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Oh, Canada’s Become a Home for Record Fracking

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Posted on Dec 28, 2011
Toban Black (CC-BY)

By Nicholas Kusnetz, ProPublica

(Page 2)

These changes, combined with the area’s severe conditions, spurred companies to concentrate and scale up their operations in British Columbia in an effort to cut costs, industry experts say. The result: a string of record-breaking fracks.

In a written response to questions from ProPublica, Apache said this approach reduces surface disturbance. It also can heighten the risk of air and water pollution, said Bruce Kramer, an expert in oil and gas law with McGinnis, Lochridge and Kilgore, a Texas-based law firm.

In both western provinces, the regional authorities responsible for regulating drilling have passed rules to allow more intensive drilling.

In Alberta, drillers can now pack wells closer together and pump more water out of shallow coal seams to free gas more efficiently. British Columbia issued detailed regulations last year that limit where and when companies can drill and set rigorous environmental standards but also gave its Oil and Gas Commission the authority to exempt drillers from virtually all of these provisions.


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The commission referred an inquiry from ProPublica to its parent organization, the Ministry of Energy and Mines. In written responses to questions, the Ministry said the new regulations adequately address environmental concerns over drilling activity in the province. Pointing to an upcoming health study and new rules that compel companies to disclose chemicals used in fracking, officials said they would continue to review and revise standards as necessary.

Still, the regulatory shifts have prompted environmental advocates in Alberta and British Columbia to question whether officials are prepared to cope with rising concerns about water use, contamination and unchecked development.

“We just don’t have a clue how big this issue is from a public policy perspective,“said Bob Simpson, a member of British Columbia’s legislative assembly and an outspoken critic. “We really don’t know what we’re doing.”

Jessica Ernst’s Water Problems

Over the last five years, there have been several prominent cases in which Alberta residents have said gas drilling contaminated their water.

There are no hard numbers. The government does not track such complaints. But in some instances, residents’ frustration has been exacerbated by their sense that regulators have not properly investigated their claims.

In 2005, Jessica Ernst noticed strange things happening to her water. The toilet fizzed. The faucets whistled. Black particles clogged her filter. Then she began getting rashes.

Ernst, a longtime environmental consultant for oil and gas companies, wondered whether the changes could be connected to drilling nearby. Encana had been drilling shallow coalbed methane wells near her home outside of Rosebud, about 50 miles northeast of Calgary.

She asked Alberta Environment and Water, the agency that oversees groundwater, to test her well. When the well was drilled in 1986, tests showed it had no methane. The new tests, however, showed high levels of the gas, as well as a hydrocarbon called F2 and two other chemicals.

But in 2007, a government research agency concluded it was unlikely that drilling had affected her water. The final report said the chemicals found were not typically used in coalbed methane drilling, and that one had probably come from a plastic tube used to test the water.

Ernst wasn’t satisfied with the province’s response, however. The government’s report concluded that the methane in her well might be occurring naturally because tests showed similar levels of gas in nearby wells. But the tests were conducted after Ernst noticed the changes in her water—she saw the results as an indication that the contamination might be more widespread.

The government’s report also ignored evidence provided by one of its own analysts, a professor of geochemistry at the University of Alberta. When Karlis Muehlenbachs analyzed the gas in Ernst’s well for Alberta Environment and Water, he found ethane, a gas often found with methane, with a chemical signature indicating that it had come from deep underground, below the depth of the well. Muehlenbachs told ProPublica that the ethane’s signature meant that it could not have been there naturally. He said he is convinced that it resulted from drilling.

As Ernst searched for answers to what happened to her water, she unearthed evidence of other problems related to drilling. She found an Alberta Environment and Water report that listed cases in which the fracking of shallow wells resulted in gas or fluid leaking into nearby gas wells or spraying into the air. She also found government gas well records that said Encana had fracked into the aquifer that supplies her water well.

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By prosefights, January 2, 2012 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

Earthquake in Youngstown, Ohio interrupts natural-gas drilling operations
Ohio has suspended the underground disposal of wastewater from natural-gas drilling operations “indefinitely” in the Youngstown after a series of 11 recent earthquakes, including one on Saturday with a magnitude of 4.0.

nmgco page -
You +1’d this publicly. Undo
Nmgco is supplying gas with only 869.4 BTU/ft3? ... NMGCO should have some technical experts qualified to comment on whether Ms Hammelman’s and Mr ...;=&gs;_sm=&gs;_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=890a274ff6b690bf

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By prosefights, January 1, 2012 at 8:18 am Link to this comment

McDONALD, Ohio (AP) — Officials said Saturday they believe the latest earthquake activity in northeast Ohio is related to the injection of wastewater into the ground near a fault line, creating enough pressure to cause seismic activity.

The brine wastewater comes from drilling operations that use the so-called fracking process to extract gas from underground shale. But Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer said during a news teleconference that fracking is not causing the quakes.

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By purplewolf, January 1, 2012 at 1:05 am Link to this comment

4 pt. earthquake in Ohio today and yes they were fracking there. As for all the TV ads telling then sheeple that it is totally safe. Bull. As for the people refusing to let the frackers back on their land, the courts will back big energy. Some people who had a contract with 1 of these companies sold it sold to another companies and the contract had run out. The land owners had the right to get a better price for the use of their property, the other company refused and it ended up in court and the courts let big energy pay the people the old rate that was about like 3 cents per acre. Other people water in the home became contaminated so the companies promised to supply them with clean water as long as they were there drilling, the clean water lasted for a few weeks and the company reneged on that. The homeowners have tap water that catches fire when you turn on the tap, water is all kinds of colors willed with unknown chemicals and dirt. I can see where the Mayan predictions might just happen if we keep disrespecting the only home we really have.

“After the last tree is cut down,the last animal is slaughtered and all the waters poisoned,only then will you realize you cannot eat money.” Old Native Indian saying, Buffalo Spirit.

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By prosefights, December 30, 2011 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment

Snyder, Texas has another fracking earthquake

Featured on TV news in Lubbock Friday morning December 30, 2011

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By drbhelthi, December 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

If fracking is safe and environmentally sustainable, why has ground water become polluted in all areas where fracking has been done?  All areas where fracking has occurred.

Fracking = the systematic polluting of ground water and aquifers.
Fracking = the systematic polluting of ground water and aquifers.

The systematic polluting of ground water and aquifers ?

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By SteveL, December 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm Link to this comment

US Geothermal Power Potential 10x That Of Coal Power Plants, New Analysis Shows

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By John Boyle, December 29, 2011 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And _ _ _ _ they’ve just started fracking in the 51st state.
Only difference being that WATER is the most precious resource on the driest habitable land mass on Earth.

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By prosefights, December 29, 2011 at 5:28 pm Link to this comment

“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company, wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.

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By berniem, December 29, 2011 at 4:46 pm Link to this comment

There goes my misconception about Canada being sane!

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By Big B, December 29, 2011 at 11:14 am Link to this comment

Thw frackers are just about finished raping western pa and are about to pull up stakes and move on to Ohio.

who would have ever thought that, instead of spending our time and money developing alternative energy sources, we would dig, suck, mine, and burn everything we could get our hands on.

Oh that’s right, I did. and just about everybody else too.

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By SarcastiCanuck, December 29, 2011 at 11:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When I was young I thought we here in Canada were better than other countries in the world(especially the U.S.),when it came to caring for the environment.Now I understand that money rules and the rest comes second.Canada is now becoming an energy leader in the world and our land,water and our people will pay the devil’s price down the road.We are now No better than anybody and have rightfully earned any scorn towards us….Like DrBones said,it always comes down to MONEY.

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By Roger Lafontaine, December 29, 2011 at 10:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We’re all in a mad rush to destroy ourselves in order to extract some $$$$$ out of the planet. Who invented $$$$$ anyway? We did, in order to facilitate trade or something. Now that very obsolete invention has become totally destructive, and guess what we’re going to hang on to it until it kills us, every last one of us. That is the limit of human intelligence. The sky’s not the limit anymore, profit is.

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By Paul McGuire, December 29, 2011 at 6:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A familiar story, this digging for precious materials
at the expense of those even more valuable. It’s time
to dig that old dog-eared copy of God’s Little Acre out
of the pile of books in the attic.

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By Anarcissie, December 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment

Canada has generally been a natural-resources colony for U.S.-based corporations.  When I was there in the 1970s it was logging: square miles of old-growth forest could disappear overnight with nary a peep of protest.  Now—well, I guess there’ll be rainbows in Canadian water before long.

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By tapxe, December 28, 2011 at 8:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, I disagree…

Frack all you want.


I haven’t stepped on the north American continent and won’t again for a long time.

if you’re a jew, would you go to nazi Germany?

I’m not a jew, just a liberty loving causasian and ameriKa is much worse than the nazis ever were (Ok not towards the jews…  who BTW, run ameriKa, finance, media, gov’t, etc. - into the ground -) and because I am a vocal dissident, I am blacklisted, etc, the works.

Let them self destruct, and fracking is a great way to achieve that in very little time.

Once the Ogallala aquifer is dead (on its way real fast already), ameriKa is completely finished, no more bread basket, etc…

The faster, the better.

Self destruct from within, that’s as close to divine justice as you can get.

As for all the morons still living there…  Fuck’em.

If they lack the wherewithall to stand to tyranny (I openly call for armed insurrection) that has eviscerated the US Constitution, they’re not worthy of Liberty and will get what they deserve.

As for me, not that you’d care, I am doing just fine in tropical paradise with world class free health care and university for the kids, etc, etc.  The economy is down somewhat, but we’re still prospering.

Best decision I ever made to move my family out of uSSa shortly after the 9-11 writing on the wall became very clear.

Love it or leave it?

I left it because I love America and I can’t stand and won’t have any part in what she’s morphing into.

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By NZDoug, December 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment

Why can’t they process the crap in Canada and use the mother truckers to ship it?

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By PatrickHenry, December 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Fracking = Polluting groundwater.

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By Blueokie, December 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

Ottawa should just drop the pretense and change its name to Houston du Nord.

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By Dr Bones, December 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Looks like energy prices should plummet given all the drilling to babies are doing.  Best bet is to invest in clean water! It always comes down to MONEY!

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By diamond, December 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm Link to this comment

I live in an area where fracking is a developing nightmare and farmers have started a campaign called ‘lock the gate’ to deny these companies admission to their land. They even want to drill at a religious retreat with a convent and monastery and it’s not out of the question that they will drill in urban areas too. The process of fracking is destroying water supplies and may eventually impact on the main source of agricultural water supplies. I don’t know whether or not they are going to turn up one day and tell me they’re drilling on my land and I have no way to stop them because you only own the land, not what’s under it. It’s yet more proof, if any is needed, that national governments and state governments are powerless to represent voters or protect their interests and the power is now all in the hands of corporations and corporations, as Charles A. Reich pointed out in ‘The Greening of America’, are insane.

Only an essentially mindless entity, he writes, an organism lacking all human values would ‘cut the last redwoods, pollute the most beautiful beaches, invent machines to injure and destroy plant and human life…To have only one value (corporate value) is, in human terms, to be mad’. And the mad are now calling the shots.

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By gerard, December 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm Link to this comment

All I can think of to say is:  “Keep your fracking hands off my Mother!

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