Author Archives: Jim E.

How Fracking Destroys the American Dream {& Property Values}

Resource Media | March 20, 2014 4:01 pm

Last fall, Resource Media compiled an in-depth media tip sheet to provide journalists with background information and sources about the growing body of evidence linking drilling with widespread impacts on property values, property rights and quality of life in communities across America.

Since we first published Drilling vs. The American Dream, fracking has continued unabated, inching up and into ever more cities, towns and neighborhoods. To keep up with the changes, we updated the guide to include new data and research and new stories from the growing choir of millions of Americans who are now directly affected by oil and gas development:

Drilling vs the American Dream: Fracking impacts on property rights and home values

There are currently more than 1.1 million active oil and gas wells in the U.S., and more than 15 million Americans now live within a mile of the hundreds of thousands that have been drilled since 2000, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal. Made possible by the advent of fracking, drilling is taking place in shale formations from California to New York and from Wyoming to Texas.

And there’s no indication that this “unprecedented industrialization” shows any signs of slowing. Almost 47,000 new oil and natural gas wells were drilled in 2012, and industry analysts project that pace will only continue.

Drilling rigs now regularly inch up and even into communities that never anticipated having to address problems like round-the-clock noise, storage tanks, drums of toxic chemicals, noxious fumes, near-constant truck traffic and pipelines near homes, schools, playgrounds and parks. For many, the impacts of this kind of large-scale industrial activity are incompatible with quality of life.

Congressman Jared Polis saw this firsthand last fall when a drilling rig went up on property neighboring his small farm in Weld County, CO. Polis, who said he had no notice of the fracking operations, filed a complaint with state regulators and then a lawsuit over concerns “about the impact that fracking has on the health of communities as well as the economic impact as it relates to property value.”

Also look no further than Exxon CEO and board chairman Rex Tillerson, who is suing to stop construction of a water tower that would supply nearby drilling operations because of the nuisance of, among other things, heavy truck traffic, noise and traffic hazards from the fracking operations the tower would support. That’s right, the head of the single largest drilling company in the world, acknowledges the “constant and unbearable nuisance” that would come from having “lights on at all hours of the night … traffic at unreasonable hours … noise from mechanical and electrical equipment.” Tellingly, Tillerson’s lawsuit—filed in 2012 with other plaintiffs, including former House Majority Leader Dick Armey—claims the project would do “irreparable harm” to his property values.

At a more macro level, research is staring to show that energy booms such as the current drilling frenzy may not be the economic windfall that boosters make them out to be. After the initial surge in income and jobs that comes with drilling, problems inevitably follow: higher crime rate, decreased educational attainment and over the long run, significant declines in income. The more heavily a community ties itself to the drilling economy, the greater the decline.

“The magnitude of this relationship is substantial,” the study authors are quoted saying in the Washington Post, “decreasing per capita income by as much as $7,000 for a county with high participation in the boom.”

For those who own the rights to the oil and gas on their properties, the impacts of drilling can be offset by royalty payments that come from selling them to oil and gas developers. But in most parts of the country, the legal doctrine of split estates allows one party to own the rights to minerals and other resources below the surface while someone else hold the rights to property above ground. With the oil and gas industry showing little self-restraint and drilling encroaching into cities, towns and suburbs, split estates have left millions to deal with problems such as increased truck traffic, chemicals, lights, noise, heavy equipment, noxious air emissions and water—all without any compensation.

There are weak regulatory protections and few legal precedents to protect residents from this kind of industrial activity in their back yards. Regulations on how far drilling must be set back from homes and schools, for example, provide almost no cushion—often only several hundred feet—to mitigate drilling’s impacts on nearby homes and businesses.

Feeling unprotected by weak state and federal regulations, however, more and more communities are starting to fight back by passing local laws restricting or banning fracking within their borders. Pittsburgh became the first to take matters into its own hands with an ordinance in 2010. Since then, many others have followed suit: Dallas, Los Angeles, multiple cities and towns in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, counties in New Mexico. Last fall in Colorado, voters in four cities passed ballot measures banning or severely restricting fracking, three of them overwhelmingly. And this year, backers are gathering signatures for a 2014 statewide ballot measure that would give Colorado cities and towns local control over drilling-related policy decisions within their borders.

This pushback against drilling and its impacts goes beyond simple NIMBYism. The financial risks posed by drilling are real and substantial enough—as detailed below—that banks and insurers are also now adopting guidelines that forbid mortgage loans or insurance coverage on properties affected by drilling. It’s a battle between oil and gas and the nest egg of countless Americans.

The following examples begin to piece together the ways in which the threats posed by drilling and the deep pockets of the oil and gas industry quite literally hit home. Taken together, they are a call for decision-makers to start quantifying data and asking tough questions about drilling vs. the American Dream.

  • In a 2013 survey of 550 people conducted by business researchers at the University of Denver, a strong majority said they would decline to buy a home near drilling site. The study, published in the Journal of Real Estate Literature, also showed that people bidding on homes near fracking locations reduced their offers by up to 25 percent.
  • Realtors in Colorado are taking note as clients become increasingly hesitant about buying homes near drilling sites, with fewer and fewer bids rolling in. “Some don’t want to even look at anything remotely close to any existing or proposed well sites,” Boulder County real estate agent Nanner Fisher told the Colorado Independent. She also told Boulder iJournal that “if there is a well that’s visible when you show a property, [the prospective buyer] will ask to look for something else. A lot of it is the visual effect of the well site,” she said. “And, they think if you can see it, it’s gotta be close enough that it’s not healthy.”
  • An economic analysis by the Headwaters Institute undermines the idea that oil and gas developments fatten the bank accounts of communities and leave them better off than before drilling started. While there may be short-term windfalls, the study of six western states found that over the long-term “oil and gas specialization is observed to have negative effects on change in per capita income, crime rate and education rate.”
  • Denver Realtor Adam Cox wrote in a column in the Colorado Statesman that “potential buyers balk at buying homes near a drilling site, even though that’s often where the discounted homes are” because they are so close to oil and gas activity. Similarly, he said, homeowners near drilling sites “often have to sell at significantly lower prices than when originally purchased due to the oil and gas industry neighbors.”
  • The fumes, lights and deafening noise that came after a neighbor leased adjacent land for fracking became unbearable and forced to move from their Cleveland suburban home. In an interview with Reuters, she said they were able to sell their house for $225,000, only half its appraised value.
  • In the Catskills, fracking fears have already impacted the real estate market even though the state has yet to make a determination on whether to allow drilling. The prospect that the state will open the region to drilling, as the New York Times reported, “has spooked potential buyers” in upstate New York. The Times story also quoted a realtor who shut down her business In Wayne County, PA. Agents there, the woman said, are having trouble selling rural properties “because people don’t want to be anywhere near the drilling.”
  • A study conducted by researchers at Duke University found that the risks and potential liabilities of drilling outweigh economic benefits like lease payments and potential economic development in Washington County, PA. Even though lease payments can add overall value to homes with wells drilled on them, the possibility of contaminated water decreases property value by an average of 24 percent. The boost that comes from signing a lease offsets the increases, leaving a net decrease in value of 13 percent.
  • A 2010 study of the Texas real estate market in the heavily drilled suburban-Dallas area near Flower Mound concluded that homes valued at more than $250,000 and within 1,000 feet of a drilling pad or well site saw values decrease by 3 to 14 percent.
  • Faced with a boom in coal-bed methane development in the early 2000s, officials in La Plata County, CO studied the impacts of oil and gas development and found that properties with a well drilled on them saw their value decrease by 22 percent.
  • In a 2005 peer-reviewed study, researchers found that oil and gas production “significantly affect the sale price for rural properties.” The study determined that the presence of oil and gas facilities within 2.5 miles of rural residential properties in Alberta, Canada reduced property values between 4 percent and 8 percent, with the potential for doubling the decrease, depending on the level of industrial activity.
  • In Pavilion, WY, where the EPA has linked groundwater contamination with fracking, Louis Meeks saw the value of his 40-acre alfalfa farm all but disappear completely. In 2006, his land and home were appraised at $239,000. Two years later, as ProPublica reported, “a local realtor sent Meeks a coldly worded letter saying his place was essentially worthless and she could not list his property. ‘Since the problem was well documented … and since no generally-accepted reason for the blowout has been agreed upon,’ she wrote, ‘buyers may feel reluctant to purchase a property with this stigma.’ ”
  • Similar nightmares have befallen residents of Dimock, PA, where fracking problems decimated home values, and the drilling company responsible, Cabot Resources, was ordered to pay impacted fam­i­lies set­tle­ments worth twice their prop­erty val­ues, a total of more than $4 mil­lion.
  • In North Texas, the Wise County Central Appraisal District Appraisal Review Board knocked down the appraised value of one family’s home and 10-acre ranchette from $257,000 to $75,000—a decrease of more than 70 percent. The board agreed to the extraordinary reduction as a result of numerous environmental problems related to fracking—just one year after the first drilling rig when up on the property.

A well and battery of natural gas storage tanks near homes in Longmont, CO. Photo credit: Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont

 Property Rights

  • Unbeknownst to many suburban homeowners, homebuilders are starting to quietly retain mineral rights beneath the subdivisions they build in suburban areas. DR Horton has been perhaps the most notable construction company to employ this new tactic. In 2012, after an investigation by the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office and the state’s Real Estate Commission, officials pressured the Texas-based homebuilder to return mineral rights it had retained from beneath about 850 homes. Residents who live in a Florida subdivision built by Horton were equally surprised when they found out that the company also held the rights to prospect for whatever minerals lie beneath 2,500 of their homes near Tampa.
  • As documented by Reuters, homeowners in subdivisions in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana and other states have all purchased homes without disclosure about severed mineral rights only to see drilling rigs spring up next door too late for them to do anything about it. “This is a huge case of buyer beware,” University of Colorado-Denver Law Professor Lloyd Burton told reporters. “People who move into suburban areas are really clueless about this, and the states don’t exactly go out of their way to let people know.”
  • Senate and House committees in the Colorado Legislature have passed a measure that, much like disclosures for lead paint, would require sellers to notify prospective homebuyers about separated mineral rights and whether a property may be subject to oil, gas or mineral development. Senate Bill 14-009 is awaiting approval by both chambers to be forwarded to the governor.
  • In at least 39 states, there are laws that compel “holdout landowners” to join gas-leasing agreements with their neighbors, allowing oil and gas companies to drill horizontally to tap into oil and gas reserves that cross property lines—whether the owner of a property wants to allow the drilling or not. Called “mandatory pooling” or “compulsory integration,” these laws basically create eminent domain by private enterprise.
  • Pooling gives the owner an interest in the well, including royalty payments, but as in Colorado, where forced pooling orders were issued by the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 48 times in 2010, the law also makes the unwilling owner “liable for the further costs of the operation, as if he had participated in the initial drilling operation.”

The intent of forced pooling is to create more orderliness in drilling underground oil and gas reserves, which rarely adhere to the patchwork of surface ownership. Forcing holdout landowners into leasing agreements is supposed to lead to fewer wells drilled and more efficiency in the ones that are. But it’s also frequently used as a threat by landmen looking to cash in on leases.

Mortgages and Fracking

Recognizing the numerous ways that drilling and fracking could damage value, the mortgage industry is starting to refuse to take on the financial liabilities and is tightening policies that prohibit lending on properties with wells on them or that are subject to leasing.

  • Following the debacle in North Carolina over severed mineral rights (see above) the State Employees’ Credit Union in North Carolina officially has decided it will no longer approve mortgage financing for properties where the drilling rights have been sold off to someone else. The credit union, which manages almost $12 billion in residential mortgages, said it considers loans on such land to be riskier than those where the mineral rights remain with the land.
  • According to American Banker, at least three mortgage lending institutions—Tompkins Financial in Ithaca, NY, Spain’s Santander Bank and State Employees’ Credit Union in Raleigh, NC—are now refusing to make mortgages on land where oil or gas rights have been sold to an energy company. The publication quoted the president and CEO of the North Carolina credit union saying that if a landowner allows a drilling rig to go up on his or her their land, “We’d have to tell their neighbors, “We’re sorry, your property value just went down.’ ” (Also quoted in the Motley Fool.)
  • Language in Freddie Mac’s standard mortgage contracts prohibit a “borrower from taking any action that could cause the deterioration, damage or decrease in value of the subject property,” and if the prohibition is broken by say, a landowner signing a drilling lease or entering into a mineral-rights agreement, Freddie Mac has the legal authority to exercise a call on a mortgage’s full amount if a borrower, according to an agency spokesman.
  • According to a white paper prepared for the New York State Bar Association, Wells Fargo, one of the largest home mortgage lender in the U.S. is approaching home loans for properties that have gas drilling leases attached to them with a high degree of caution.
  • In addition to Wells Fargo, Provident Funding, GMAC, FNCB, Fidelity and First Liberty, First Place Bank, Solvay Bank, Tompkins Trust Co., CFCU Community Credit Union are either putting hard-to-meet conditions on mortgages or denying loans altogether on properties with oil and gas leases. (Excellent summary of oil and gas issues related to mortgage lending from a brokerage vice president is available online.)
  • The backgrounder prepared by the NYSBA about gas leasing impacts on homeowners also includes a section on residential mortgages and says the combination of home-ownership and drilling, “creates a perfect storm begging for immediate attention.” Risks include:
    – Homeowners being confronted with uninsurable property damage for activities they cannot control.
    – Banks refusing to provide mortgage loans on homes with gas leases because they don’t meet secondary mortgage market guidelines.
    – Impediments to new construction starts, long a bellwether of economic recovery, since construction loans depend on risk-free property and a purchaser.
    – The possibility of a property owner defaulting on a mortgage by signing a gas lease.
    – Prohibitively expensive appraisals and title searches that are complicated by assessing the value of risks and the arcane paper trail of mineral rights and attached liabilities.
  • A Pennsylvania couple was recently denied a new mortgage on their farm by Quicken Loans because of a drilling site across the street. According to the lender, “gas wells and other structures in nearby lots…can significantly degrade a property’s value” and do not meet underwriting guidelines. Two other lenders also denied the family mortgages.
  • Federal lending and mortgage institutions (FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) all have prohibitions against lending on properties where drilling is taking place or where hazardous materials are stored. A drilling lease on a property financed through one of these agencies would result in a ”technical default.” FHA’s guidelines also don’t allow it to finance mortgages where homes are within 300 feet of an active or planned drilling site. Also see

Insurance Coverage

Homeowners who think damage to property incurred by drilling accidents is covered by insurance need to think again. Such damages are typically not covered.

  • Last July, Nationwide Insurance spelled out specifically that it would not provide coverage for damage related to fracking. According to an internal memo outlining the company’s policy, “After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage.”
  • Often, a driller or well operator’s insurance won’t cover damages, according to the NYSBA summary. Homeowners may have to sue for damages and, even if they win, may not get paid for all damages since drillers admit in their regulatory filings that they may not carry enough insurance.

Other online resources:

  • The New York Times has compiled hundreds of pages of documents related to drilling and property rights and values that include federal guidelines, emails from realtors and mortgage brokers, memos from bankers etc.
  • Reuters investigated the mushrooming issue of split estates and the conflicts between mineral rights and property rights, finding numerous instances across the country of homebuilders and developers holding on to ownership of oil and gas deposits while selling off subdivision lots, while providing little to no information about the issue to buyers.

Groups unite in shale gas opposition, launch campaign

(from Telegraph Journal, March 20, 2014)

FREDERICTON – A new coalition of community groups and labour unions has formed the largest concerted effort to date in opposition to shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick.

The group that includes the Council of Canadians, the New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance, Unifor, and the province’s conservation council has announced a new campaign with plans to visit every corner of the province to provide “public education about shale gas, clean jobs, and clean energy.”

The Voice of the People Tour has 19 stops across New Brunswick already scheduled. (See schedule here)

At least another seven others are in the works.

The coalition also includes the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the New Brunswick Federation of Labour, the Fredericton and District Labour Council, and the National Farmers Union.

Green Party Leader David Coon is also a part of the group.

“We will be asking the people in our communities several questions,” said Jim Emberger, a spokesman for the anti-shale gas alliance. “Do we know everything we need to know about shale gas? Is shale gas the only way to create jobs? What do you want in your backyard?

“Over the past four years, there’s been little or no public consultations or meetings initiated by the government or the industry, so people are organizing themselves.”

He added: “In addition, the government of New Brunswick has failed to provide the public with peer-reviewed scientific evidence of the harmful effects of shale gas fracking and shale gas development. The people are not getting in the information that they need.”

Emberger said the town hall-style meetings will provide an overview of scientific evidence on the effects of shale gas, specifically hydraulic fracturing.

He said a long-term health study from the University of Colorado’s school of public health completed roughly two years ago will be presented. Newer studies from the University of Missouri and Colorado underscoring health impacts will also be reviewed.

Alternatives to the industry will also be brainstormed, namely clean energy initiatives.

Emberger cites a report by environmental alliance Blue Green Canada that states for the same investment there are seven times as many jobs with clean energy and building efficiency than there is with the oil and gas industry.

“We want to talk about economic development,” said Jean Louis Deveau, chair of the Fredericton chapter of the Council of Canadians. “Our premier is focused on the dig it out, cut it down, and ship it out economy.

“We think there are all kinds of opportunities in clean energy that we haven’t even started to talk about.”

Grassroots groups say the consolidated effort against shale gas will ensure they are better heard.

“There are community organizations, but they weren’t united with a strategic plan and an approach to dealing with both the industry and the government on this issue,” said Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County spokesperson Roy Ries. “This is our opportunity to present information to the public and they can make a choice, otherwise they are being asked to make a choice in ignorance of a lot of the facts.”

Conservation Council of New Brunswick spokeswoman Stephanie Merrill said the tour presents the opportunity to reach people unsure about the shale gas industry.

“The public feels quite overloaded and daunted, not really quite sure what to do, how to participate, and how to respond,” she said. “These opportunities to get directly out to the public with presentations and opportunities for people to ask questions and also participate in discussions is a really good, direct way of engaging people at the local level.”

A first stop is scheduled for Fredericton on March 24.

Campaign promises, executive actions and vague intentions are not good enough.


New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance calls for a ten-year, legislated and unconditional moratorium on shale gas and oil activities.

MONCTON, NB (March 6, 2014)  – Today, the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) announced its position on a shale gas moratorium – the minimum standard to which the Alliance will hold political parties in this year’s September 22 provincial election.

“We are calling for a ten-year, legislated and unconditional moratorium on all unconventional oil and gas exploration and production in New Brunswick,” said NBASGA spokesperson Jim Emberger. “During that period, all existing leases must be cancelled and no new leases granted.”

The moratorium must be enacted by binding legislation, because “campaign promises, executive actions and vague intentions are not good enough.”

A ten-year moratorium, rather than a ban, recognizes that there may still be New Brunswickers who have doubts about shale gas, but who are not yet convinced that an absolute ban is warranted.

“NBASGA is confident that after ten years, shale gas will be permanently banned as a result of what is learned during the moratorium,” he said, adding that, ‘we use shale gas as shorthand for unconventional oil and gas.”

NBASGA rejects any notion that we should rely on two future reports from Environment Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“These reports are far too narrow in scope,” Emberger noted. The EPA focuses solely “on the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources” and says its report intentionally does not study the effects of shale gas on air pollution, public safety, specific health problems, ecological effects, seismic risks, etc.  The Environment Canada report is likely to be useful only as a means to identify areas for study. The creditability of both agencies has been damaged by gross interference by politicians and the industry.

Ten years is the minimum time necessary to do the required long-term scientific studies on all the aspects of shale gas, many of which remain unstudied. Every day, newly-discovered problems arise that merit research.

Emberger said, “The only existing long-term public health study of shale gas, which spanned only three years, revealed substantially increased risks for cancer and diseases, some of which may take years to develop. Recent studies focusing on specific factors indicate that living near shale gas wells increases instances of low birth weight babies, poor infant health, congenital heart defects, and exposure to endocrine disruptors.”

All these studies have identified health problems occurring at distances well beyond all regulatory setbacks from gas and oil wells, and indicate that air pollution may be a more serious health threat than the water contamination that has caused so much concern.  Emberger noted that, “All the studies call for more research, and there are no studies suggesting the industry is safe.”

History is littered with instances where the lack of sufficient testing has resulted in tragedy.

Examples of how the premature use of chemicals has cost countless lives and left lasting environmental damage include: asbestos, lead, mercury, radium, DDT, and a host of industrial chemicals such as PCB’s, CFC’s and dioxins. Many of the 650 fracking chemicals are known toxins and carcinogens, but many more have never been tested for health hazards.

We are not the only ones voicing serious concerns.

“Traditional oil patch cities in Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania are now calling for moratoriums or bans on shale gas. Wouldn’t it be prudent to take the time to find out why?” Emberger asked.

Our international obligations to stop catastrophic climate change will require us to forego new fossil fuels and switch to alternative clean energy.

In conclusion, Emberger said, “The good news is that the clean energies are, by far, the fastest growing sectors of the energy industry, and they create huge numbers of jobs. Following that path for ten years should be the proper responsible and moral role for our government.”

About the NBASGA

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance represents the interests of New Brunswickers opposed to unconventional gas and oil exploration and development, while promoting a future in clean energy alternatives.



The Case for a 10-year, Legislated, Unconditional Moratorium on Shale Gas

Today the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) announces its position on the issue of a shale gas moratorium.  It is the minimum standard to which we will hold our political parties.

We call for a ten (10) year, legislated and unconditional moratorium on all unconventional oil and gas exploration and production in New Brunswick.

During that period all existing leases must be suspended and no new leases granted.
(For brevity, we will use the term shale gas to mean unconventional oil and gas.)

A “legislated” moratorium means that it must be embodied in binding legislation. Campaign promises, executive actions or party platforms are not sufficient.

“Unconditional” means just that.  This issue is multifaceted and complex and the research is just now developing.  There are no conditions or reports that can in any way make a definitive statement that this factor or that will make it okay to proceed. The list of potential harms is too big to address and is growing. Research continues to encounter problems no one envisioned.  How can you create conditions for things you don’t know yet?

Calling for a ten-year moratorium, rather than a ban, simply reflects the fact that there may still be New Brunswickers who have many doubts about shale gas, but who are not yet convinced that an absolute ban is warranted.

As evidence and research continues to build a case against shale gas, our membership expects that at the end of ten years shale gas will be permanently banned as a result of what we will learn during the moratorium.

There has been discussion about relying on two reports from Environment Canada and the US EPA.  These reports suffer from several problems. Primarily they will be narrow in scope or won’t include the latest research.

The EPA report is focused solely, and I quote, “on the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources.  Areas that fall outside of this study’s scope include, for instance: air impacts, ecological effects, seismic risks, specific health impacts, public safety, and occupational risks”.  The Environment Canada report is likely to be of even less use, except as a way to identify areas that need study.

We also regret to say that both of these once-reliable agencies appear to have become tainted by political influence.

In the last year the US EPA has withdrawn from three investigations of contamination caused by shale gas activities, before publicizing its findings.  Its preliminary findings in all three cases indicated that contamination had occurred, but it closed down the cases before publication due to pressure from petroleum-state senators and the White House. Incredibly, in one case it was forced to turn over the investigation to the very company accused of causing the contamination.

However, the findings of contamination became public knowledge from other sources.  In Pennsylvania, it was leaked documents.  In Texas, it was a consulting independent scientist. In Wyoming, the EPA scientists simply made a statement that they stood by their preliminary findings of contamination. In light of these extraordinary examples of political manipulation, the reliability and impartiality of any report from the EPA on the subject must be met with great skepticism.

In Canada the political manipulation is even more blatant.  The Harper government has ceded all environmental regulation of fossil fuels to the provinces, fired thousands of scientists and regulators, and closed environmental research and review institutions.  Most astoundingly, the scientists that remain are not allowed to talk to the press or the public without being cleared by a political handler.  What faith can we have in a report controlled by a government and party that seem to be doing everything they can to silence the voice of science, especially when it applies to the fossil fuel industry?

Ten years is the minimum amount of time necessary to do the long-term studies on all aspects of shale gas that are currently lacking, particularly on public health, as has been made abundantly clear in our Chief Medical Officer for Health’s award winning report on the subject, and echoed by health and research communities everywhere.

We call for a 10-year unconditional moratorium, because severe health problems have been identified but not thoroughly studied.

From the beginning of the shale gas industry, a little over a decade ago, people near the wells reported unusual and severe symptoms and illness, but it was years before health officials began to connect the maladies to shale gas. So even now, the longest-term public health study, by the University of Colorado, lasted only 3 years. The conclusions of that study indicated that living near a shale gas well resulted in substantial increases in the risks for developing cancer, neurological and respiratory and other diseases.  As cancer and some other diseases may take years to develop, the study called for more research.

That study is now several years old.  Just last week, the same University of Colorado School of Public Health completed a study of all the available research and said,  “Despite broad public concern, no comprehensive population-based studies of the public health effects of UNG (unconventional natural gas) operations exist.  Overall, the current literature suggests that research needs to address these uncertainties before we can reasonably quantify the likelihood of occurrence or magnitude of adverse health effects associated with UNG production in workers and communities.”

We call for a 10-year unconditional moratorium, because new health threats keep appearing.

Recent, independent studies have associated living near a shale gas well with low birth weight in infants, poor infant health, congenital heart defects and exposure to endocrine disruptors, substances that in the tiniest quantities can cause a host of developmental, reproductive and other diseases.  These substances, whose dangers have only recently been discovered, are regularly used in the shale gas industry.

Each study indicates a new problem that shows a correlation to shale gas and each calls for more long-term research. Each also indicates problems at greater and greater distances from gas wells, and that air pollution from shale gas activities may be a more serious threat to our health than the water contamination that has been widely discussed to date. And it must be noted that there are no studies concluding that shale gas is safe.

We call for a 10-year unconditional moratorium, because history is littered with instances where the lack of sufficient testing has resulted in tragedy.

In our past we have killed and sickened millions and caused irreparable harm to our environment by not doing long-term research before employing things like asbestos, lead, mercury, radium, DDT, and a host of industrial chemicals – PCB’s, CFC’s, and dioxins.

Consider the years of testing necessary to certify a single drug for human use. Yet the chemicals known to be available for use in hydro-fracking number roughly 650, combined in nearly a thousand different products.   While many are already known to have toxic or carcinogenic properties, many have not undergone any testing at all, and virtually none have been tested in combinations with the others. Yet we will be breathing them in 24/7, and ingesting them in our water and food.

We call for a 10-year unconditional moratorium, because cities and jurisdictions that host the shale gas industry, even those in traditional oil and gas areas, such as Colorado, Pennsylvania and Texas, are now calling for moratoriums and bans on shale gas activities.

It would be prudent to find out why. Ten years will also allow us to observe the long-term effects on communities that host the shale industry.  Boom-bust social problems are increasingly cited in news reports from those areas, in addition to the health threats noted.

We call for a 10-year unconditional moratorium, because we wonder if the industry itself will even persist?

Existing shale plays have hit peak production in 4 or 5 years. Many experts predict that the industry as a whole will have a very short lifespan.  It that where we want to bet our future? Waiting ten years will let us know if they are correct.

We call for a 10-year unconditional moratorium, because within 2 years world leaders plan to commit to binding reductions on fossil fuel usage and lower carbon emissions.

Many global institutions and nearly all climate scientists conclude that three quarters of all fossil fuels must stay in the ground to prevent catastrophic, irreversible climate change. Some investment counselors, a growing social movement, and even the president of the World Bank, are saying that divestment of fossil fuels is not only a move toward self-preservation, but also a smart fiscal idea. A ten-year wait will tell the tale.

All the above mean that we will have to switch to alternative clean energies, which fortunately, are by far the fastest growing parts of the energy sector, creating huge numbers of jobs.  Our time should be spent pursuing this sensible future.

Contrary to the Minister of Energy’s comments, delaying this industry is the only sensible thing to do.  Gas is not like a factory that investors can move elsewhere for a better deal.  In the unlikely events that in ten years it can be extracted safely, and the world wants it, investor’s will come here, because the gas will be here.

In the meantime, the citizens of New Brunswick have been loud and clear about not wanting their families to be guinea pigs in return for an uncertain promise of a few temporary jobs.

Eighty municipalities, thirty-three community groups, much of the medical establishment, agricultural and rural associations, religious organizations and a large number of unions, including the largest public and private sector unions in Canada have called for a ban, a ten-year moratorium or a simple halt to the shale gas industry.

It is time that the voices and will of those people are heard by the politicians who claim to represent them.  We intend to track and publicize the positions of every candidate on this issue between now and the election. Candidates, expect to be hearing from your electorate.


Health Studies Referenced

“Human Health Risk Assessment of Air Emissions from Development of Unconventional Natural Gas Resources.”, Lisa McKenzie, Ph.D., MPH, University of Colorado School of Public Health, Science of the Total Environment.

Potential Public Health Hazards, Exposures and Health Effects from Unconventional Natural Gas Development † Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver, 13001 E. 17th Place, Campus Box B119, Aurora, Colorado 80045, United States  Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, 130 DeSoto Street, A710 Crabtree Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, United States, Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP DOI:10.1021/es404621d  Publication Date (Web): February 24, 2014
Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1306722

Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado. Lisa M. McKenzie,1 Ruixin Guo,2 Roxana Z. Witter,1 David A. Savitz,3 Lee S. Newman,1 and John L. Adgate1,  Colorado School of Public Health and Brown University.

“Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region,” Susan Nagel, PhD. Missouri University School of Medicine, Endocrinology

Low Birth Weight Study, Janet Currie of Princeton University, Katherine Meckel of Columbia University, and John Deutch and Michael Greenstone of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology


New Brunswickers Calling for a Moratorium


Association francophone des municipalités du Nouveau-Brunswick (51 municipalities) These municipalities reaffirmed their position in October 2013, calling once again for a moratorium.
Kent Co. Regional Service Commission (14 municipalities )
Sussex Corner
Port Elgin
Wolastoqiyik First Nations Chiefs and Band Councils of NB and the Maliseet Grand Council (Oct 2013)

Medical Associations

New Brunswick College of Family Physicians with 700 members (April 2012)
Medical Doctors of the Moncton Hospital (June 2012)
Medical Doctors at Georges Dumont Hospital, Moncton (Sept. 2012)
New Brunswick Nurses Union with 6900 members (Dec. 2011)
Medical Staff at Sackville Memorial Hospital (May 2012 and again in May 2013)
New Brunswick Lung Association (Nov 2012)

Unions and Associations

Canadian Union of Public Employees with 30,000 members (April 2012)
NB National Farmers Union with 150 farms as members (March 2012)
Maritime Conference of the United Church of Canada (March 2012 and again in October 2013)
The Federation of Rural New Brunswickers (August 2012)
Public Service Alliance of Canada – Atlantic Region (July 2013)
Really Local Harvest Co-operative – South-east NB (Oct 2013)
KAIROS – Saint John and area chapter (Oct 2013)
Concerned Physicians of Rexton and Richebucto (Oct 2013)
Unifor – Canada’s largest energy union with 300,000 members, called for a national moratorium on fracking on Nov 14, 2013.

Community Groups

Citizens Coalition for Clean Air, Saint John
Concerned Citizens of Penobsquis
Corn Hill Area Residents Association
Conservation Council NB, Fredericton
Conservation Council NB, Moncton
Council of Canadians, Fredericton
Council of Canadians, St. John
Council of Canadians Atlantic Chapter Halifax, NS
Darling Island Fracking Intervention, Darling Island
Elgin Eco Association
Friends of Mount Carleton
Hampton Water First, Hampton
Harvey Action Team, Harvey
Community Forests International (Sackville)
Kent South NO SHALE GAS Kent Sud
Maliseet Grand Council, NB
Memramcook Action
Moncton Anti-Fracking
New Brunswickers Against Fracking
Our Environment, Our Choice, Kent County
Parents Against Everyday Poisons, Memramcook
Penniac Anti-Shale Org.
Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance
Quality of Life, Hampton/Norton
Sierra Club, Atlantic NB
SikniktukMikmaq Rights Coalition NB
Stanley Area Action Group
Sustainable Energy Group, Woodstock
Tantramar Alliance Against Hydro-Fracking, Sackville
Taymouth Community Association
Upper Miramichi Stewardship Alliance, Miramichi
Upper Environment Watch, Kent County
Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County

Anti-shale gas group (NBASGA) calls for 10-year moratorium

Binding legislation needed, campaign promises not enough, spokesperson says

CBC News  ::  Mar 06, 2014

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance says 10 years is the minimum time necessary to do the required long-term scientific studies on all the aspects of shale gas.

A group opposed to shale gas development and production in the province is calling on political parties to stand behind a legislated 10-year moratorium.

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance says 10 years is the minimum time required for the provincial government to review the industry and the impacts on health and the environment.

Meanwhile, it wants all existing leases cancelled and no new leases granted.

“A 10-year moratorium, rather than a ban, recognizes that there may still be New Brunswickers have doubts about shale gas, but who are not yet convinced that an absolute ban is warranted,” the group said in a statement issued on Thursday.

“NBASGA  is confident that after 10 years, shale gas will be permanently banned as a result of what is learned during the moratorium,” said spokesperson Jim Emberger.

But the moratorium must be enacted by binding legislation, he said. “Campaign promises, executive actions and vague intentions are not good enough.”

The group has timed its announcement to line up with this year’s provincial election, said Emberger. He believes the shale gas debate could weigh heavily on how New Brunswickers choose to vote on Sept. 22.

“We want [the political parties] to all take it into consideration when they draw up the party platform because certainly, you know, we’ll be reporting back to the public as much as we can about what each candidate thinks about this. And so it gives them a standard,” he said.

Leaders are speaking up

Letter-to-the-Editor  ::  Telegraph Journal  ::  21 February 2014

Premier Alward recently implored leaders to speak up about shale gas. Here are some who already have. Seventy-seven francophone and anglophone municipalities have spoken up by calling for a halt to shale gas. They join 30 community groups from across the province, and four First Nation governing bodies. Many unions, including CUPE and Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, have spoken up, as have farmers’ unions and rural associations.

Our medical associations, unions and hospital staffs were among the first to call for a moratorium, and have been joined by the voices of several religious organizations, such as the Maritime Conference of the United Church of Canada.

These New Brunswick voices echo those of our neighbours in Quebec, PEI, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New York and Vermont who all have instituted a moratorium of one kind or another. It is only the Al-ward government and a few corporate interests who are pushing shale gas in this part of the world!

The global community, the people of Canada, and citizens of New Brunswick want an energy strategy for the transition from fossil fuels to a sustainable clean energy economy. Research shows that the economic and job creation benefits of clean energy far exceed those of the oil and gas industry. We can reduce the impact of global warming and offer a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.

Many leaders are speaking out. The Premier just isn’t listening.

Roy Ries
Jim Emberger


Public Inquiry into October 17 Raid

New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance Calls for Public Inquiry into October 17 Raid
Group echoes fears of further conflict expressed by Amnesty International open letter to premier

December 10, 2013 (Moncton, NB) – On this, International Human Rights Day, the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) is asking the provincial government for an independent, public inquiry into events surrounding the October 17 RCMP raid on a peaceful shale gas protest camp near Rexton.

IMAGE - March on Route 134 in Rexton of community supporters against shale gas (CBC, October 1, 2013)The group echoes the fears expressed in an Amnesty International letter to Premier David Alward and his cabinet dated, November 1, that unless steps are taken to rebuild the relationship with Indigenous Peoples with respect to resource development, further incidents could occur.

Amnesty International says that this incident “could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law.” When the world’s foremost human rights organization expresses concern about human rights issues in New Brunswick, citizens should be concerned as well.

NBSAGA believes the people of New Brunswick have a right to know the reasons behind the sudden escalation in the use of force on October 17.  Today, they sent a letter to the Premier and cabinet, as well as opposition leaders, requesting the inquiry and saying there are many unanswered questions about what transpired at Rexton.

“We would like an independent public inquiry to examine what role this failure to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples may have played in the events leading up to October 17,” says Jim Emberger, spokesman for NBASGA.  “An independent, impartial inquiry held at arm’s length from government is necessary because the Provincial Government itself played a role in those events.”

Since opposition began, thousands of people have visited peaceful demonstration sites across the province bringing supplies, and financial and moral support without incident. Rexton was no different until the morning of October 17.

woman_Elsi“From what we can see,” notes Emberger, “there was no threat to public safety until police, advancing with drawn guns and accompanied by dogs and snipers in camouflage, attacked unarmed civilians, including women and children, with pepper spray and non-lethal rounds.”

“Use of force must always be a last resort and the scale and nature of the force deployed must be in proportion to the need to protect public safety,” writes Amnesty International.

Among its many other questions, NBASGA asks why police did not first consult with First Nations’ chiefs who were vocal advocates of non-violence as a means of addressing safety concerns without armed force.  Instead, the RCMP arrested Chief Sock and his counselors, thus preventing them from intervening in the situation.  “Arresting a respected chief who has repeatedly stressed the importance of peaceful protest is baffling,” says Emberger.

NBASGA also questions why police continued allowing citizens to enter the site, considering the police themselves claim it was a dangerous situation threatening public safety.

As well, despite a massive police presence, RCMP vehicles were set ablaze with no police intervention and, to date, no arrests of suspects for arson.

The NBASGA and other anti-shale groups have been engaged in peaceful education, discussion and debate for three years and it is their intent to remain that way. They recognize that peaceful protest may include civil disobedience, but never violence, and feel acts of civil disobedience have occurred only because of government refusal to address citizen concerns in any meaningful way.

“The current and continuing threat of violence was initiated by the RCMP/government in the Rexton raid,” says Emberger, “and this violence has drawn the public’s attention away from the important issues, and also from the coverage of recent significant scientific, economic and political reports and events concerning shale gas.”

Therefore, it is in the public’s interest to have an independent investigation of the Rexton event, not only to find ways to diffuse future incidents, but also to allow the public discourse and media coverage to return to the discussion of the topic of shale gas.

Link to Amnesty International Letter

Amnesty International Speaks Out

collage3The Nobel Prize winning organization, Amnesty International, has written an open letter to Premier Alward concerning the events at Rexton that took place on October 17, 2014, and the issue of free, prior and informed consent with the people of the First Nations community of Elsipogtog.

They lay the blame for the situation on the government’s failure to follow Canadian and international law on the topic and for the violence resulting from an overwhelming police response.


Open Letter concerning anti-fracking protests at the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Nation

David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick
Centennial Building
P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1

Dear Premier Alward:

Our organizations are deeply concerned by the Province of New Brunswick’s response to anti-fracking protests at the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Nation. We are appreciative of the efforts of all involved to allow a cooling off period following the violence of October 17. However, it is our view that this clash could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law. Furthermore, we are concerned that unless the province adopts an approach consistent with these obligations, further clashes may occur.

In 2007, an Ontario public inquiry into police and government response to Aboriginal protest – the Ipperwash Inquiry – concluded that blockades and occupations are “symptoms” of the long-standing failure of governments in Canada to resolve land and resource disputes in a fair, timely and effective manner. In the Inquiry report, Justice Sidney Linden wrote that blockades and occupations “occur when members of an Aboriginal community believe that governments are not respecting their treaty or Aboriginal rights, and that effective redress through political or legal means is not available.” Justice Linden called for a redoubling of efforts “to build successful, peaceful relations with Aboriginal peoples…so that we can all live together peacefully and productively.”

“It is our view that this clash could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law.”

In this spirit, our organizations highlight four areas where we believe the province of New Brunswick can do more to rebuild just relations with Indigenous Peoples in relation to resource development and the potential for disputes.

First, it is critical to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples have rights to their lands, territories and resources that predate the creation of the Canadian state. These pre-existing rights are affirmed in the Peace and Friendship Treaties, in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, and in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as in authoritative international human rights instruments including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada’s failure to protect these rights has been repeatedly condemned by international human rights bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which found that the comprehensive claims processes fall below international standards of justice. Your government can make a meaningful contribution by communicating clearly that these rights exist and must be respected.

Second, the inherent land rights of Aboriginal peoples cannot be ignored in the day-to-day operations of the government. Doing so is both discriminatory and contrary to the rule of law. Canadian courts have set out a mandatory constitutional duty to consult with Indigenous peoples with the goal of identifying and substantially accommodating their concerns, before any decisions are made that could affect these rights. For such consultation to be meaningful, Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and perspective must be part of the determination of whether or not a particular proposal could have a harmful impact on their rights and use of the land. Furthermore, the duty of consultation and accommodation, and the inter-related obligation for governments to deal honourably with Aboriginal peoples, cannot be met if there is a predetermination that projects will go ahead regardless of legitimate concerns raised by the affected communities. Accordingly, our organizations urge your government to retract statements indicating that the province is already committed to shale gas development, regardless of opposition.

rexton_oct 7

Third, whenever a proposed project has the potential for impacts on the cultures, livelihoods, health and well-being of Indigenous peoples, or where questions remain about the extent of the possible impacts, a very high standard of precaution is required to ensure that no further harm is inflicted on Indigenous peoples. Canadian courts have said that the “full consent” of Aboriginal peoples may be required on “very serious” matters. International human rights instruments, and the jurisprudence of international human rights bodies, clearly establish a duty to obtain the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples as a precautionary measure or heightened safeguard for their rights. In fact, just days before violence erupted over the shale oil explorations in New Brunswick, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples reminded governments in Canada that FPIC is generally required whenever large scale resource development projects are being considered that could impact the rights of Indigenous peoples. Our organizations call on New Brunswick to acknowledge that shale gas exploration and development on or near the traditional lands of Indigenous peoples is clearly an example where the safeguard of free, prior and informed consent is appropriate and necessary.

Finally, our organizations highlight the need to ensure appropriate police response in the unresolved conflicts over Indigenous lands rights. In all instances, police have a clear responsibility to respect and protect human rights. While police have an obligation to protect public safety and respond to criminal offences, police must also act to respect the right of peaceful protest and assembly and act to protect the lives and safety of those involved in protests. Use of force must always be a last resort and the scale and nature of the force deployed must be in proportion to the need to protect public safety. In the Ipperwash Inquiry report, Justice Linden called on Ontario to adopt a province-wide peacekeeping policy based on these principles to ensure that police response to Aboriginal protest would not be politicized and that risks of violence could be minimized. Our organizations strongly urge all governments in Canada to also publicly endorse and adopt such crucial policies.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Neve, Amnesty International Canada

Lesley Robertson, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)

Ed Bianchi, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Alberta Stories

albertavoicesWe hear a lot about Alberta…

As UNB economics professor, Dr. Rod Hill, pointed out in a lengthy examination earlier this year in the Telegraph Journal,  “only 0.1 per cent of Alberta’s natural gas is from shale.”

Likewise, despite calling them ‘world class’, Alberta has few and very weak regulations on shale gas.  For instance, unless regulations have been recently changed, Alberta does not even require testing of nearby water wells before drilling or fracking.

Despite this, we are constantly told that they have no problems.

A recent Alberta website – Alberta Voices – has begun documenting the stories and experiences of Alberta residents affected by a largely unregulated gas and oil industry.  These stories are well-researched and available in print or video format.

No Contamination? Ever?

Are you confused by industry claims about the long history of fracking with no contamination?

The article below contains two short videos by experts that explain the confusion – both are under 3 minutes long and were made for the recent moratorium battles in Colorado. These videos feature local and national experts who touch on economics, air pollution, groundwater contamination and renewable energy solutions. The first video features EPA whistleblower Wes Wilson and the second features Cornell scientist Tony Ingraffea.

Check out the entire Colorado article here.

Or, for a more detailed history and explanation of the gas industry’s confusing wordplay: