Gasland and Shale Gas Fracking

I just watched the documentary GasLand (trailer below), which tells the horrifying tale of the shale fracking natural gas industry in the US. Luckily, activists in Québec managed to stop the industry from moving forward with its plans to start fracking the the lower St. Lawrence valley.

Here is a good rundown of what Shale Gas Fracking is.

However, the stoppage is simply a moratorium and will likely be lifted eventually. In the states, natural gas exploration is advancing at breakneck speeds (though New York has also imposed a moratorium). Having been promised the technology was secure, many down on their luck farmers and property owners could not resist the easy money of selling off some of their land for shale gas exploration. By any reasonable measure, the decision to pollute water ways and the air for a few tens of thousands of dollars seems short sighted at best, but when faced with outsized credit card debt and mortgages – cash is hard to resist.

Of all the scary stories outlined in Gasland, the most dangerous is this: Shale gas fracking is done on hundreds of thousands of small platforms, not large centralized rigs. The distributed nature of the extraction makes it very difficult for the environmental protection agencies and communities to identify, monitor and control the source of pollution and danger. For example, in Canada we have the National Pollutant Release Information (NPRI) that requires sites who emit over a certain threshold to report their air emissions. The US has a similar program called TRI. Because each individual gas extraction platform is considered a site they typically fall under the threshold and do not need to report. This is very troubling. With hundreds of thousands of sites spread over vast territories, the potential impact is massive.

The distributed nature of the exploration also makes it nearly impossible to monitor – how many thousands of rivers, marshes, wells and air emissions can underfunded environmental protection agencies reasonably monitor?

I encourage everyone to watch Gasland and ensure your governments properly control the Shale Gas fracking industry. France just banned shale gas fracking, why can’t we?

Rundown of the situation in Québec (français)

Comité de vigilence sur les gaz de schiste

Published on October 10, 2011