Is Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst adopting the Harper mantra and redefinition of public interest, where any development is assumed to automatically confer benefits to society that far outweigh environmental and water degradation, harm to people’s health, First Nations rights, rural people and communities?
In her March 15 column, she ignores the social and environmental costs associated with oil extraction.
Because only 10 to 15 per cent of Manitoba oil can be recovered by “natural depletion,” fracking is deemed necessary. Wells are drilled vertically and then horizontally. Water, chemicals and sand are forced into the ground at high pressure to break up shale and loosen oil to make it flow better. Oil is separated from the chemical-laden water and pumped back into the ground via waste wells.
The province reports that here in 2012 alone, 2.8 billion gallons of “salt water were produced” from some 3,600 oil wells at a ratio of 4.5 barrels of water to 1 of oil. Old depletion wells are being rejuvenated by “water flooding” (fracking). This “enhanced oil recovery” is provincially supported by legislation, staff and taxpayer money.
Fracking is risky. Provincial regulators maintain there is sufficient overburden depth and technology to prevent the problems occurring in the U.S. and the rest of Canada from happening here. Not only has drinking water been contaminated with salts, heavy metals, fracking chemicals, methane gas and radioactive materials, so have surface environments.
In a recent CBC radio interview, an oil industry representative admitted that how profoundly fracking changes subterranean geology can’t be predicted. They had no idea that oil, gas and other harmful materials, once locked away underground, could flow to the surface. These flows are unstoppable and they don’t know how to clean up the environmental devastation.
The small earthquakes caused by fracking in the U.S. and B.C. create further potential unknown hazards.
I expect some Manitobans to also be able to light their tap water on fire when the significant and continuous southwest shallow depth gas reserves are extracted as planned.
Oil and gas are transported by pipelines, rail and truck through communities and on public highways, increasing risks to public safety and costs, such as the one per cent sales tax increase to maintain infrastructure.
Progressive economic policy and sustainable development seek to improve the quality of the lives of all people, not just a few at the expense of many. While it may be true that economic activity provides benefit to society, the public interest can only be served if such activity does not cause irreparable harm.
I live on a farm close to three “sleepy little farm communities.” I like it that way. If I wanted to live in a “boom town,” I’d move to one.
I live in the oil and gas expansion area. We have been told there is oil under our farm to which we hold the mineral rights. The mayor can be assured, however, that we won’t be hooked by the lure of lining our pockets with dirty fracking oil money.
There are plenty of better socially and environmentally responsible ways to make a living and sustain communities while protecting water, people’s rights and health.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 22, 2014