Comments on Bill 5 - Importation of Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Prohibition Act

2013-12-05

Please download a pdf of our submission here.

 

 

 

 

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Importation of Hydraulic Fracturing Wastewater Prohibition Act, which received its First Reading in the Nova Scotia Legislature three days ago.

Sierra Club Canada is a national environmental organization with Chapters and groups across the country. The Atlantic Canada Chapter has members and supporters in all four Atlantic Provinces and acts to engage Atlantic Canadians through education and political advocacy to green the economy and protect our environment. Our vision is of an Atlantic Canada of dynamic communities, thriving ecosystems, and a prosperous economy fueled entirely by renewable energy.

Our current campaigns centre around creating a ban or moratoria on fracking in each Atlantic province, protecting the Gulf of St. Lawrence as a unique and vital Canadian ecosystem, educating youth and fostering leadership skills, and encouraging policies to reduce ghg emissions, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador. There are also many other volunteer initiatives being carried out on the ground through our membership.

Our key campaigner on the issue of fracking, Heidi Verheul, began to volunteer to help create our document A Guide to Hydraulic Fracturing in Atlantic Canada precisely because of her concern about fracking wastewater being discharged into the Chiganois River downstream of the Atlantic Industrial Services waste facility in Debert.

Because our research demonstrated to us that fracking waste could contain unknown list of hundreds of chemicals and elements of unknown types and quantities, Heidi knew that the waste being accepted in Debert might not be safe for our health and the health of our waterways.

Based on broad concern from our membership, Sierra Club went on to launch a petition calling for a ban on fracking in Nova Scotia, which was introduced by NDP member Gary Burrill on Nov. 2, 2011. I have with me today another petition, which I wish to enter into the record, which contains 2357 signatures calling for a ban on the import of fracking waste into NS. This petition has received support from constituents of all political stripes, and is signed by Randy Delorey – before he became Nova Scotia’s Environment Minster. I want to thank all the volunteers from across the province, who reached out to their communities to gather all of these signatures.

We are opposed to unconventional oil and gas development such as hydraulic fracturing for the following reasons:

·      Fracking is not safe for many reasons, but I will focus on the fracking wastewater in my comments today. The chemicals used in fracking are linked to health impacts ranging from respiratory problems to gastrointestinal impacts to cancer. Fracking fluids may contain chemicals such as benzene, bromide, and the heavy metals barium and strontium. Fracking fluids may also pick up radioactive materials from the ground, as was the case for fracking fluids here in Nova Scotia. Even when taken to industrial waste facilities, the chemicals in fracking fluid may not be treated because a) the industrial waste facility does not know what is in them and thus cannot treat the waste; and / or b) some toxins and radioactive materials may be impossible to remove – leaving a toxic residue in the discharge from waste management facilities. This discharge will ultimately end up in municipal waste water systems, our rivers, and potentially the Bay of Fundy.

 

·      Unconventional oil and gas development does not create the jobs and prosperity industry claims it does. For instance, ground truthing of industry claims for job creation by the industry in Pennsylvania show that job creation is over-estimated by industry estimated by 800 times! Municipalities surveyed in areas where fracking has taken place in Pennsylvania has shown that more municipalities report increased costs (26%) caused by in the industry than those that report increased revenues (18%). In Texas, it is estimated that over 1 billion dollars will need to be added to road maintenance and construction to support the heavy truck traffic associated with this industry – and they do not experience the winters we do! According to the Energy Policy Forum, in North Dakota’s shale oil field, costs of damage to roads have reached $7 billion in 2012, dwarfing royalties gathered since 2010, pegged at $3.3 billion.

 

We also know, due to work of the Blue Green Alliance, that focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency creates far more jobs for our economy that fossil fuels: for every $1 million invested, we could see 2 jobs in the oil and gas sector versus 15 jobs in renewables – so the current $1.3 billion in subsides to oil and gas could be creating 18,000 more jobs.

 

·      Natural gas extracted through fracking is not a “bridge fuel” to a cleaner energy future. In fact, peer reviewed research from Cornell University has shown that that methane emissions from fracked wells are substantial (3.6-7.9 % of methane leaks from fracked wells). This is particularly worrying from a climate perspective because each molecule of methane creates 20—25 more of a climate effect than a molecule of carbon dioxide. Peer reviewed research on the emissions from shale gas plays shows that fracking can result climate effects that are from 20% higher to even twice that associated with burning the equivalent amount of coal energy.

 

·      Finally, we simply don’t need to frack. A growing body of research and on-the-ground examples is demonstrating that we can shift quickly to safe sources of renewable energy and energy efficiency in order to meet our energy needs. You may have all heard about what a spill from a solar panel can result in: it’s called a sunny day!

 

We are very pleased to see Bill 5 introduced so early on in the sitting of the House, since without it, Nova Scotians could have been responsible for accepting fracking waste from other jurisdictions, even as we are evaluating the risks of this activity ourselves.

I was gratified to read in the Hansard that both the Progressive Conservative and NDP representatives that debated the Bill on Dec. 3rd supported it as well.

This Bill demonstrates that our leaders take the threat represented by fracking waste seriously, and we hope this action bodes well for future decisions regarding fracking and unconventional oil and gas development in this province.

Please accept our support for this Bill, with the following questions and concerns:

Concern about Bill-5

1.     The Bill only applies to wastewater and produced water from hydraulic fracturing. So for example produced waters from coal bed methane, or waters produced on Western NL through a technology known an acid squeeze could still be accepted into Nova Scotia. Both of these wastewater sources could contain a similar suite of elements and chemicals with unknown impacts to our health and environment and so these sources of waste should also be banned.

Recommendation: Wastewater and produced water from unconventional oil and gas extraction be included in the list of waste sources covered by this legislation.

 

2.    My colleague from the Council of Canadians will go into greater detail on this issue, but the fine proposed for transporting fracking waste into the province is far too low. The oil and gas industry is one of the most wealthy sectors on the planet: a fine of $10,000 per day for violations is far to low and could be considered “the cost of doing business.” We recommend increasing this fine substantially to give it more teeth.

Questions about Enforceability of Bill-5

3.     We are concerned that the Bill must be linked to existing permits and approvals given to industrial waste facilities and any other relevant industrial approvals in the province – these permits and approvals must be altered to incorporate this new Bill.

 

4.     Also, we wish to know how the Department of Environment work with their equivalent departments in other jurisdictions to ensure fracking waste is not shipped here or through the province to other destinations, since the transport on our roadways also represents a risk?

 

5.     Finally, in the last provincial budget, NS Environment (NSE) was cut by 5%. NSE is allocated only 0.3% of our provincial budget. We know that our environment is under increasing threat, there is massive support for environmental protection and enforcement, and that we must use our limited resources to be proactive about issues such as fracking. Otherwise, we end up paying more as a society than if we had been able to respond to new threats (like fracking) quickly. Please note that there are millions of litres of fracking waste in the province right now that we must deal with. What resources will be provided to NSE to deliver on this Bill while meeting existing regulatory challenges?

 

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

            

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