Fracking concerns raised at meeting

Karena Walter in The Standard

The known and unknown side effects of fracking — a controversial type of natural gas extraction — should push citizens to action, those gathered at a public meeting in St. Catharines were told Thursday.

Although the drilling isn’t taking place in Ontario, most of the southern province has underlying shale ripe for fracking and several oil and gas companies have leased rights to shale gas exploration with private landowners.

“We really have to get the pressure on to the Ontario government to ban it,” said John Jackson of Great Lakes United.

Jackson was one of three speakers talking about the dangers of fracking at the St. Catharines Centennial Library Thursday night at a meeting sponsored by the St. Catharines and District Council of Women.

The public meeting came on the same day the Council of Canadians called on the Ontario government to ban fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves inserting pipes vertically and horizontally in the ground and pushing water mixed with chemicals and sand down through them. The blast cracks the shale in order to release natural gas in the rock. The gas then come up the pipe to the surface.

Jackson said some concerns include what’s in the chemcials that are pumped into the ground, which haven’t been disclosed by the industry. The effects underground, such as where some of the water goes, are also not known and in Ohio is believed to have caused 11 earthquakes since March 2010.

“I think it’s alarming that more people aren’t talking about this,” said Jamie King, a Niagara-on-the-Lake counillor before the meeting.

The issue initially came up in Niagara-on-the-Lake when Niagara Falls, NY’s water board was looking at the possibly of processing wastewater from fracking facilities.

King was concerned about the discharge of large quantities of chemicals from fracking fluids into the Niagara River and Great Lakes basin.

He said there’s big pressure for fracking in the United States right now to create energy independence and jobs.

But he said more research needs to be done.

The town council called for a moratorium on fracking a year ago. It was supported by St. Catharines, Thorold, Fort Erie and Wainfleet, but has not received the support of Regional council.

“We can’t take an isolationist approach as Canadians,” King said.

He also spoke at the meeting and told those gathered that if the provincial and federal governments won’t push the discussion forward, citizens have to push it forward.

karena.walter@sunmedia.ca

FRACKING

– In 2000, 1% of natural gas from the U.S. came from fracking. In 2010, the amount had risen to 34%.

– Seven to 19 million litres of water is used for each “frack” or push, almost half of the daily water use in St. Catharines of 45 million litres.

– New York State has a moratorium on approvals of new wells since 2008, but believes it will receive 1,600 applications a year if they open it up.

— From Great Lakes United

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