Canada’s Largest Private Sector Union Calls For Fracking Moratorium


“Global anti-fracking protests grow while SA pro-frackers just frack onward”

Unifor, Canada’s largest energy union, calls for Canada-wide moratorium on all new oil and gas fracking; the ignorant keep blindly pushing forward, harming families, communities, environment, infrastructure and existing businesses

Posted on November 16, 2013 by admin

Canada’s Largest Private Sector Union Calls For Fracking Moratorium, Unifor worried about ‘frightening’ pollution, worker safety, First Nations rights by Andrew Nikiforuk, November 16, 2013, TheTyee.ca
Canada’s largest private sector union has called for a national moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, a brute force technology that has opened up shale formations for mining across North America and the world. Unifor, which has 300,000 members in the country, said the technology has raised substantive environmental and economic concerns across the country and needs greater scrutiny. … Unifor came into existence earliest this year after the merger of two of Canada’s most powerful and largest unions: the Canadian Auto Workers Union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. In a Nov. 14 press release, the union cited concerns about “frightening” groundwater pollution, methane leaks, “unpredictable impacts” on rock formations, “destruction of surface land” as well as safety issues for workers “toiling under haphazard, gold-rush-like conditions.” The union was also disturbed by the fracking industry’s impact on First Nations and unresolved treaty claims, a major issue in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada. “First Nations activists in New Brunswick and elsewhere are highlighting, with determination and passion, their insistence that no resource exploration or extraction can occur on their lands without full informed consent and a generous sharing of the economic benefits.” A national moratorium should remain in place “until such time as the safety and environmental risks associated with fracking have been adequately addressed, and until First Nations communities have given full informed consent for fracking activity on their traditional lands.”

More than 100 U.S. municipalities have now passed laws banning hydraulic fracturing in their jurisdiction because of concerns about water usage, groundwater contamination, air pollution and the industrialization of farmland. In early November, voters in three major cities in Colorado, an oil and gas state, approved bans on fracking. Voters in Boulder, Fort Collins and Lafayette all approved moratoriums by a wide margin. The government of British Columbia has banked its economic future on the development shale gas in Peace River region. These deposits, among the costliest and most water intensive in the world, would require the drilling of more than 50,000 wells. By some rough estimates, this level of shale gas drilling could use as much water as annual water requirements for bitumen mining in Alberta or enough water to support a city of two million people a year. To date, the government has performed no cumulative impact assessment on the industry’s heavy footprint on water and land, nor a financial risk analysis. … Environment Canada and Health Canada told the Auditor General in 2012 that they did not have a good understanding of the 800 chemicals and substances used for hydraulic fracturing fluid. Nor had they investigated the risks associated with the hydraulic fracturing process. [Emphasis added]

Unifor Calls for National Moratorium on Fracking Press Release by UNIFOR, November 14, 2013
Unifor, Canada’s largest energy union, is calling for a Canada-wide moratorium on all new oil and gas fracking. Already the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have introduced moratoriums on fracking. Nova Scotia has banned fracking while undertaking a review. Unifor is now pushing for a national moratorium. Unifor is raising concerns about the safety and environmental risks associated with fracking as well as the lack of informed consent by First Nations about fracking activities on traditional lands. In the statement unanimously passed by the 25-person Unifor National Executive Board, the union expressed support for the non-violent protest efforts by First Nations to resist fracking activity on their lands. The Unifor National Executive Board is made up of elected representatives from across the country and a variety of economic sectors, including energy.

“Unconventional gas fracking has the potential to have catastrophic effects on our environment and economy. The safety risks are also a major concern for our union,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Just because we can carry out this activity does not mean we should. We must enact a national moratorium on fracking activity.” Dias also noted that it would be folly for Canada to reorient our entire energy infrastructure around a short-term surge in an unsustainable energy supply.

From the statement:

“Any resource extraction industry in Canada must confront the problem of unresolved aboriginal land claims, and the inadequate economic benefits (including employment opportunities) which have been offered to First Nations communities from resource developments. This problem is especially acute with fracking because of the widespread land which would be affected by the activity, and the heated, profit-hungry rush which the industry is set to quickly unleash. Many Canadians share these concerns with the potential economic, social, and environmental damage of an unregulated fracking industry. Instead of being guided by short-term swings in prices and profits for private energy producers, Canada’s federal and provincial governments must develop and implement (in cooperation with other stakeholders) a national plan for a stable, sustainable energy industry that respects our social and environmental commitments, and generates lasting wealth for all who live here.”

The full statement: Unifor National Executive Board Resolution on Fracking November 12, 2013
The advent of new hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) technologies has dramatically altered the economic and environmental effects of the petroleum industry in recent years – around the world, but especially in North America.

Fracking technology relies on the high-pressure injection of a mixture of water and chemicals into numerous drilled wells, in order to fracture geological formations and allow the release of larger quantities of both crude oil and natural gas. This allows the profitable production of petroleum reserves located in “tight” rock formations (including shale) which were formerly unfeasible. The dramatic expansion of fracking in certain regions of the U.S. (including North Dakota, Texas, and elsewhere) over the last decade has had enormous implications for energy markets, and the environment. Profit-hungry companies are now eyeing other potential fracking regions for similar expansion – including many parts of Canada.

Various types of fracturing technology have been used in the petroleum industry for decades. The new generations of the technology, however, have raised substantial environmental concerns, including:

 Frightening pollution of water sources (as fracking chemicals and released methane seep into ground and underground water sources).
 Large emissions of greenhouse gases (including wasted flared gas, and large emissions
of released methane – which is 25 times more powerful in raising global temperatures
than carbon dioxide).
 Unpredictable impacts of pressure injection on the stability of rock formations and land surfaces (causing earthquakes and other damage in many locations).
 Destruction of surface land through intensive drilling, road construction, and
infrastructure (since wells in fracked petroleum fields must be much closer together
than in conventional fields).

The fracking boom in places like North Dakota has led to a rapid expansion of U.S. oil and gas production. However, evidence is mounting that this new production will be short-lived:
fracked wells tend to deplete much more quickly than conventional wells.

Safety issues related to fracking are also troubling, including questionable health and safety
conditions for workers toiling under haphazard, gold-rush-like conditions.Investigators now believe that the unique explosive properties of fracked oil played a role in the horrible Lac Mégantic tragedy in Québec this summer (the train was carrying fracked crude oil from North Dakota).

The expansion of fracking has also had dramatic and damaging economic consequences, too. The sudden surge of new U.S. supplies into the market has driven continental natural gas prices to historic lows. It has also displaced normal flows of energy. For example, Canada now imports significant quantities of fracked gas from the U.S., disrupting traditional gas flows from Western Canada and undermining the economics of our major east-west gas pipeline system. This surge of fracked oil and gas supplies is not likely to last; it would be folly for Canada to reorient our entire energy infrastructure around a short-term surge in a clearly unsustainable energy supply.

Another very troubling dimension of the fracking industry, in Canada and elsewhere, is its impact on relations with First Nations peoples. Of course, any resource extraction industry in Canada must confront the problem of unresolved aboriginal land claims, and the inadequate economic benefits (including employment opportunities) which have been offered to First Nations communities from resource developments. This problem is especially acute with fracking because of the widespread land which would be affected by the activity, and the heated, profit-hungry rush which the industry is set to quickly unleash. First Nations activists in
New Brunswick and elsewhere are highlighting, with determination and passion, their
insistence that no resource exploration or extraction can occur on their lands without full 
informed consent and a generous sharing of the economic benefits.

Many Canadians share these concerns with the potential economic, social, and environmental damage of an unregulated fracking industry. Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have both imposed a moratorium on new fracking exploration. Other provinces and regions are also now investigating the risks and effects of fracking.

For all these reasons, the National Executive Board of Unifor supports a Canada-wide
moratorium on unconventional fracking activity. This moratorium should stay in place until
such time as the safety and environmental risks associated with fracking have been adequately addressed, and until First Nations communities have given full informed consent for fracking activity on their traditional lands. We express our solidarity with non-violent efforts by First Nations communities to assert their title and resist new fracking activity in their lands. And we renew our call for a national energy and environmental strategy, that would utilize Canada’s extensive resources of conventional petroleum and natural gas to meet our energy needs and support value-added industries in Canada. Instead of being guided by short-term swings in prices and profits for private energy producers, Canada’s federal and provincial governments must develop and implement (in cooperation with other stakeholders) a national plan for a stable, sustainable energy industry that respects our social and environmental commitments, and generates lasting wealth for all who live here. As one of its first priorities, Unifor’s new Energy Council will work to develop and communicate Unifor’s vision for such a national energy and environmental strategy. [Emphasis added]

New Brunswick’s Energy Minister hopes protests against shale gas development don’t stop SWN Resources from proceeding by Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press, November 14, 2013, The Globe and Mail
Craig Leonard’s comments came Thursday after the RCMP blocked Highway 11 in northeastern New Brunswick for a few hours because of a demonstration intended to stop the energy company from conducting seismic testing. “We hope protests remain peaceful and lawful and hopefully SWN will be able to get their work done in the allotted time that they’re looking at,” Leonard said. “Then we can determine if there actually is a resource there.” RCMP Constable Jullie Rogers-Marsh said several pieces of equipment and a truck belonging to a private company working in the area of the protest near Laketon, N.B., about 30 kilometres south of Miramichi, were damaged. She declined to say what company owned the truck. A 46-year-old woman was also arrested at the protest site for mischief, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, and traffic on the highway was rerouted for several hours due to safety concerns, she said. The road was reopened by late afternoon. Protesters have gathered in the area for the past few days in anticipation of a resumption of shale gas exploration by SWN Resources, which had placed equipment along the highway to conduct seismic testing. A spokesman for the company declined comment.

On Thursday, Unifor, a union that represents some workers in the energy sector, called for a Canada-wide moratorium on all new oil and gas fracking.In a statement, the union said it is raising concerns about the safety and environmental risks associated with fracking as well as the lack of informed consent by First Nations about fracking activities on traditional lands. “Unconventional gas fracking has the potential to have catastrophic effects on our environment and economy,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias. But Leonard said New Brunswick is forging ahead with the shale-gas industry. [Emphasis added]

 

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