Sunday, October 27, 2013

shale gas exploration No easy fix in New Brunswick.

       There were a few surprises in the unfolding issue of shale gas exploration in New Brunswick.  
In the after math of Idle no More confrontations-you would tend to think that provincial and federal policies and protocols which are heavily invested in promoting a better relationship with indigenous reserves across Canada-are increasing not decreasing.
Do we have the potential to see similar energy sharing resources issues in The Pas? I would like to say no; but then again it all depends on how these issues are dealt with.
         The focus of the chatter surrounding the violent clashes between the RCMP and the indigenous peoples of Elsipogtog, New Brunswick revolve around the issue of legitimacy.
Canadians who argue that the rule of law is paramount -whether you choose or not to engage in civil disobedience-and does not include disrupting trans-Canada transportation routes; are resolute.
CBC’s Rex Murphy monologue describing his point of view best describes this sentiment. 
There is also much anger, and a total disbelief that such a discourse could be so blatantly biased; according to many online comments made on social media and on the thread which accompanied Murphy’s article.
          I understand the importance of politicians wading into the world of instant sound bites via social media; after all increasing your profile is desirable is politics. However, a recent Twitter (none authenticated) message from the Prime Minister’s own account is highly brazen.
“Canada will not yield to these so called “First Nations” and they must choose to be loyal Canadian’s or face the full force of the Crown’s authority. We will crush these demonstrations be all means under Crown Law.”
On all accounts this Twitter message is meant to inflame discourse; but it is also true based on the government’s policy and the protocols in which it chooses to interact with First Nations themselves. 
The continued push to force indigenous reserves to conform to the present socio-economical models elsewhere in Canada is getting stronger. 
       If we examine the later series of legislation from the federal government within the past year; this realization is self-evident. 
So why exactly are we incensed about when we discover that First Nations continue to not play by our rules?
New Brunswick Premier David Alward is obstinately pushing his economic plan ahead. New Brunswick unemployment rates are increasing rapidly. According to Statistics Canada the rate rose to 10.5 per cent with 2,100 employment opportunities gone from the province.
SWN Resources Canada exploration manager Nicki Atkinson stated to the CBC on April 22 that it would be some time before any definite decisions is to be made.
“What we will do in the upcoming years is follow that up with a drilling program and that will be, like I said, in the next couple of years. And then I'll be in a much better position to answer that question.”
     In addition, SWN and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have an ongoing consultation process since 2011, “all to decide whether they can promote a new energy business while protecting their landscape.”
SWN Executive Vice-President Mark Boling, commented in 2011 in the National Geographic his point of view.
“We were upset about the way the debate was continuing to move. People weren’t focused on what really matters—what are the real obstacles to responsible development? And how can we develop workable solutions?”
Fear mongering from opponents and the continued affirmations by those-in the shale gas industry sector-claiming that 60 years using this type of mechanism in the gas industry saying, “don’t worry about it, everything’s going to be just fine,”  is acerbating the political climate in New Brunswick.
“…but the reality is the public, as anyone would be, is going to be fearful of what they don’t know. There’s a huge vacuum of information about what is going on,” commented Boling.
These are concerns which are reflecting not only by First Nations; but by environmentalist agencies in New Brunswick as well.
“People are really concerned about the industrialization of our rural landscape. We take pride in our rural quality of life, and we live in a part of the country that depends on agriculture and tourism. A lot of people are concerned how natural gas will challenge that.”-  Stephanie Merrill, fresh water protection coordinator for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick
EDF senior policy adviser Scott Anderson does not believe that being intransigent with regard to energy conglomerates is effective. 
   Reservations aside, Anderson welcomed Boling’s invitation to be part of the consultation process of SWN.
“Our philosophy at EDF is we don’t pick winners. We’re not fans of coal; we’re not fans of natural gas. 
Whatever the technology and fuels are that are relied on in the marketplace, we see our job as making sure they are regulated in a way that minimizes the environmental footprint.
However you look at it, it’s clear that natural gas is going to play a big role in our energy portfolio for a long, long time.  
And it’s also clear that natural gas development has caused far too many problems for public health and the environment.”
    What I find interesting thus far, is the discourse in social media seem to dismiss the element of cooperative environment between the two entities. 
 Furthermore it omits completely the real facts that a common understanding over the issue of methane; and to develop better policy in regards to gas well standards.
“Yes, there is the possibility if the well is not constructed properly, it can allow natural gas to migrate into aquifers,” says Boling. “This has happened.” 
Whatever new guidelines and cooperative solutions EDF and SWN bring to the table; it will not completely address all environmental issues of Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
“Potential water contamination is a huge issue, but I want to emphasize that people are also worried about infrastructure, road systems, air quality, the future of pipeline and gathering and compressor stations and noise. 
Our position is that we still need to have the entire package of subsurface and above-surface issues controlled for before we move ahead with any development,” said Merrill. To be continued....

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