The Conservation Council of New Brunswick is pleased to announce nominations are open for our 3rd annual Beth McLaughlin Environmental Journalism Award,  presented annually in recognition of in-depth and thoughtful coverage of environmental issues in New Brunswick.

By recognizing the best environmental reporting, this award seeks to inspire journalists in all media and showcase reporting that best addresses important environmental issues in New Brunswick. We invite journalists from traditional news media, independents, and non-profits, citizen journalists and students to submit their finest work.

Submission deadline: All entries must be received by July 31st, 2018. Submit entries to Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Southeast Chapter Environmental Journalism Award Committee at ccnbsoutheast@gmail.com

Full details:  http://www.conservationcouncil.ca/en/call-for-nominations-2018-beth-mclaughlin-environmental-journalism-award/
JIM EMBERGER   COMMENTARY
Telegraph Journal  June 14, 2018

Last winter the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance asked the provincial party leaders for their views on energy, climate change and the fracking moratorium. Each party, except the Progressive Conservatives, responded.

Additional requests to PC leader Blaine Higgs for evidence to justify his plans to lift the moratorium, and to explain the process for lifting it, have gone unanswered.

Fortunately, Mr. Higgs was the first speaker in the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce’s series featuring party leaders last week, so I went there seeking some answers.

I began my question by noting that all of the other Maritime provinces, states like New York, and many European nations had passed moratoriums after conducting in-depth expert examinations.

Additionally, over a thousand scientific studies and investigations have now validated fracking’s threats of water contamination, air pollution, earthquakes and especially threats to public health, including serious harm to infants and children.

I asked if he had evidence to contradict these scientific studies, and by what process would he publicly explain why we should lift our moratorium and accept serious risks?

Echoing stale talking points from eight years ago, he first responded by saying that for every study saying fracking is bad, there is another study that says the opposite.

This is simply, and provably, false.

Ask yourself, if there were a thousand studies saying fracking posed no threat to public health, the environment or clean water, wouldn’t we have heard about them by now, with heavy promotion from the gas industry?

Mr. Higgs then predictably moved to the classic misleading statement that there are many places that have been fracking“safely and responsibly”for 50 years.

Anyone familiar with this topic knows that what we now call fracking is only roughly 15 years old. In the last few years, there has been a drastic increase in the amounts of water, sand, toxic chemicals and wastewater it involves.

As for fracking“safely and responsibly,” what do those words mean when applied to those jurisdictions that unquestioningly welcomed fracking?

The British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission identified significant methane leaks from hundreds of gas wells, but withheld that information from politicians and citizens for four years.

The B.C. government didn’t tell the public that frackers had built 92 illegal and uninspected dams to sequester water, threatening people living downstream and local ecosystems.

So many sizeable earthquakes have been caused by fracking in B.C. that fracking can’t be done within five km of critical infrastructure.

For 12 years, Pennsylvania regulatory officials hid 9,442 Citizen-Reported Fracking Complaints, 44 per cent of which concerned water contamination.

Canada’s tens of thousands of abandoned gas and oil wells will eventually reach hundreds of thousands. Natural Resources Canada describes methane leakage from abandoned wells as risking “irreversible contamination of freshwater aquifers, accumulation of explosive gases within and around residences ... and contribution to greenhouse gases.” 

The former chief environmental scientist with the Alberta energy regulator stated, “The expertise to assess the health risk of abandoned wells really doesn’t exist in-house.”

A life-threatening gas, hydrogen sulphide (H2S), often accompanies shale gas. A Saskatchewan investigation into incidents involving releases of H2S found “repeated and continuing serious infractions, a string of failed safety audits, and H2S readings that exceeded air quality standards on a daily basis.”

These few examples illustrate that neither the government nor the industry has operated in a safe or responsible manner, even in these “best regulated”jurisdictions.

As to the process for lifting the moratorium, Mr. Higgs offered to“talk”to municipalities that want shale gas.

His earlier, opening remarks reflected his concern that the recent flood damage was becoming the “new normal.”

Using this reference to climate change, we noted that New Brunswick and the world have experienced increasing numbers of very costly natural disasters, for which climate change is at least partially responsible.

Natural gas, once considered a way to transition from other fossil fuels, is now known as one of the largest and fastest growing sources of greenhouse gases, due to methane leaking from gas infrastructure. Some analyses consider it worse than coal.

“How then,” we asked, “does opening a new shale gas industry fit into plans to fight climate change?”

After spending a great deal of time discussing the unrelated issue of carbon taxes, Mr. Higgs said there is a risk in everything, and that we have to strike a balance.

Like editorial writers who worry about climate change damage, but then call for fossil-fuel projects, Mr. Higgs must believe we can bargain with the laws of physics to allow us to burn more fossil fuels, yet somehow not contribute to climate change.

Alas, we still don’t know whether the PC’s actually have any cogent energy or climate policies, or even good reasons for lifting the fracking moratorium. They seem unaware of scientific risk analyses.

That’s a problem for a party running on a platform of “responsible leadership.” Responsible leaders should not be so out of touch with the great issues of our time.

Jim Emberger
is a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.
Fim Screenings
The Conservation Council is hosting a pair of film screenings with award-winning independent filmmaker Neal Livingston on June 12 and June 13, including the 40th anniversary screening of Budworks, a film about the controversial, decades-long budworm spraying program in New Brunswick that was featured in Rachel Carson’s seminal book, Silent Spring.

Watch Budworks (1978 – 35 minutes) with filmmaker Neal Livingston at Conserver House (180 St. John St., Fredericton) on Tuesday, June 12 at 7 p.m.

The next night (Wednesday, June 13), Livingston will screen his latest film, 100 Short Stories (2016 – 68:30 minutes), an inspiring film about the struggle against gas fracking and renewable energy in Cape Breton, at Conserver House at 7 p.m.

Admission to each film is by donation. Livingston will be on hand for discussion following each film.

Budworks screengrab

Budworks takes an in-depth look at the politics and environmental decision-making surrounding New Brunswick’s controversial aerial insecticide spraying program which began in the 1950s and ran for decades, and how spraying was stopped in Cape Breton with the lead activist being a young activist Elizabeth May.  An important part of New Brunswick’s history, the film explores the role of government and community activists, and examines the economic and health impacts of aerial insecticide spraying. It was featured in “What’s Happening?”— a weekly series of new films at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1978.

100 Short Stories
 is a first-person account of the years-long struggle to develop Black River Wind’s renewable energy project while the community of Inverness County worked to stop oil and gas drilling and fracking on Cape Breton Island. With a focus on eco-activism and contemporary life in Atlantic Canada, the film explores energy policy, governance and regional culture in Nova Scotia. Premiering in Halifax in 2016, the film has received wide recognition, including the 2017 Energy Award at Cinema Verde in Gainesville, Florida, and presentations at the Planet in Focus Festival 2016 in Toronto, and the Bozcaada International Festival of Ecological Documentary in Turkey 2017.

Neal Livingston has been making films for more than 40 years. He lives in the Mabou Inverness area on Cape Breton Island, where he also makes art, runs a renewable energy business, is an active woodlot owner and runs a commercial maple syrup farm.

Film screenings CCNB 1

Ecotour 2 1

Have you wondered what you can do to lessen your home’s carbon footprint? Would you like to learn more about the options available to you and the practical steps you can take to make a real difference? Here is your chance to see what homeowners in your community are doing to live sustainably.

Get inspired and find out what innovative homeowners are doing in your neighborhood by signing up to participate in our Passport to a Low Carbon Future EcoHome Tour scheduled for June 9 in southwestern New Brunswick. 

Organized by dedicated volunteers from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and the Saint John chapter of the Council of Canadians, the tour will shine a spotlight on low-carbon homes and public buildings in Bocabec, Letete, Saint John, Quispamsis and the Kingston Peninsula.  Click here to register.


TIME & LOCATION : ST. ANDREWS : 9:00 AM– 1:00 PM / SAINT JOHN : 12:00 PM– 5:00 PM



Visit an off-grid artist’s cabin in the woods; a home with rammed earth construction, solar and wind power, green roof, and a permaculture garden; a timber frame, passive solar, straw wall, earth berm home with sod roof; a LEED Gold Certified building, an innovative recreational complex, an 18 room inn using solar energy for hot water heating, the First Certified CHBA Net Zero Home in New Brunswick; an off-grid hobby farm; an off-grid boatbuilding workshop and more.

The home owners and business people on the tour will be there to answer your questions about how they went about reducing their carbon footprint and the challenges they encountered along the way.

UPDATE: We will be sending out an e-brochure with descriptions and directions to the EcoHomes to everyone who has registered sometime in the third week of May.

After the tour, we invite you to join us for a chance to meet and greet and share information and light refreshments starting at 5 p.m. at the fabulous Elmhurst Outdoors at 65 Ganong Road on the Kingston Peninsula.

The Canadian Rivers Institute has two upcoming courses in eastern Canada. We offer discounted course fees for students, Indigenous People, and people who work for NGOs. For select courses, we also offer group discounts with the 5th member of every group booking receiving free registration Please email info@canadianriversinstitute.ca to arrange a group booking. 

See below for course details and links to the registration forms.

 

River Management in Addressing Long-Term Maintenance Challenges

This 1-day course will be presented in a class-room setting by Dr. Bill Annable. The overall objective of the course is to provide a high-level overview of river processes and identify conflicts in river management from various planning, watershed, reach and site-specific scales. This course is particularly relevant to senior managers and young professionals in the fields of river science, planning, management, and engineering.  
 
The course fee is $225 (+HST) for professionals and $175 (+HST) for students, NGOs, and Indigenous People. The course fee includes lunch and coffee breaks. The course is currently scheduled for June 1st in Shediac New Brunswick. 

The registration deadline in May 18th. Please use the following link to register: 
https://www.regonline.com/registration/Checkin.aspx?EventID=2325138


Hydrometry/Hydrology & Geomorphology

This 3-day field course will be presented by Dr. Andre's St-Hilaire and Dr. Normand Bergeron. The course will be held at the INRS Field Station in Sacre-Couer, Quebec. The course learning objectives include:
  • A brief introduction to the water cycle and hydrological budget.
  • An introduction to the dynamic equilibrium of rivers.
  • Familiarization with different flow measurement techniques.
  • Construction of flow rating curves.
  • Introduction to meteorological and water temperature measurements.
  • Introduction to sediment sampling in rivers.

The course fee (includes meals and accommodation at the field station) is $600 (+HST) for INRS/CRI Students, $700 (+HST) for students/NGOs'/Indigenous People, and $900 (+HST) for professionals.

The registration deadline is June 19th. Please use the following link to register:
https://www.regonline.com/registration/Checkin.aspx?EventID=2376058
Progressive Conservative Leader wrong on fracking
Telegraph Journal, Times Transcript, Daily Gleaner - May 4, 2018

The Progressive Conservatives’ plan to lift the moratorium on shale gas paints a disappointing portrait of a party unable to exercise even minimum due diligence on this issue.

We filed a lawsuit challenging the Province’s embrace of shale gas in 2014, and unlike the PC’s, we have tracked every scientific study since then, from a handful to over 1,300 today.All can be found in the, “Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking.”

The evidence presented to the Commission on Hydrofracking from even the modest number of studies available in 2014 was strong enough to lead to our moratorium. Constantly accumulating evidence presented to commissions in Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland, New York, Maryland, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, and others, likewise led to moratoriums or bans.

Essentially, the only places hosting a shale gas industry are those where the industry was established before any public examination. In light of this history, any call for lifting a moratorium must be accompanied by new evidence that the problems cited in the moratorium have been resolved.

That the PC’s offer no such evidence suggests that they know none exists, or that they made no effort to check; instead choosing to simply offer an ideological opinion, disregarding the wellbeing of the citizenry.

In summarizing the evidence of 1,300 studies the ‘Compendium’ notes, “Earlier scientific predictions and anecdotal evidence are now bolstered by extensive empirical data, confirming that the public health risks from unconventional gas and oil extraction are real, the range of adverse environmental impacts wide, and the negative economic consequences considerable.”

“Findings to date from scientific, medical, and journalistic investigations combine to demonstrate that fracking poses significant threats to air, water, health, public safety, climate stability, seismic stability, community cohesion, and long-term economic vitality.”

The shale gas industry obviously cannot satisfy any of the conditions for lifting the moratorium. We could now demonstrate to a court that evidence against the industry has grown in every respect.

With horizontal wells now commonly exceeding 2 miles in length, “fluid injections, once typically three to five million gallons per fracked well, can now easily reach 10 to 20 million gallons.”

“Cases of drinking water sources contaminated by drilling and fracking activities, or by associated waste disposal, are now proven.”

Wastewater disposal still lacks a good solution. “Fracking wastewater discharged into rivers and streams through treatment plants created dozens of … disinfection by-products that are particularly toxic and raise concerns regarding human health.”

Recycling wastewater for reuse “can transfer volatile pollutants from water into air… and water treatment emissions can serve as an important point source of air pollutants.”

Wastewater injection causes thousands of earthquakes, which are not limited to the time and place of injection: “Fracking wastewater injection can migrate for years before encountering a geological fault — traveling for miles beyond the disposal well and persisting for a decade or more as injected fluids travel underground. ”

Fracking itself has caused such large earthquakes that critical facilities in BC, such as hydroelectric dams, are protected by “no frack” exclusion zones with a 5-kilometer radius.”

An analysis of health studies could not find any way “that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health.” Pregnant women, infants and children are especially vulnerable.

“The introduction of fracking reduces health among infants born to mothers living within 3 kilometres of a well site during pregnancy,” far beyond the few hundred metres even the toughest regulations require between gas wells and residences.

“Studies of mothers living near oil and gas extraction operations consistently find impairments to infant health, including: elevated risks for low birth weight and preterm birth, neural tube defects and congenital heart defects.”

“Dozens of known endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, at levels to which people can be realistically exposed,” are linked to, “harm to fertility and reproductive success… miscarriage, prostate cancer, birth defects, and decreased semen quality and counts.”

“Higher rates of leukemia [were found] among children and young adults living in areas dense with oil and gas wells,” and “Living near drilling and fracking operations significantly increases asthma attacks.”

The industry’s huge contribution to climate change has been exposed. “Well sites leak far more methane and toxic vapors than previously understood, and they continue to leak long after they are decommissioned.”

Finally, oversupply and low prices led the Wall Street Journal to note that, "energy companies…have spent $280 billion more than they generated from operations on shale investments." Meanwhile, renewable energy is as cheap as gas and grows cheaper, while gas can only get more expensive.

These conditions spark warnings of “large-scale firings, cutbacks in safety measures, and landscapes pock-marked by abandoned wells in need of remediation and long-term monitoring.”Mr. Higgs, please abandon this ill-conceived decision, and suggest something that will actually help all New Brunswickers.

Jim Emberger, Spokesperson
New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance
 © 2018 NBEN / RENB