You can’t drink oil

I’m surprised by the lack of discussion surrounding the recent Council of Canadian Academies report on hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This independent scientific organization’s assessment states there is reason to believe shale gas development poses a risk to water resources but the extent of that risk both short and long term cannot be assessed with present data.

I’m surprised by the lack of discussion surrounding the recent Council of Canadian Academies report on hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This independent scientific organization’s assessment states there is reason to believe shale gas development poses a risk to water resources but the extent of that risk both short and long term cannot be assessed with present data.

The risks posed by chemicals used in the process, and their ability to persist, migrate and impact various types of subsurface systems (aquifers) or to discharge to surface waters are also unknown.

The report indicated that we just do not have the scientific proof that this practice is safe and it would be wise to slow development until we have a better understanding of the risks and long term environmental impacts.

Predictably this report has been swept under the carpet and the unprecedented level of fracking currently being performed in this area carries on at a frantic and reckless pace. What is particularly insidious about these current projects is that in every case, the wellsite is placed on one landowner’s property while the wells are drilled horizontally under their neighbour’s land. This is clearly a divide and conquer tactic designed to pit neighbour against neighbour and gain easier access to the land as a result. How can it possibly be right that the landowner whose land is being drilled under is expected to bear 100 per cent of the risk without any input in the process and without a cent of compensation?

When something goes wrong and your water supply or land are contaminated, you are on your own. The self regulation of the energy sector by the industry funded ‘Alberta energy regulator’ is a joke and the only recourse for remediation or compensation is the lawsuit route being attempted by courageous people like Jessica Ernst and Diana Daunheimer. Sadly I think their chances of out-lawyering the combined might of big oil and government are slim at best.

It is time for all Albertans to wake up to this impending environmental disaster. Town and city dwellers have to realize that water contamination is not just an issue affecting rural landowners. The aquifers and water bodies being polluted are part of the same water cycle that your tap water in Rimbey or in Edmonton are drawn from so we are all in this together.

In addition to the human water supply, there is the risk to livestock water sources and the land contamination resulting from spreading toxic and likely radioactive drill waste on agricultural land. How can we expect to produce healthy food off the land if the environment is polluted with industrial contaminants?

Where is our collective responsibility as a society on this issue or have the majority of the population succumbed to the same sense of bloated entitlement that affects our governing party? Is enjoying material prosperity today enough reason to collectively abdicate responsibility for the health and well-being of future generations of Albertans, leaving them to discover that when the water runs out you can’t drink oil?

Iain Aitken

Rimbey

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