Myth Busters

These are the statements we hear all the time. Every proponent of fracking says the same thing.
Beyond the utter falseness of the claims, we think the message is getting pretty old and stale. But don’t just believe us. We’ve included some resource links for you. Then you decide:

(Download pdf of Myth-Busters for sharing)

A continually growing number of studies, including in Canada, have associated fracking and other shale gas extraction processes with serious health threats to almost every system in our bodies, and include cancer.  Pregnant women and infants seem especially vulnerable to premature birth, low birth weights, and congenital heart and brain defects.  Risks for childhood leukemia, asthma and other respiratory diseases are increased.  Many of the chemicals used in fracking are ‘endocrine disruptors.’ These are substances, which in extremely small quantities, can disrupt our hormone systems, and cause developmental and reproductive problems lasting a lifetime. Reviewers of all the medical research have stated that they can see no way for the industry to operate safely with respect to public health.

Methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, is 86 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2) over 20 years. Because large amounts leak into the atmosphere from every stage of shale gas development, transport and usage, shale gas is considered to be one of the fastest-growing causes of climate change, and worse for the climate than burning coal.  The International Energy Agency states that gas can no longer be considered a ‘transitional fuel’ to clean energy.

Methane, fracking fluids and other drilling chemicals have been documented as entering waterways via leaking wells, spills, pipeline breaks, well blowouts, truck accidents and floods.  In addition to rendering water wells undrinkable and causing illnesses, poisoned waters have killed farm animals, wildlife, fish and vegetation. Recently in Pennsylvania, after 13 years of denial that it contaminated drinking wells in the community of Dimock, a gas producer pleaded guilty to 17 felony counts, paid large fines, and must replace the community’s water system.


The trend toward mega-fracking, with longer and more extensive horizontal wellbores per well pad, means fracking uses much more water than it did 15 years ago, gulping up to 16 million gallons of water per well. Each shale gas well pad can have up to 20 wells.  Each well can be ‘fracked’ a dozen times or more. The water needs are enormous and can lead to drinking water depletion and problems disposing of ever-increasing amounts of toxic fracking wastewater.


Wastewater: The vast amount of wastewater left after a frack is highly toxic and sometimes radioactive. It cannot safely be used for other purposes.  The most common disposal method injects the waste into the ground under pressure, but this has been shown to be the cause of thousands of earthquakes.  Other methods of disposal are associated with disease and environmental contamination.  There is now no approved method considered to be safe in New Brunswick.

Chemicals – amount:  The industry says the percentage of chemicals mixed with water is small, but because the amount of water used is so great, the amount of chemicals is also great.  A frack using 9 million gallons of water, of which only 1 per cent is made up of chemicals, still results in 90,000 gallons of chemicals injected into the Earth.

Chemicals – health:  We have no information whatsoever on the health effects of nearly 80% of the over 1,000 chemicals used in fracking. Of those that have been studied, hundreds are associated with cancer and/or damage to the brain and nervous systems, immune and cardiovascular systems, kidneys, liver, eyes, skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and reproductive system. There is no information on how they react when mixed with each other or with naturally-occurring toxic elements in the Earth. Living near a shale gas well is to be a guinea pig in the largest uncontrolled chemical experiment in the world. And the people running it don’t have to tell you the chemicals to which you are being exposed.


Many studies have linked illnesses to how many gas wells are nearby and how close they are to people. Studies have documented problems up to 10 kilometres from wells.  Because they can be inhaled, swallowed, and also reach the skin, the potential for exposure to volatile chemicals is greater. Thus, air pollution has emerged as one of the primary public health concerns.  Shale gas chemicals have also created record-breaking amounts of ground-level ozone that have been documented as travelling more than 300 km from its source, aggravating asthma, respiratory diseases, and irreparable lung damage.


A single well pad requires thousands of heavy truck trips, operating 24/7. Damage to roads and bridges can reach billions of dollars, and taxpayers are often stuck with a large portion of that bill. The destroyed roads impact everything from emergency vehicles to school buses to normal community life. Traffic accidents and fatalities increase significantly.


Forests will be fragmented. Farming, fishing, hunting, tourism and agriculture will suffer losses. Stress on health care systems will increase. Cost of living will increase, while housing shortages will occur. Shale gas is a boom-bust economy that leaves areas worse off.



The gas industry has never been a source of a lot of permanent jobs, especially when compared to clean energy and energy efficiency industries. The industry has eliminated many jobs through automation, meaning that experienced workers from elsewhere will fill most of the remaining jobs. Locals will get temporary jobs such as truck drivers and security guards. N.B. businesses already have many job openings that they can’t fill. A study of the Marcellus Shale deposit in the eastern United States found that while all rural counties in Pennsylvania experienced population decline during the study period, counties that housed shale operations lost significantly more residents. People don’t want to live near these wells.


Places like Alberta and Saskatchewan already have many tens of thousands of abandoned wells, many of which were not closed down properly or at all, thus continuing to leak methane and toxic air and water. The auditor of Saskatchewan estimates this will cost $4 billion to clean up, while in Alberta the amount may be $48 billion. Nowhere has the industry put aside anywhere near enough money to cover this.  It’s likely that the federal government – meaning taxpayers – will have to bear the responsibility for this.




Both the disposal of wastewater and fracking itself have been identified as causing thousands of earthquakes, mostly small, but some large enough to cause property damage and injure people.  The earthquakes can continue long after the initial activity is over. Areas close to fault lines are particularly vulnerable and in BC, Canada’s leading seismologist recommends prohibiting fracking within 5 km of hydroelectric dams.  Researchers are studying the relationship between fracking and earthquakes, trying to better predict ‘induced seismicity’.


Un nombre continuellement croissant d’études, menées notamment au Canada, associe la fracturation et d’autres processus d’extraction du gaz de schiste à de graves risques pour la santé de presque tous les systèmes de notre corps, y compris le cancer.  Les femmes enceintes et les nourrissons semblent particulièrement vulnérables aux naissances prématurées, à un faible poids à la naissance, à la cardiopathie congénitale et aux malformations du cerveau. On constate aussi une augmentation des risques de leucémie, d’asthme et d’autres maladies respiratoires infantiles. Nombre des substances chimiques utilisées pour la fracturation sont des « perturbateurs endocriniens ». Il s’agit de substances qui, en extrêmement petites quantités, peuvent perturber nos systèmes hormonaux, et provoquer des problèmes de développement et de reproduction qui durent toute une vie. Les examinateurs de toutes les recherches médicales ont affirmé ne voir aucun moyen de faire en sorte que l’exploitation industrielle se fasse sécuritairement pour la santé publique.

Le méthane, qui est le principal ingrédient du gaz naturel, est 86 fois plus puissant comme gaz à effet de serre que le dioxyde de carbone (CO2) sur 20 ans. Comme de grandes quantités de gaz sont rejetées dans l’atmosphère à chaque étape du développement, du transport et de l’utilisation du gaz de schiste, ce gaz est considéré comme l’une des causes à la croissance la plus rapide du changement climatique, et nuit plus au climat que la combustion du charbon. Selon l’Agence internationale de l’énergie, le gaz ne peut plus être considéré comme un « carburant de transition » vers l’énergie propre.

Il est démontré que le méthane, les liquides utilisés lors de la fracturation et les autres produits de forage chimiques pénètrent dans les conduites d’eau lors des fuites de certains puits, de déversements, de bris de pipeline, d’explosions de puits, d’accidents de camion et des inondations. Et les eaux empoisonnées rendent non seulement l’eau potable imbuvable, mais elles provoquent aussi des maladies, la mort d’animaux de ferme, d’animaux sauvages, de poissons et de végétaux. Récemment, en Pennsylvanie, après avoir nié durant 13 ans avoir contaminé des puits d’eau potables dans la communauté de Dimock, un producteur de gaz a plaidé coupable de 17 chefs d’accusation et payé de lourdes amendes; il doit, en outre, remplacer le système d’aqueduc communautaire.


La tendance vers la méga-fracturation, soit des trous de forage  horizontaux plus longs et plus extensifs par plateforme fait que la fracturation utilise beaucoup plus d’eau qu’il y a 15 ans, avalant jusqu’à 16 millions de gallons d’eau par puits. Chaque plateforme de gaz de schiste peut contenir jusqu’à 20 puits. Chaque puits peut être « fracturé » une douzaine de fois ou plus. Comme les besoins en eau sont énormes, ils risquent de provoquer un épuisement de l’eau potable ainsi que des problèmes d’élimination des quantités sans cesse croissantes d’eaux usées toxiques issues de la fracturation.


Comme l’énorme quantité d’eaux usées qui demeure après une fracturation est hautement toxique et parfois radioactive, elle ne peut pas être sécuritairement utilisée à d’autres fins. La méthode d’élimination la plus courante consiste à injecter les déchets dans le sol sous pression, mais on a constaté que cela provoquait des milliers de tremblements de terre. D’autres méthodes d’élimination sont associées à des maladies et à une contamination environnementale. Il n’y a, au Nouveau-Brunswick, aucune méthode approuvée considérée sécuritaire.


Substances chimiques – quantité : Selon l’industrie, le pourcentage de substances chimiques mélangé à l’eau est faible,  mais comme la quantité d’eau utilisée est tellement grande, la quantité de substances chimiques est aussi grande. Une fracturation nécessite neuf millions de gallons d’eau, dont 1 % seulement est constitué de substances chimiques, ce qui entraîne tout de même l’injection de 90 000 gallons de substances chimiques dans la Terre.

Substances chimiques – santé : Nous n’avons absolument aucune information que ce soit sur les effets environnementaux et sanitaires de 80 % des plus de 1000 substances chimiques utilisées pour la fracturation. Sur les substances étudiées, des centaines sont associées au cancer et/ou à des dommages au cerveau et au système nerveux, aux systèmes immunitaire et cardiovasculaire, aux reins, au foie, aux yeux, à la peau, aux voies respiratoires, au tube digestif et au système reproducteur. Nous n’avons pas d’information sur leur réaction lorsqu’on les mélange ensemble ou à d’autres éléments toxiques de la terre. Les personnes qui vivent à proximité d’un puits de gaz de schiste sont comparables aux cobayes de la plus vaste expérience chimique non contrôlée du monde.  Et les responsables ne sont pas de tenus de dévoiler les substances chimiques auxquelles la population est exposée.

Nombre d’études ont établi des liens entre des maladies et le nombre de puits de gaz à proximité et leur degré de proximité. Des chercheurs ont documenté des problèmes jusqu’à 10 kilomètres des puits. Comme ces gaz peuvent être inhalés, avalés et aussi atteindre la peau, le potentiel d’exposition à des substances chimiques volatiles est plus important. C’est pourquoi la pollution atmosphérique constitue aujourd’hui l’une des principales préoccupations sanitaires publiques. Les substances chimiques issues du gaz de schiste ont aussi créé des quantités record d’ozone au sol qui, selon les consignations, se déplace sur plus de 300 km à partir de leur source, ce qui aggrave l’asthme, les maladies respiratoires et les dommages pulmonaires irréversibles.


Une seule plateforme nécessite des milliers de trajets de poids lourds qui se déplacent 24 heures sur 24, 7 jours sur 7. Les dégâts causés aux routes et aux ponts peuvent atteindre des milliards de dollars, et les contribuables se retrouvent souvent avec une grande portion de cette facture. Ces routes détruites ont des répercussions sur tout, des véhicules d’urgence à la vie communautaire courante, en passant par les autobus scolaires. Les accidents de la route et les décès accusent aussi une hausse marquée.


Les forêts seront fragmentées. L’agriculture, la pêche, la chasse, le tourisme et l’agriculture subiront des pertes. Le stress imposé aux systèmes de soins de santé ira croissant. Le coût de la vie augmentera en même temps que la pénurie de logement. Le gaz de schiste représente une économie d’emballement et d’effondrement qui laisse les régions dans un état pire qu’avant.


L’industrie du gaz n’a jamais permis de créer beaucoup d’emplois permanents, surtout lorsqu’on la compare à l’énergie propre et aux industries de l’efficacité énergétique. Cette industrie a éliminé nombre d’emplois par l’automatisation, ce qui signifie que des travailleurs expérimentés d’ailleurs combleront la majorité des emplois restants. Les habitants de la région obtiendront des emplois temporaires comme chauffeurs de camion et gardes de sécurité. Les entreprises du N.-B. ont déjà de nombreux  emplois vacants qu’elles n’arrivent pas à combler. Suite à une étude sur le dépôt de schistes Marcellus dans l’Est des États-Unis, on a constaté que bien que tous les comtés ruraux de la Pennsylvanie aient connu une baisse de leur population expérimentée durant la période de l’étude, les comtés qui hébergeaient des exploitations de gaz de schiste ont perdu beaucoup plus de résidents. Personne ne veut vivre près de ce genre de puits.


Des endroits comme l’Alberta et la Saskatchewan ont déjà de puits abandonnés pour plusieurs dizaines de milliers de dollars, et bon nombre d’entre eux n’ont pas été fermés correctement, ou même pas du tout, ce qui fait qu’ils continuent d’émettre du méthane et d’empoisonner l’air et l’eau. Selon les estimations du vérificateur de la Saskatchewan, la facture du nettoyage s’élèvera à quatre milliards de dollars dans cette province, et pourrait atteindre 48 milliards de dollars en Alberta. À aucun endroit, l’industrie a prévu suffisamment d’argent, et de loin, pour couvrir ces frais. Il est probable que le gouvernement fédéral, en d’autres termes les contribuables, devra supporter ce fardeau.


‘Equalization’ simply means that citizens, no matter where they live, are entitled to comparable public services at comparable rates of taxation.  For example, people in a poor rural area should legitimately expect to have access to similar government services as those in a wealthy city. The provision of this principal of equality is enshrined in our Constitution.

Equalization is a national program funded by everyone’s federal tax money, largely collected from ‘have not’ provinces (which include Ontario and Quebec), containing the bulk of the population and the national tax base. People in “have-not” provinces are also contributors to equalization.  The “have provinces” do not write an “equalization cheque” every year to “have not” provinces.

Equalization payments are also independent of the policy choices of the provinces. They are not charity nor do they come with a moral obligation to mimic the decisions of other provinces.  For example, British Columbia imposed a permanent ban on uranium mining, yet Saskatchewan supports the industry. These are both ‘have’ provinces. Which province’s decision should be the moral guide for New Brunswick’s choice on shale gas?  This argument is simply an attempt to sway people by making them feel inadequate or guilty, and is without merit.

What we know as modern “hydraulic fracturing” has only existed for roughly 15 years. The horizontal length of wells can now exceed several kilometres, and average water usage is now 30 times greater than 15 years ago. Extraordinarily high pressures must be used to inject many millions of litres of water and tens of thousands of litres of toxic chemicals, along with tons of sand, to fracture the shale. This also creates many millions of litres of toxic wastewater for which there is no safe means of disposal.

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There are now more than 1,300 peer-reviewed studies and investigations on the impacts of fracking, the vast majority of which either confirm the damage done by fracking, or raise threatening new issues. If there were a similar number of studies showing that fracking did not threaten public health, contaminate water, pollute the air, or worsen climate change, we would know about them, since the gas industry would have touted them far and wide.

Reviewers of all the known public health studies stated they could see no way that fracking could be done safely, and that it is especially hazardous to infants and children.

There’s no place in the world where regulations have been able to control the harm or costs of fracking, and Canada is no exception. Regulators are often seen as collaborators with industry, and are often staffed with industry personnel. In Alberta the regulatory body is  funded entirely by the industry and headed by an ex-Encana executive, who founded the Canadian Assoc. of Oil Producers. British Columbia and Saskatchewan regulators have kept violations, including life-threatening issues, secret from the public and even from the government. Enforcement often depends on industry self-reporting.

Regulations lag well behind the science, particularly in public health. Gas wells are allowed within a few hundred meters of homes, schools and hospitals, despite studies showing harmful health effects up to 3 km away.  Instances of water contamination, spills, leaking wells and earthquakes are the same as everywhere.  Canada has not forced the industry to set aside nearly enough money – by far – to properly and safely close tens of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells.

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Perhaps, but are these the jobs we really need? The health impacts are significant. The number of jobs and the economic benefits of shale gas are always greatly overstated. As the entire industry is mired in debt, it has continually cut costs by automating more tasks and laying off workers. High paying skilled jobs on the drilling rigs are almost always staffed by experienced hands from elsewhere, meaning that generally only lower level and temporary jobs are offered to local workers. Currently, many NB employers cannot find people to fill jobs. Meanwhile, young people leave the province for “better” jobs.  Are temporary and highly dangerous shale gas jobs the kind that will keep our young people here?

In contrast, the renewable energy field is exploding with jobs. In the US, the number of jobs producing solar electricity exceeds the number of jobs in coal, oil and gas.

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The last thing that the NB economy needs is another short-lived industry that rips out our natural resources, adds no value  and sends profits elsewhere for stockholders, while the province is left with cleaning up a devastated landscape.

Shale gas drillers have produced a lot of product, but they’ve never made a profit. Shale gas is expensive to produce, but prices are low. Over time expenses increase, as the easy-to-get gas is extracted first. Shale gas extraction will become a dead-end industry. We are nearing the end of the age of fossil fuels; investment in them is decreasing around the world. The threat of climate change means that the industry will continue to shrink, and long-term investments – like starting a new shale gas project – run a huge risk of ending up worthless.

In contrast, renewable energy becomes ever cheaper as the technology improves.  Smart provinces will support businesses of the future.

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To say this is the same as saying we  have no right to advocate for better healthcare while using hospitals. Or we cannot lobby for better forest management policies while living in a wooden house.

There is no hypocrisy in using fossil fuels while working to end them.  The force that brings harm to the world and our children is the attitude of continuing to do destructive things just because “that’s the way we’ve always done them.”

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Why Environmental “Hypocrisy” Is Irrelevant and Inevitable

It’s true that gas produces only half as much CO2 as coal.  BUT, shale gas is primarily composed of methane, which is also a greenhouse gas – and it’s 86 times more devastating than CO2 when measured over a 20-year period.  This means that if more than 3 percent of the methane extracted escapes into the atmosphere unburned, the warming effect will be the same as if you had burned coal.

Studies from around the world have shown that leaking methane from gas infrastructure – wells, pipelines, storage tanks, flaring gas wells – all leak at levels above – often well-above – the minimum safe level.  Therefore, methane is now considered to be one of the main contributors to climate change, and the fastest growing.

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