[Published as a “letter to the editor” in the Guardian, Oct 25, 2013]
It is time for the leaders of each political party in Prince Edward Island to tell us whether they would permit shale gas fracking in this province if their party was to form the next provincial government.
And such statements must not attempt to deceive us with language such as, “Fracking will not be allowed unless it is proven safe through an environmental review . . .” because no such proof is possible, and no level of risk is acceptable.
In Gasland: Part 2, a recent documentary on shale gas fracking, a pre- eminent expert on fracking, Dr. Tony Ingraffea, Professor of Engineering at Cornell University and a former researcher for Schlumberger, the # 1 fracking company in the world, explains in plain language why fracking inevitably poisons ground water.
A hydraulic fracturing well is essentially a long steel pipe surrounded by a cement casing designed to prevent natural gas, toxic hydraulic fracking chemicals injected into the well, heavy metals, or methane gas, from migrating into ground water.
He believes it is an absolute certainty that ground water contamination will occur due to the eventual failure of the cement casings. In fact, he states that “With hundreds of thousands of on- shore wells and thousands of offshore wells there’s a probability of 1 in 20 that a cement job will fail immediately . . . five per cent of all jobs will immediately show a failure of a cement job and there will be migration of methane.”
With the 95 per cent of wells which don’t experience an immediate cement casing failure, Prof. Ingraffea claims it will eventually happen as the cement casing cracks and crumbles over time; perhaps after 10 years, perhaps long after the well has been abandoned, but it will surely happen at some point in the future as the cement gradually weakens and disintegrates.
Given the fact that ground water contamination is a certainty over time, and given that P. E. I. is 100 per cent dependent on ground water for fresh water, it is clear that such ground water contamination would be both catastrophic and irreversible; no amount of “risk” is therefore acceptable, regardless of whatever environmental protections and economic benefits may be promised. So will the leaders of P. E. I.’ s political parties please state publicly their position on this issue so Islanders can vote accordingly?