water pollution is just as permanent as the pollen from the GMO polluted plants.

    I talk, tweet, and write as much as I can and will not stop. You’ve inspired me to think of a way to get this out in front of others who are too busy just getting to and from work and getting their kids educated and fed to notice what’s been going on around them. My neighbors are a start.

    I will tweet and share on facebook your blog post and every single one of these links separately. Thank you for a great post!

    • Thank you Martha. I do so appreciate your tenacity and compassion for those who are just trying to get by in a time that is particularly demanding for many folks. I just know that each tweet, each wall post and each sharing over a kitchen table will help. We can’t begin to make decisions or changes about something we don’t know about.

  2. Thank you Terrill, I didn’t know. I’ll pass this on to our Canadian family and friends and will be learning more about this issue mayself. Bless you!

  3. Excellent post, Terrill. Many more people need to know what is going on and take steps to end this horrible practice, which I learned about last year. There were some very good articles on the Vanity Fair site and “Gasland” is tremendous. New York State enacted a law prohibiting fracking and more states need to follow its example.

    I have a friend whose family in Pennsylvania, in a desperately poor area, sold the rights to their land, which has been ruined through fracking. Their tap water could light a fire. There is evidence of runoff in the watershed. No one has any idea what the long-term effects are. It’s a catastrophe for everyone but the companies making their billions off ravaged earth and ruined livelihoods.

    • Thank you Maureen. I must admit I was worried about posting this piece because of it sounding alarmist but I just knew I had to do it anyway. This issue was far too important. From what I could understand of the map New York State appears to get a large portion of its water from the Pennsylvania watershed and that is where the shale gas is mostly at. With U.S. federal government leaving the regulating up to each state it will make it easy for these practices to continue until like you say – other states follow the New York State example. We have this same challenge in Canada though once one Province takes a stand on something there seems to be much more likelihood that others will follow. My best wishes to your friend’s family.

  4. Terrill – You’ve brought a very serious problem to our attention, thank you. One of my favorites quotes that I use in my book is from Robert Redford — founder of the Sundance Film Festival. He said:

    I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?

    Right after my next client (she’ll be here in 8 minutes), I’ll Tweet and Facebook this post. And then I’ll point to it on my own blog and newsletter as well. Great work! Thank you, again.

    Sprout question: How might fracking and natural gas extraction influence your creativity?

    It could bring it to a screeching halt by triggering my demise — sooner, than later.

    • Thank you Laurie and thank you for the great quote. It is such a perfect fit for today. I am so glad that in your busy, hectic schedule you are able to squeeze in some sharing of this post. Most appreciated. I actually thought of your signature saying “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing” when I first finished watching the film.

  5. Well that was quite an eye opener. Thank you for posting so much info on the subject Terrill. I will look at all of it. I don’t live in Canada but I do live on earth and from the last I heard we are all connected soooooooooo, thanks for the heads up on what’s going on in the backyard of my (our) planet.

    The pictures are beautiful. They help me recognize the need to ‘take action’ so as to keep our earth alter sacred. Research and investigation appear to be in order here for sure. I’ll make it a priority to do both. Education is everything isn’t it. Thank you for keeping your ear to the ground.

    As for how all of this could influence my creativity, well without life there is no vehicle for creativity to express through and without clean water there is no life.

    • Thank you Alison. I was not feeling like my ear was too close to the ground when I missed sing this issue for so long but it seems that it is just now starting to become more widely know and understood. Many of the links I have included are very current. Very good point you make about there being “no vehicle for creativity to express through and without clean water there is no life.” I am glad that the photographs did exactly what I wanted them to do – remind us of the need to keep our sacred trust to earth. I have a hunch that the separation of so much of the worlds population from the very dirt, streams, lakes, air, forest, grassland and sea is part of the reason we find ourselves with such a disconnect to our essential relationship with earth. It is I assume difficult to hold sacred something you haven’t experienced and developed a trusting and understanding relationship too. I think this is what drives my work. This need to assist others to make this connection – to help them find their way into meaningful relationship with what makes it possible for them to live. Your support as always, is greatly appreciated.

  6. We never really know the long term effects of anything man does until its to late.
    Our coalition Government is keen to let this sort of thing happen in Uk. At present we only have about 20 sites which is quite low.

    Aways there needs to be checks and balances.

    A local water company for months has been allowing sewage into a local harbour area of natural interest because of a broken pipe. Other statutory powers did not seem aware of the problem but eventually it was discoverd and the company received a hefty fine and were told to repair.

    Trouble is as well Government wants so much change here that these checks and balances could be lost.

    • Chris your comments bring our attention to what has left us all vulnerable to these kinds of practices. Our world economy is in trouble. Our governments are desperately trying to find money for essentials like health care, education, electricity, highways and so on. The extraction of natural gas has been presented as a green alternative to coal and a cash source for our wobbling economies. Our current governments, at least in Canada, are very shortsighted. On top of that we have a voter population that doesn’t feel they can make a difference. But if we give up, then we for sure have no say. I am hoping that this post will give us all some hope and have a conversation that matters and that can make a difference. I am so glad you are part of this conversation Chris.

  7. Terrill – I’ve put a link to the comprehensive post on my personal Facebook page (Laurie Buchanan), my business Facebook page (HolEssence), I’ve tweeted it (@HolEssence), and I included it in the “Things to Do and Places to Go” section of the May HolEssence newsletter which just went out: http://www.holessence.com/newsletter/may2011newsletter.html

    I’m still following all of the wonderful links you provided, and imagine it will take me the rest of the afternoon as I’m doing this in-between clients.

    Thank you again for this eye-popping post!

    • Laurie thank you so much for getting the word out there. I am just thrilled by the comments and responses to this important issue. It means a lot to me to know we can mobilize as community when we need to do so.

  8. After reading your post today my post today dovetails this very issue, I also included a trailer youtube vid for Gasland. I have as well sent people over here from my blog, my twitter and my facebook to pick up on the links you’ve so generously given us – edeucation is key.

    I say the posts dovetail becaue I was wondering how I was going to post anything other than what I’ve been dealing w/for the past few days with a friend whose suddenly fallen to what has been diagnosed as a malignant brain tumor. Interestingly enough as a result of your post and some of the info I gathered I find there is a relationship between brain tumors and dirty water.

    The wakeup calls age getting louder and closer to home aren’t they.

  9. Pingback: A Productive Day « An Artist's Journal

  10. Terrill, this is clearly one of your most passionate and pointed posts; I am grateful to have received a sneak-peak report on the essential documentary and am deeply moved by the scope of your wrenching urgency. After the gulf oil spill, we know full well what dangers the environment must face, and the irrevocable contamination that threatens every one of us – Americans, Canadians, and all others around the worlds. The links and the extraordinarily perceptive assessment really speaks for itself. Bravo!

    • Sam I most often consider myself and am considered pretty level headed. So my sense of urgency over this issue even surprises me. But then I suppose maybe something warrant urgency. Glad you made if by on this lovely Sunday we are having on Mayne Island.

  11. Thank you for your post!!! I justed watched the documentary this past weekend and was completely horrified. I am glad to see that other Canadians are interested in getting the message out there.

    I happened to stumble upon your blog through your comments on coolstuffaqildidtoday.com and love your pictures, art and just your general outlook. I look forward to reading more.

    Thank you again,

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