Fracking boom brings job and income loss to Appalachian communities: study

A February study examined the economic changes in 22 counties the authors call “Frackalachia” –  home to the Utica and Marcellus shale gas industry.  The report, Appalachia’s Natural Gas Counties: Contributing more to the U.S. economy and Getting less in return  examines the period from 2008 to 2019, a time when  the area went from producing a negligible portion of U.S. natural gas to producing 40%. The report summarizes the job forecasts provided by oil and gas industry economic impact studies, (over 450,000 new jobs for Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia), and shows the actual economic data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis –  a 1.6% increase in jobs  – at a time when the number of jobs across the U.S. grew by 9.9%.  Detailed statistics demonstrate the differences amongst counties and states – with Ohio faring the worst and Pennsylvania faring the best. The report’s analysis shows that in the entire area represented by the 22 counties, the share of the national personal income fell by 6.3 percent, the share of jobs fell by 7.5 percent, and the share of the national population fell by 9.7 percent , while  90% of the wealth generated from fracking left the local communities.

The report was produced and published on February 10  by the Ohio River Valley Institute, a non-profit think tank based in Pennsylvania, founded in 2020 with the vision of “moving beyond an extractive economy toward shared prosperity, lasting job growth, clean energy, and civic engagement.”  This report has been widely reported, including in “Appalachia’s fracking boom has done little for local economies: Study”(Environmental Health News , Feb. 12),  which summarizes the report and adds context concerning the health effects of fracking, and the failed attempts to expand production to  petrochemicals and plastics using ethane, a by-product of the fracked natural gas.

Just Transition for Pennsylvania estimated to cost $115,000 per worker in latest report from PERI

In the latest of a series of reports titled Green Growth Programs for U.S. States, researchers provide analysis and proposals for economic recovery for Pennsylvania, considering both the impacts of Covid-19 and a necessary transition to a cleaner economy.  In Impacts of the Reimagine Appalachia & Clean Energy Transition Programs for Pennsylvania:  Job Creation, Economic Recovery, and Long-Term Sustainability, Robert Pollin and co-authors estimate that clean energy investments scaled at about $23 billion per year from 2021 to 2030 will generate roughly 162,000 jobs per year in Pennsylvania. They detail those investment programs for sectors including public infrastructure, manufacturing, land restoration and agriculture, and including plugging orphaned oil and gas wells.

The report estimates that 64,000 people are currently employed in Pennsylvania in fossil fuel-based industries – including in fracking for natural gas from the Marcellus Shale regions, as well as other oil and gas projects, coal mining, and fossil fuel-based power generation. As the state transitions away from fossil-fuel industries, the authors estimate that about 1,800 workers will be displaced each year between 2021 – 2030, and another 1,000 will voluntarily retire each year.  The authors estimate that the average costs of supporting these workers will amount to about $115,000 per worker, with an overall cost of about $210 million per year over the duration of the just transition program. The report emphasizes: “It is critical that all of these workers receive pension guarantees, health care coverage, re-employment guarantees, wage insurance, and retraining support, as needed”.

The full series of reports, Green Growth Programs for U.S. States, includes similar analysis and proposals for Ohio, Maine, Colorado, New York, and the state of Washington.  They  are co-written by experts including Robert Pollin,  Shouvik Chakraborty, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, Tyler Hansen, Gregor Semieniuk, and Jeannette Wicks-Lim.  The series is published by the  Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) University of Massachusetts-Amherst.        

Canada Pension Plan continues to risk Canadians’ retirement savings – this time, fracking investments in Colorado

The Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board continues to display a hypocritical disregard for its own sustainability principles, as reported in  “CPPIB’s fracking operation in U.S. raises questions” in the Toronto Globe and Mail on September 27. The Globe and Mail describes the fracking activities and political donations of Crestone Peak Resources, a company 95% owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and formed out of the ashes of Encana. The article reports that Crestone spent more than US$600,000 to support pro-business candidates who opposed tougher regulation of fracking in the 2018 Colorado state elections. Friends of the Earth Canada were involved in the Globe and Mail investigation and has posted unique information here .

The Energy Mix also published “’Canadians Don’t Want This: Fracking Company Owned By Canada Pension Plan Spent $600,000 To Influence Colorado State Elections” (September 30).The article quotes  Professor Cynthia Williams, Osler Chair in Business Law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, who states:  “It’s a “perfectly correct statement of corporate law” to say that CPP and Crestone are separate companies”, …. But it’s “an imperfectly correct answer to the ethical questions about CPPIB using its heft, based on the involuntary monetary contributions of millions of citizens and other people working in Canada, to try to shape politics to support its oil and gas investments, in Colorado, even as the Government of Canada has committed to working to transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Professor Williams  is the author of  Troubling Incrementalism: Canadian Pension Plan Fund and the Transition to a Low-carbon Economy , published in September by the Canada Climate Law Initiative.  The report discusses CPPIB investments in fossil fuels in the last six years in detail, including fracking companies in Ohio and the Crestone company in Colorado, as well as oil sands expansion in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The report concludes by calling on CPP Investments to fundamentally re-evaluate its role, stating:

“Our view is that CPP Investments should be, and could be, making a substantial contribution to Canada’s future economy by supporting new technologies, new companies, and the just transition to a low-carbon economy. We argue that doing so would be more consistent with its statutory mandate to manage the assets of the CPP Fund in the best interests of the twenty million Canadian contributors and beneficiaries than is its current approach. It would also be more consistent with its common-law fiduciary duties, which require intergenerational equity.”

What can Canadians do to move their pension funds away from fossil fuels?

Friends of the Earth Canada offers an online letter to Heather Munroe-Blum (Chair, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board) and Mark Machin (CEO), with five recommendations arising from the Crestone investigation. FOE is also conducting open informational meetings about the CPP investments throughout Canada in October.

Shift Action  is a project of Tides Canada which advocates for environmentally-responsible pension management.  Their press release (Sept. 29) cites the Crestone investment, highlights the nearly $12 billion invested in Chinese coal mines and other fossil fuel companies (double its clean energy investments),  and warns: “The CPP is betting Canadian retirement savings against the unstoppable transition to a clean energy economy, and fueling the global climate crisis in the process.”  In an interview published in The Energy Mix , Shift Action’s Executive Director, Adam Scott urges Canadians:  “One of the best ways to have an impact in this crisis is to make sure the funds that are invested on your behalf are invested in solutions to climate change, not in the problem. There’s a tool on our website that makes it easy for all Canadians to send a note to their pension funds asking what they’re doing on climate risk and how they’re investing.”   Shift Action published a detailed guide to engagement in June 2019, Canada’s Pension Funds and Climate Risk: A Baseline For Engagement . It concludes with tips which include:  “Each of Canada’s major pension plans has a different structure for governance and accountability. Beneficiaries should understand this structure and have a clear sense of their pension plan’s sponsors and governance model. Beneficiaries should engage with all relevant points of contact, for example a union pension representative or a government appointed pension trustee.”

And finally, for pension fund trustees, the Canada Climate Law Initiative  flagship initiative is the Canadian Climate Governance Experts program, which offers “pro bono sessions on effective corporate governance to address climate-related financial risks and opportunities to corporate boards of directors and Canadian pension fund boards.”

 

 

Canadian doctors call for moratorium on fracking for gas

On January 29, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) released a report which documents the serious health and environmental dangers associated with fracked natural gas, calling for the phase-out of existing fracking operations and a moratorium on any new fracking projects. CAPE also calls for Just Transition plans to help workers and the communities which would be affected.  Canada is the world’s fourth largest producer of natural gas, and in 2018, 71% of that was “fracked gas”, mostly produced in northeastern British Columbia.  The Narwhal offers a good  (though now dated) explainer about fracking in Canada, and offers several in-depth articles, including “Potential health impacts of fracking in B.C. worry Dawson Creek physicians” (April 2019). The Narwhal has also published recent articles by Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives B.C., who has also written extensively about fracking and LNG in B.C. Most recently, Peace River Frack-up  was released by CCPA-BC in January,  calling for an immediate ban on fracking activity for operations  close to BC Hydro’s two existing Peace River dams and the Site C dam, because of the risk of dam failure from fracking-caused earthquakes.

The CAPE report, Fractures in the Bridge: Unconventional (Fracked) Natural Gas, Climate Change and Human Health  documents the environmental and climate change impacts of fracking, with an over-riding concern about the significant health dangers, especially for communities and workers. The report notes: “Data from the US show that the risk of death among workers in this sector is two-and-a half-times higher than the risk for workers in construction and seven times higher than the risk for industrial workers as a whole.”  “America’s Radioactive Secret” is a troubling article which appeared in Rolling Stone on January 21, summarizing a journalistic investigation of the  unregulated trucking of fracking waste: “Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. An investigation shows how it could be making workers sick and contaminating communities across America.”

Fractures in the Bridge provides a Canadian perspective on the overwhelming evidence from established studies which have reported “negative health outcomes including adverse birth outcomes, birth defects including congenital heart defects and neural tube defects, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, dermal effects, gastrointestinal symptoms, neurological effects, psychological impacts and respiratory illnesses.” Fractures in the Bridge  also provides a very complete bibliography as well as an appendix showing how fracking is regulated in each province in Canada.

An important related source of information, updated in 2019, is the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction) , published by the Concerned Health Professionals of New York (CHPNY) and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR).

Federal government announces $275 Million subsidy to LNG Canada in B.C.

Despite the ongoing contentious development of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) in British Columbia and commitments to end fossil fuel subsidies, on June 24 federal Finance Minister Morneau  announced that the federal government will invest $275 million into LNG Canada’s $40 billion liquefied natural gas project in Kitimat: $220 million to be spent on energy-efficient gas turbines for the project, and  $55 million spent on replacing the Haisla Bridge in Kitimat. The announcement is summarized by the CBC in “Feds announce $275M ‘largest private sector investment in Canadian history’ — Kitimat, B.C.’s LNG project”

The Narwhal maintains an ongoing archive of excellent articles which chronicle the controversy over fracking and LNG in B.C,  here .  Two recent “must read” articles from: “6 Awkward Realities behind B.C.’s big LNG Giveaway”  (April 6)  which discusses the B.C. government’s move to bundle tax exemptions and cheap electricity rates into a $5.35 billion  incentive package for  LNG Canada in March 2019, and “B.C. government quietly posts response to expert fracking report” (June 28) which discusses the government’s  response to the report of its own  independent Scientific Review of Hydraulic Fracturing in British Columbia, released in February 2019. As noted in the Narwhal article, the panel was mandated to assess the potential impacts of fracking on water quantity and quality; on seismic activity, and on  fugitive emissions – but not on public health, despite concerns raised and the known scientific evidence.  According to the government news release,  a working group has been established to address the  97 recommendations made by the expert panel.

Some recent relevant reading about LNG and the fracking associated with its production: 

RE the Emissions of LNG: The New Gas Boom , published  on July 1 by the Global Energy Monitor, an international non-governmental organization that catalogues fossil-fuel infrastructure. The report states that a growing global supply of natural gas is on a “collision course” with the Paris Agreement, and that the increase in natural gas is driven largely by the North American fracking boom- with 39% of new development  occurring in the U.S., 35% in Canada.  The GEM report is discussed from a Canadian viewpoint in  “Global boom in natural gas is undermining climate change action: reportNational Observer (July 2)  and  “’Clean’ natural gas is actually the new coal, report says: Don Pittis” at CBC  .  Previous to the Global Energy Monitor report, Marc Lee had weighed in on the high GHG emissions of fracked natural gas in  “ LNG’s Big Lie”, an article in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Policy Note ( Lee’s arguments were also published in The Georgia Straight,  (June 17) and an OpEd in The Globe and Mail . )

compendium re frackingIn the U.S.   in June 19, The sixth edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking  was published by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York. Written by scientists, doctors and journalists, it is an analysis of original research studies published from 2016-2018 on the health impacts of fracking . One of the most impactful statements from the press release: “The notion that natural gas can serve as an intermediate “bridge fuel” between coal and renewable energy is fallacious and now disproven by new scientific evidence showing that methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than formerly appreciated and escapes in larger amounts from all parts of the extraction and distribution process than previously presumed, including from inactive, long-abandoned wells. Grossly underestimating methane emissions threatens to undermine the efficacy of efforts to combat climate change.” A summary press release is here ,  or see the Common Dreams article “’We Need to Ban Fracking’: New Analysis of 1,500 Scientific Studies Details Threat to Health and Climate”   (June 19).

International Energy Agency report, LNG Market Trends and their Implications   (June 20) provides statistical analysis of the changing Asian markets for LNG.

Oil sands companies called on to “keep it in the ground” – but Suncor opens new mine near Fort McMurray, deploys driverless trucks

Parkland report big oil coverThe majority of Alberta oil sands production is owned by the five companies: Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), Suncor Energy, Cenovus Energy, Imperial Oil, and Husky Energy.  What the Paris Agreement Means for Alberta’s Oil Sands Majors, released on January 31 by the Parkland Institute, evaluates what the 2°C  warming limit in the  Paris Agreement means for those “Big Five” –  by assessing their  emissions-reduction disclosures and targets, climate change-related policies, and actions, in light of their “carbon liabilities.” The carbon liabilities are calculated using  three levels for the Social Cost of Carbon, ranging from $50, $100, and $200 per tonne. Even under the most conservative scenario, the carbon liabilities of each corporation are more than their total value, and the combined carbon liabilities of the Big Five ($320 billion) are higher than Alberta’s GDP of $309 billion. Conclusion: “the changes required to remain within the Paris Agreement’s 2°C limit signals a need for concrete, long-term “wind-down” plans to address the challenges and changes resulting from global warming, including the fact that a significant portion of known fossil fuel reserves must remain underground.” What the Paris Agreement Means for Alberta’s Oil Sands Majors was written by Ian Hussey and David Janzen, and published by the Parkland Institute as part of the SSHRC-funded Corporate Mapping Project.  A National Observer article reviewed the report and published responses from the Big Five companies on January 31.

autonomous electric mining truckRather than keeping it in the ground, Suncor Energy announced on January 29 that it is continuing to ramp up production at its Fort Hill oilsands mine, about 90 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.  The next day, Suncor also announced  the beginning of a 6-year phase-in of approximately 150 autonomous electric trucks at numerous locations. The company said it will “continue to work with the union on strategies to minimize workforce impacts,” and that “current plans show that the earliest the company would see a decrease in heavy equipment operator positions at Base Plant operations is 2019.”   Reaction from the local union is here in a notice on the website of Unifor 707A;  Unifor National Office response is here:  “Driverless trucks aren’t the solution for Suncor” .  The National Observer published an interview with a Suncor spokesperson on January 31.  According to”Suncor Energy says driverless trucks will eliminate a net 400 jobs in the oilsands” , Suncor is the first oil sands company to use driverless trucks, and “Suncor’s plan to test the autonomous truck systems was initially criticized by the Unifor union local because of job losses. But Little says Suncor is working with the union to minimize job impacts by retraining workers whose jobs will disappear. The company has been preparing for the switch by hiring its truck drivers, including those at its just−opened Fort Hills mine, on a temporary basis.”

The good news is that  “the era of oil sands mega-projects will likely end with Suncor Energy’s 190,000 barrel-per-day Fort Hills mining project, which started producing this month”, according to an article by Reuters.  The bad news is in the title of that article:  “Why Canada is the next frontier for shale oil” (Jan. 29) . The article extols the strengths of Alberta’s mining industry, and quotes a spokesman for Chevron Corporation who calls the Duvernay and Montney formations in Canada “one of the most promising shale opportunities in North America.”  For a quick summary, read   “Montney, Duvernay Oil and Gas Fields Seize the Momentum from Athabasca Tar Sands/Oil Sands” ( Jan. 31) in the Energy Mix.

Also,  consider the work of Ryan Schultz of the Alberta Geological Survey.  Most recently, he is the lead author of  “Hydraulic fracturing volume is associated with induced earthquake productivity in the Duvernay play”, which  appeared in the journal  Science on January 18 , and which is summarized in the  Calgary Herald  on January 18.  It discusses the complexities of how fracking has caused earthquakes in the area.

Trade unions in the U.K. actively engaged in climate change policy, advocating for environmental representatives

Trade Unions in the UK: Engagement with climate change is a new report, based on research conducted between September 2016 and January 2017 by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group . The report asks:  what are the driving forces behind trade union engagement in climate change issues, and what are some of the barriers and difficulties for trade unions?  It summarizes the results of interviews with policy officers and environmental activists from the largest 15 unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), as well as two smaller but active unions: Transport and Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). The report is also based on the results of systematic searches of the unions’ websites and relevant policy documents (with links to key documents).  It reveals an overview of the diversity and context of trade union climate policy, focusing on issues such as environmental representatives, energy supply, airport expansion, fracking and divestment from fossil fuels. The report summarizes the positions on these issues, union by union, but for those who want even more detail, there is a supplementary inventory .

This first-ever report was released in August 2017, and since then, Unison has voted to campaign for pension fund divestment and the TUC adopted an historic motion for public ownership of energy at its September Congress.  Also at the Fringe Meeting of the September Congress, the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group presented its discussion paper  ‘Another world is possible: jobs and a safe climate‘. And most recently, the U.K. government at long last released its Clean Growth Strategy, to limited union approval.

 

Still advocating for Environmental Rights as Human Rights. Evidence from Alberta, and innovative proposals for Nova Scotia

The Pembina Institute recently compiled three case studies related to energy development in Alberta, in an effort to document the adverse effects on individuals, communities and regions that result from weak environmental laws or regulatory enforcement.  The Environmental Law Centre in  Alberta also  published a series of reports in late 2016, including a module, Substantive Environmental Rights , which discusses environmental rights as a human right. Since 2014, the Blue Dot campaign, led by the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice ,  has been advocating for environmental rights to be enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Now, from the Pembina Institute comes The Right to a Healthy Environment: Documenting the need for environmental rights in Canada.  It consists of:  Case Study #1:  Individual impacts of intensive hydraulic fracturing activity in rural Alberta   ;  #2 Community impacts of air pollution in urban central Alberta (related to coal-fired electricity plants), and #3 Regional impacts of oilsands development in northern Alberta   (which examines the rights of First Nations).

In Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Environmental Rights Working Group of the East Coast Environmental Law Association  released their proposed and innovative  Nova Scotia Environmental Bill of Rights  on April 21 2017.  The bill states that the people “have a right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment”, and that the “primary responsibility” to protect and conserve that environment falls to the province.  It also states that “there is a history of environmental racism in Nova Scotia that has disproportionately and negatively affected historically marginalized, vulnerable, and economically disadvantaged individuals, groups or communities, particularly Indigenous People and African Nova Scotians”.  The bill is based on the Precautionary Principle, the Polluter Pays Principle, the Non-Regression Principle, the Intergenerational Equity Principle, and the Principle of Environmental Justice and Equity.  Nova Scotians go to the polls in a general election on May 30; a guide to the policy positions of the Liberal, Conservative and NDP parties is here at the CBC website.  According to the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, the provincial NDP party has pledged to support an Environmental Bill of Rights .

 

 

 

 

Provisions for Clean energy and Oil and gas development in Quebec’s Bill 106

Bill 106, An Act to implement the 2030 Energy Policy and to amend various legislative provisions, passed into law in the Quebec National Assembly in a special session on Saturday Dec. 10.  The Bill establishes Transition energetique Quebec (TEQ),an agency to “support, stimulate and promote energy transition, innovation and efficiency and to coordinate the implementation of all of the programs and measures necessary to achieve the energy targets defined by the Government “.   In addition to the clean energy provisions, Bill 106 also introduces new measures concerning the distribution of “renewable natural gas”, and enacts the Petroleum Resources Act, whose purpose is to “to govern the development of petroleum resources while ensuring the safety of persons and property, environmental protection, and optimal recovery of the resource, in compliance with the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by the Government.” The Bill establishes a licence and authorization system for the production and storage of oil,  including a requirement for a guarantee to cover the costs of well closure and site restoration.    The Globe and Mail report, “Quebec paves way for oil, gas exploration with new energy plan”  (Dec. 11) highlights opposition by environmental and citizen groups, and states that the provisions regarding oil and gas could  potentially allow for fracking.

May 2016 News: New Brunswick and Newfoundland extend Fracking bans

New Brunswick’s Minister of  Energy announced an indefinite extension of the province’s fracking ban on May 27, based on the February  report  of its Hydraulic Fracturing Commission,  according to a CBC report  . Similarly, the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel released its final Report  at the end of May, with a  recommendation that the “pause” on fracking in Western Newfoundland continue.  See the Panel website,   which includes Submissions and Documents , as  well as technical reports as appendices,  which include research into the economic and jobs impacts of fracking, as well as impacts on human health and water resources.

New Brunswick has also released a discussion guide , Building a Stronger New Brunswick Response to Climate Change , in order to to stimulate public input for the Select Committee on Climate Change, constituted in April 2016.  There is no target date yet for its report.

Research funding dries up for Fracking and Water

The impacts of fracking on groundwater is one of the research areas of the  Program on Water Issues (POWI) at University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for Global Affairs, “one of the nation’s most celebrated and effective water study programs ” which brought together Canada’s “best scientists and policy-makers … in an independent, non-partisan forum”.   Now, after supporting the program for 15 years,  the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation have announced an end to their support. Although no official reason has been given for the decision,  a report  by Andrew Nikoforuk in The Tyee (April 19)  suggests that  research into fracking may have been a factor in the decision. Other research topics pursued at POWI included water withdrawals from the Athabasca River by the oil sands industry, groundwater monitoring, carbon capture and storage, climate change, the future of the Columbia River Treaty, and bulk water exports.

Also: An April report from Environment America, Fracking by the Numbers: the Damage to Our Water, Land and Climate from a Decade of Dirty Drilling   catalogues a host of  dangers, including contaminated drinking water, depletion of scarce water resources; and air pollution and methane leaks in the U.S.  And speaking of contamination of water, see also a new report by Environmental Defence-  Energy East: A Risk to our Drinking Water , which documents the nature and proximity of  the proposed pipeline to major municipal and community drinking water supplies in four provinces.

Clean Water Week, March 16-22, including the Importance of Water in the Fracking Debate

The Council of Canadians continues its advocacy for a clean, safe, public water system with a new campaign for a National Water Policy. Their proposals include the creation of a national public water infrastructure fund, a strategy to reduce water pollution (including stronger standards for agriculture, oil sands extraction), a ban of bulk water exports, and exclusion of water from NAFTA and all future trade agreements. On March 12, the Council of Canadians released a new report, On Notice for a Drinking Water Crisis and will be staging protests throughout Canada on World Water Day, March 22. Environmental Defence also marked Water Week with several blogs, including No Energy East Tar Sands in our Water!. And for interesting case studies of the importance of water in the anti-fracking movement, see Getting Off the Frack Track: How Anti-Fracking Campaigns Succeeded in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (Feb. 20) at the Freshwater Alliance website.

Blue and Green Authors Promote Sustainable Forestry over LNG Development in B.C.

An article written jointly by Arnold Bercov, President of the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada (PPWC), and two campaigners with the Wilderness Committee environmental group states: “We believe the B.C. government has gradually abandoned the province’s forestry heritage in pursuit of an unsustainable pipe dream: liquefied natural gas exports to Asia. The better option – for a resilient economy and for our climate – is to rebuild an innovative, sustainable forestry sector…What B.C. needs is legislation that supports an innovative and adaptable forest industry that creates local jobs and moves products up the value chain. Raw-log exports must be banned. Strong laws should also be enacted to protect the ecological values of our working forests for future generations”. See “Trees are the Solution that LNG will never be” in the Times Colonist (Dec. 21). The same article appeared in The Tyee (January 5, 2015) under the title “Prosperity? Forestry not Fracking”. The PPWC has also been critical of the unequal distribution of funds in B.C.’s 2014 policy document, Skills for Jobs Blueprint, whereby training support for LNG jobs appears to come at the expense of funding for other sectors, such as forestry. See Local Knowledge and Government Funding Vital to Training the Next Generation of Foresters.

Public Health Concerns Lead to Fracking Bans in Quebec, New Brunswick, New York; and what about Workers Health Concerns?

Quebec has had a moratorium on fracking since 2011, and in an interview with Radio-Canada in December, the Premier announced that the province would not allow further development. See Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says No to Shale Gas and also in the Montreal Gazette, “Couillard Rules out Fracking”. The premier’s announcement came one day after a report from BAPE, Quebec’s environmental assessment agency, which cited risks to air and water quality, as well as potential increases in noise and light pollution. The report is available only in French, or see the Montreal Gazette summary in English. In New Brunswick, recently-elected Premier Brian Gallant announced a fracking moratorium at the end of the December legislative session – it will be voted on in February. In New York, a fracking moratorium was announced on the grounds that there were significant public health concerns about water contamination and air pollution, and insufficient scientific evidence to affirm the safety of fracking. “Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State” in the New York Times (Dec. 17). The article has a link to the report, A Public Health Review of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing for Shale Gas
Development. Also of interest: a January report from Friends of the Earth in the U.K.: Making a Better Job of it: Why Renewables and Energy Efficiency are better for Jobs than Fracking (January 2015) reviews and critiques economic impact studies from the U.S. and U.K. and concludes that fracking job estimates have been overstated, and that the jobs created are likely to be short-term, with as yet unknown health risks for workers. On that note, the U.K.’s Trades Union Congress on January 20 released its TUC shale gas briefing: Fracking and workers’ health and safety issues, which briefly reviews some of the important research to date on the public safety issues, especially exposure to hydrocarbons and silica. It concludes that even with regulation in place, unions are needed to give workers the right to refuse unsafe work without the fear of penalty.

Nova Scotia Bans Onshore Fracking; Explores Energy Options

Following a two-year moratorium and the release of the report of a 10-person expert panel chaired by Cape Breton University president David Wheeler, Nova Scotia announced its decision to prohibit onshore high-volume fracking on September 3rd. The ban does not include less risky onshore extraction methods or offshore high-volume fracking.

Nova Scotia’s offshore oil and gas reserves are significantly larger and have already attracted $2 billion in investments and proposals to build three LNG plants. The South Canoe wind project, currently under construction, and a tidal turbine to be built next year will further buttress the province’s energy resources.

Consultations with the public and Mi’kmaq communities revealed a strong mistrust of fracking. See the website of the Hydraulic Fracturing Review at: http://www.cbu.ca/hfstudy, with links to submissions, studies and press coverage. See also “High-volume fracking to be banned in Nova Scotia” available at the CBC at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/high-volume-fracking-to-be-banned-in-nova-scotia-1.2754439.

On the heels of the announcement, a study released by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that some fracking workers are exposed to unsafe volumes of benzene when inspecting storage tanks. “Evaluation of Some Potential Chemical Exposure Risks During Flowback Operations in Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction: Preliminary Results” is available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/.VBDknKOuRas#.VBySDmOln4U, summarized in the Los Angeles Times at: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-fracking-benzene-worker-health-20140910-story.html#page=1.

Controversial New Water Legislation Introduced in B.C.

The B.C. Government introduced Bill 18, the Water Sustainability Act, on March 11th. It updates the current legislation passed in 1909, and “will bring groundwater into the licensing system, and will expand government’s ability to protect fish and aquatic environments “. See http://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/ for the legislation and all supporting documents.

In a November 2013 posting during the lengthy consultation phase, the government had outlined how the proposed changes would impact oil and gas development, including a pledge that “in completing the new Act we are looking closely at the Oil and Gas Activities Act and the Environmental Management Act to ensure that surface and groundwater are protected during hydraulic fracturing operations” (see http://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/2013/11/14/blog-post-6-water-and-oil-gas-development/). Yet on March 19, Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the Sierra Club of B.C. went before the Supreme Court of B.C., alleging that Encana has systematically avoided the current water licensing regulations by applying to the provincial Oil and Gas Commission for repeated “short term” water permits for fracking (see http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/encana-s-water-permits-for-b-c-fracking-illegal-lawsuit-alleges-1.2578788).

The aspect of pricing commercial and industrial water use has been deferred by a period of further consultations; see the consultation paper, Pricing B.C.’s Water, at: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/files/2014/03/Pricing-B.C.s-Water.pdf. Public comments will be accepted until April 8th.

New Evidence About the Climate Impacts of Methane Leaks Sparks a Union Call for a Global Moratorium on Fracking

The January 28 meeting of the Global Advisory Group of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy considered a  draft paper concerning fracking. The paper, prepared by the Cornell Global Labor Institute states, “This paper has been prepared to assist unions and their close allies who wish to better understand the impacts of shale gas drilling, or ‘fracking’, and want to develop a position or approach to fracking that protects workers, communities and the environment…” It is an extensive review of the core issues driving anti-fracking activism, and the current  activities of social movement  groups and unions (chiefly in the U.S. and Canada, but also in Europe and Argentina). It highlights the pro-fracking position of the AFL-CIO Building Trades union in the U.S. and the anti-fracking statements of Canada’s Unifor and CUPE. About Unifor and CUPE, the paper states: “their perspective on fracking combines a social movement approach that prioritizes solidarity with other movements but it is also grounded in a pragmatic approach to Canadian energy policy involving the use of their natural resources in ways that are responsible and beneficial for the Canadian economy as a whole”.

In a separate document, the Trades Union Congress of the U.K. reiterated its 2012 position in its February 13, 2014 presentation to an Inquiry of the House of Lords into shale gas. It encapsulates two competing interests of trade unions on the issue: the TUC “… wishes to focus on two issues of concern…the need for reliable forecasts of economic and employment benefits; and setting the highest standards for occupational health and safety at work”. It follows up on the TUC policy statement which is based on the precautionary principle and effectively calls for a moratorium on fracking.

Although water consumption and contamination were the initial concerns of anti-fracking activism, the TUED paper states that recent scientific research reveals that methane (the major component of natural gas) is “34 times stronger as a heat-trapping gas than CO2 over a 100-year time scale, and 86 times more powerful over a 20-year time frame”. Reinforcing the TUED summary, a new paper published in Science in February analyzed more than 200 technical publications examining methane leakage in the natural gas industry, and by expanding the focus to include the production and delivery stages, the authors conclude that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is underestimating the amount of methane emitted in the United States by about 50 percent.

The TUED draft paper argues that natural gas can no longer be promoted as a “bridging” fuel towards a lower carbon energy system, and it is no longer appropriate for the fight against shale gas production to be led by local groups at the level of local government. The paper calls for a “global conference sponsored by one or more global trade union bodies”, [to] “work towards a common trade union approach, with the ‘precautionary principle’ as a point of departure”. The paper concludes by proposing a draft resolution for a global moratorium.

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LINKS

Global Shale Gas and the Anti-Fracking Movement: Developing Union Perspectives and Approaches is available from the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy website from a link at: http://energydemocracyinitiative.org/professor-robert-w-howarths-presentation-for-trade-unions-for-energy-democracy/
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An additional summary of scientific research on methane leakage in natural gas and fracking is at: http://energydemocracyinitiative.org/professor-robert-w-howarths-presentation-for-trade-unions-for-energy-democracy/

TUC press release regarding the House of Lords Inquiry into Shale Gas is at: http://www.tuc.org.uk/node/119642

“Methane Leaks from North American Natural Gas Systems” by Brandt et al. in Science (Feb. 14, 2014) is available at: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6172/733.summary?sid=7f1c6729-6268-488d-9c49-88bdd0b553a1, or summarized in “Study Finds Methane Leaks Negate Benefits of Natural Gas as a Fuel for Vehicles”, (New York Times, Feb. 14) at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/us/study-finds-methane-leaks-negate-climate-benefits-of-natural-gas.html?_r=1

For those involved in community-level action in Canada, see the February publication by the Council of Canadians, The Fractivist’s Toolkit, at: http://www.canadians.org/publications/fractivists-toolkit

Unifor Condemns Northern Gateway & Keystone XL, Supports Line 9, and Establishes a New Energy Council within the Union

In December, Unifor released a “primer” explaining its opposition to the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines, and support for the smaller Line 9 pipeline. The national union condemns all recent major export pipelines on both economic and environmental grounds, asserting that export pipelines do not prioritize Canadian consumers or maximize Canadian jobs. It also fears massive exports will harm other sectors, such as manufacturing, as the Canadian dollar rises.
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Unifor asserts that the smaller Line 9 pipeline does not suffer from the same problems as the enormous export pipelines. Provided Line 9 oil is not shipped to Maine, and pending strict environmental and safety measures and First Nations approval, the union backs the Line 9 promise of energy independence and value-added manufacturing jobs, especially in Quebec. Unifor’s position echoes a statement issued by the Alberta Federation of Labour in October, which also contraposed Line 9 and major export pipelines.
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In contrast to the Unifor and AFL positions, some labour activists continue to dismiss Line 9 benefits as “myths”, instead emphasizing the magnitude of safety, environmental, and economic threats. January revelations regarding an influx of Enbridge maintenance notices filed with the NEB has reinforced concerns regarding the age and fragility of the pipeline.
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Delegates to Unifor’s Ontario Regional Council meeting in December approved recommendations for a long-term national energy strategy, including emissions targets and a climate action plan, energy independence, and a national energy grid. They also endorsed the National Executive Board’s call for a moratorium on unconventional fracking, until environmental and First Nations concerns have been addressed. Arriving at a national energy and environmental strategy for Unifor will be the task of its new Energy Council, soon to be constituted by delegates from all energy-related locals in the union.
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LINKS: 
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Debating Pipelines: A Primer is available at the Unifor website at: http://www.unifor.org/sites/default/files/documents/document/pipeline_primer_dec_2013.pdf
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Press release regarding Unifor Ontario Council Recommendation for a National Energy and Environmental Policy is at: http://www.unifor.org/en/whats-new/news/unifor-ontario-council-calls-national-energy-and-environmental-strategy.

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The official statement of Recommendations is available at: http://www.unifor.org/sites/default/files/attachments/ont_council_energy_recommendation.pdf

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The Alberta Federation of Labour statement is available at: http://www.afl.org/index.php/Press-Release/afl-makes-final-argument-in-favour-of-enbridge-line-9-pipeline.html.

“Six reasons why some labour is rallying against Line 9”, a Rabble.ca blog (Nov. 2013) is available at: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/jesse/2013/11/six-reasons-why-some-labour-rallying-against-line-9

Enbridge launches hundreds of digs for cracks in Line 9 (Jan. 21, 2013) at CBC Hamilton website at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/enbridge-launches-hundreds-of-digs-for-cracks-in-line-9-1.2504175

Disputing Oil and Gas Industry Claims for Job Creation in the U.S. and in California

The Center for American Progress has taken issue with the claims made by the American Petroleum Institute (API) in its 2013 testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The API stated that the natural gas and oil industry supports 9.2 million U.S. jobs and accounts for 7.7 % of the U.S. economy, based on two studies which estimated direct, indirect, and induced job effects in the oil and gas industry. The studies were conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and commissioned by API. The Center for American Progress disputes these claims, basing their own analysis on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for employment in upstream activities (oil and gas extraction, well drilling, and operation support), and downstream activities (petroleum refining, product sales through dealers and gas stations, and pipeline construction and transportation). CAP did not include indirect jobs. CAP estimates that there are less than 2 million direct jobs in the oil and gas industry, and nearly 50% of those jobs occur in gas stations. Their analysis also shows that BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell have shed a net total of nearly 12,000 U.S. jobs since 2007.

Another U.S. research centre, NextGeneration, has waded into California’s political discussion about the Monterey Shale development by publishing a series of six articles. In one of these articles, Too Big to Believe, five prominent economists from California universities critique the methodology and results of an influential study published in March 2013, Powering California. Powering California, conducted at the University of Southern California and sponsored by Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), included optimistic and widely publicized estimates of an increase of 512,000 net new jobs by 2015 and 2.8 million net new jobs by 2020. Yet Too Big to Believe states: “Each of the economists said the study’s findings were unreliable and inflated. They cast doubt on its methodology, which did not base its estimates on any projections for oil production or capital investment in California oil; instead, the study’s authors said they extrapolated from the effects of economic growth in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.”

In Keeping the Story Straight, the final article in the NextGeneration series, the results of Powering California are contrasted with two other economic impact studies done by industry-related organizations: one by IHS Consultants, and another commissioned by the Western States Petroleum Association and conducted by California State University at Fresno. In both cases, estimated job impacts were “negligible” or modest.

LINKS:

Big Oil, Small Jobs: A Look at the Oil Industry’s Dubious Job Claims is at the Center for American Progress at: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2014/01/22/82571/big-oil-small-jobs-a-look-at-the-oil-industrys-dubious-job-claims/
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Too Big to Believe: Top Economists Doubt California Oil Industry’s Jobs Figures at: http://thenextgeneration.org/blog/post/top-economists-doubt-california-oil-industrys-jobs-figures, and Keeping the Story Straight: Industry Reports at Odds in California Oil at: http://thenextgeneration.org/blog/post/industry-reports-at-odds-on-california-oil

Powering California: The Monterey Shale and California’s Economic Future is at: http://wms.communicationsinstitute.org/energy/powering-california-project/powering-california-the-monterey-shale-californias-economic-future/ 

Trades Union Congress Issues New Green Policy Statement

The U.K.’s Trades Union Congress has posted Green Growth – No Turning Back. This consolidation and updating of TUC policies about climate change and energy was prompted by the latest scientific evidence, as well as Britain’s current concerns with energy security and the affordability of energy for citizens. Recommendations include: parliament should adopt the Committee on Climate Change’s Fourth Carbon budget as a framework for carbon emissions action; move to fund energy subsidies through income and corporate tax and eliminate regressive consumer taxes; make significant reforms to the existing Energy Bill, including a 2030 decarbonisation target to attract investment in low carbon technologies; and further encourage investment through a “properly funded” Green Investment Bank, state support for strategically important low-carbon sectors such as renewables, electric vehicles and carbon capture and storage, and a skills strategy for a low carbon economy. The policy also calls for no further investment in fracking or “unabated fossil fuels”.

 

 

LINKS

Green Growth – No Turning Back is available at: http://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/EC%20Green%20Growth%20No%20Turning%20Back%20-%20pdf_0.pdf. The Summary of Recommendations is at: http://www.tuc.org.uk/node/119323

Protests Continue in New Brunswick; UNIFOR Supports First Nations with a Call for a National Moratorium

The government of New Brunswick continues to support fracking despite First Nations protests, according to New Brunswick’s Energy Minister, quoted in the Globe and Mail. Read “Anti-fracking protests shouldn’t hinder shale-gas sector, N.B. Energy Minister says” (Nov. 14) in the Globe and Mail at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/anti-fracking-protests-shouldnt-hinder-shale-gas-sector-nb-energy-minister-says/article15447462/. But UNIFOR, the union which represents energy workers, expressed support for the First Nations protests and called for a national moratorium on fracking. Read the press release at:  http://www.unifor.org/en/whats-new/news/unifor-calls-national-moratorium-fracking and the full statement by the National Executive Board (November 12) at: http://www.unifor.org/sites/default/files/attachments/neb_resolution_on_fracking_nov2013_e.pdf.

Newfoundland says No to Fracking, for now

The Newfoundland Minister of Natural Resources announced on November 4th that the government “will not be accepting applications for onshore and onshore to offshore petroleum exploration using hydraulic fracturing”. The suspension will allow the government time to review fracking rules in other jurisdictions, fully assess potential environmental impacts, and allow for public comments. See the press release at: http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2013/nr/1104n06.htm.

Canada’s New Voluntary Fracking Code of Conduct

The Petroleum Services Association of Canada has unveiled a new voluntary fracking code of conduct, signed by 11 companies. The code, which covers technical and environmental standard practice and guidelines for company engagement with stakeholders, comes after six months of nation-wide meetings with environmental and community groups, local governments and land owners. Industry representatives claim that most companies already follow the standards in the code, and that compared to other jurisdictions, Canada has long had stricter regulations on fracking. Read the press release by the Petroleum Services Association of Canada at: http://www.psac.ca/wp-content/uploads/PSAC_Media_Release_October_30.pdf and the Statement of Principles and full Code of Conduct from a link at: http://www.oilandgasinfo.ca/working-energy-commitment/hydraulic-fracturing-code-of-conduct/.

B.C. Court Challenge to Water Use in Fracking

EcoJustice, Sierra Club B.C., and The Wilderness Committee announced on November 13th that they have launched a lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court. The suit aims to stop the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission from granting repeated short-term water use approvals to oil and gas companies. This practice allows the gas industry to exploit fresh water for fracking operations (among other things). See the EcoJustice press release at:  http://www.ecojustice.ca/media-centre/press-releases/water-usage-by-fracking-operations-challenged-in-b.c.-supreme-court.

Fracking Company Suing for Lost Profits in Québec

On September 6, 2013 Lone Pine Resources quietly submitted its formal request for arbitration against Canada, arguing that Québec’s moratorium against fracking deprives Lone Pine of its right to profit in the Saint Lawrence Valley. Under NAFTA rules, the case will be argued in front of a panel of 3 judges. The Notice of Arbitration is available at: http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/assets/pdfs/disp-diff/lone-02.pdf.

Anti-Fracking Regulations in California

California Governor Jerry Brown signed the State’s first fracking bill on September 20th, and released proposed regulations on November 15, launching a 60-day public comment period. The regulations, effective January 1, 2015, will require companies to obtain a permit before fracking, notify neighbours, disclose chemicals used, and monitor air and water quality; they also require independent scientific studies. Industry calls the new rules “extensive” while environmental groups have criticized the law for being too weak.

“Proposed Oil Well Fracking Regulations Released” from the Los Angeles Times (Nov.15) at: http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-oil-well-fracking-regulations-released-20131115,0,1871535.story#axzz2klA1sM4A. Background and a link to the regulations are at the Department of Conservation website at: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/Index/Pages/Index.aspx.

Proposed Terms of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Could be Used to Challenge Canadian Fracking Bans

A May 6 briefing by Corporate Europe Observatory, the Council of Canadians and the Transnational Institute “highlights the public debate around fracking, the interests of Canadian oil and gas companies in shale gas reserves in Europe, and the impacts an investment protection clause in the proposed CETA could have on governments’ ability to regulate or ban fracking.”   A similar provision investment protection clause in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the basis for a current challenge by Lone Pine Resources to a fracking moratorium in Quebec. See the briefing, The Right to Say No: EU-Canada Trade Agreement Threatens Fracking Bans (May 6) at  http://corporateeurope.org/publications/right-say-no-eu-canada-trade-agreement-threatens-fracking-bans .

Nova Scotia Municipality Passes Fracking Ban Based on Community Health Grounds

The Municipality of the County of Inverness, Nova Scotia passed an anti- fracking bylaw on May 6th.  The bylaw bypasses provincial jurisdiction over mineral rights and drilling permits and focuses on using the precautionary principle to protect citizens’ health and wellbeing.  The bylaw, while specifically drafted to prevent fracking in Inverness County, establishes a framework for any municipality to protect its citizens from harmful activities that threaten the health of the community.  It empowers such municipal action and advocacy by appealing to legal principles in international law, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, related interpretations and decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada, and provincial legislation. See the Cape Breton Post article at http://www.capebretonpost.com/News/Local/2013-05-06/article-3237799/Inverness-County-passes-anti-fracking-bylaw/1  ;  also see the website of the Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition, (NOFRAC)  at http://nofrac.wordpress.com/ .  Their report, Out of Control, released on April 22, documents the fracking experience in Hants County from 200, relying on documents obtained by Freedom of Information requests. The province of Nova Scotia is currently undergoing a provincial review of fracking before allowing any permits, and the decision on the review is set to be released in 2014.  See the Government Review website at http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/pollutionprevention/consultation.hydraulic.fracturing.asp  .

Employment Estimates for Fracking Shale Gas in Quebec

A new study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute in Calgary provides an overview of shale gas locations and geology across Canada, describes the fracking process, and focuses on the current state of the Utica Shale Gas field in Quebec, using economic analysis to estimate GDP, employment, tax and royalty revenue. The report estimates Canadian employment gains in direct, indirect and induced job to range from 293,000 in the base case and 880,000 person-years in the maximum production case. Approximately 69% of jobs are estimated to occur in Québec, 23% in Alberta, and the remaining 8% across Canada. The Quebec government has put a moratorium on shale gas development to allow for public consultation about oil and gas regulations; the government is currently awaiting the completion of a Strategic Environmental Assessment, expected in late 2013.

LINK   Potential Economic Impacts of Developing Quebec’s Shale Gas, (March 2013) is available at the Canadian Energy Research Institute website at:http://www.ceri.ca/images/stories/2013-03-08_CERI_Study_132_-_Quebec_Shale.pdf