The Shale Gas industry in New Brunswick, Canada and effects on First Nations communities

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US Environmental Protection Agency

Hydraulic fracturing is quickly emerging in the oil industry. It is a method of accessing natural gas from underground shale rocks using water (combined with sand and chemicals) to fracture the rock through pipes drilled vertically into the ground, then horizontally (making it ‘unconventional’ gas).

 

Potential health effects related to fracking include:

o Disorders of skin, eye, respiratory, gastrointestinal, nervous system, immune, kidney, cardiovascular, cancer, and endocrine disruption

o Air, water quality, and wastewater effects

o Explosions, spills, accidents

o Impacts on ecosystems

o Rapid transient population growth leading to disruption of traditional cultures and problematic substance use, mental health issues, social disruption, and economic inequity

In New Brunswick, Canada,  the Chiefs of the Maliseet Grand Council, St. Mary’s, and Elsipogtog First Nations are repealing the provincial government’s policy on fracking, based on contradiction to prior legislation that states that industry and government must consult with First Nations prior to these initiatives. In media and press releases, they have stated concerns regarding contamination of drinking water, and local economies (investment of profits into the communities for use of local raw materials). Representatives from the Assembly of First Nations (a non-governmental organization aimed to protect existing Aboriginal treaty rights), have joined the local chiefs in their advocacy efforts. Meanwhile, SWN Resources Canada is conducting local exploration.

Through current legislation in Canada, First Nations have no direct power in influencing policy other than through lobbying efforts. While changes can be made, the oil industry promises immense economic return to provincial governments and provides a new source of natural gas for consumers, but at what expense?

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4 Responses to “The Shale Gas industry in New Brunswick, Canada and effects on First Nations communities”

  1. clairerichardson3 Says:

    This is a really interesting topic that isn’t widely understood by the general populace in Canada.
    I think it’s something that needs much more study before anything continues with the mining.
    The “health effects” paper from studies in BC show how effected the population is about this potential problem. Unless I read it wrong, though, it doesn’t actually show any scientific connection yet. The suggestions that the populace are making are very important to further elucidate on potential side effects before it’s too late.
    I admire the First Nations for standing up for this, I just hope that they’re able to get some more scientific information to back up their position.

  2. nadinechase Says:

    For a different class I completed a project of fracking in Northeastern Pennsylvania (where I am from). Not only did I research the topic from a non-biased standpoint (on the internet) I also experienced the issue from a very personal standpoint. My uncle lives right in the “heart” of the Marcellus shale region which is the center of a huge US fracking industry. While many people are concerned about the medical effects and environmental effects of the fracking, many of the farmers are happy about the boom in the economy that the fracking has caused. Farmers are paid handsomely for the rights to harvest natural gas on their land, and they in turn put that money back into the economy. Many of my uncle’s friends and neighbors have bought new trucks and farming equipment that they could never afford otherwise. My uncle’s construction business is more stable with a “nest-egg” to protect his finances. But will it last? Fracking is so new, little is known about the long term effects of extensive fracturing. I think that extensive research should be done everywhere fracking is taking place. Health screenings, environmental impact reports, the whole works, needs to be done. Hydraulic fracturing could have huge ramifications that we don’t know about yet. Let’s not wait until it’s too late.

  3. hekmatov Says:

    This is a good example where knowledge and then awareness about an issue are the first priority. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been happening commercially since 1949, and we only started finding out about their environmental impact in the recent years. There is a great chance that oil companies actively suppressed this data for a period of time, even the types of chemicals being used were kept secret for competition reasons, there by preventing scientists from assessing their impact or toxicity. If this was to happen in a pharmaceutical company (keeping drug’s formula secret to prevent competition), it would cause a worldwide outrage, but of course it’s much easier to gather support to protect human lives than stand behind an environmental issue, however ironic that may sound.
    Luckily this issue is gathering a lot more attention these days, and with its increasing use, especially around residential areas, research is gathering more data on the issue as evidence of contamination of ground wells of drinking water by high levels of methane (link below).
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=groundwater-contamination-may-end-the-gas-fracking-boom

  4. jayabhat123 Says:

    Hi Emily,
    Thanks for the wonderful post. This is a very interesting topic and needs to be addressed. I think media must take active part in creating more awareness among the public of the health effects by such industries. I also wonder what is the use of an economic growth of a country when health and lives of its population are compromised. People especially farmers must be made aware through community involvement of the long term health and environmental effects and rather crave for the short term material benefits.
    Thanks again.

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