• CCNB Action needs your help to distribute our “Vote for Our Forest” cards. The cards, available in English or French, include 4 questions that you can ask the candidates seeking election in the next provincial election on Sept. 22. The cards can also be displayed in your window or door to show your support for our forest.

    To get copies of the cards, email Tracy at forest@ccnbaction.ca.
    To view the English card, click here.
  • JIM EMBERGER COMMENTARY

    July 24, 2018  Telegraph Journal, Daily Gleaner, Times Transcript

    It was gratifying to see a recent article acknowledging that climate change has already changed our weather, and that weather-related problems will become ever more frequent and severe (“Not... our grandparents’ weather, July 14, A2).

    In the piece, a senior climatologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, David Phillips, laid out in no-nonsense terms that New Brunswickers will be challenged to adapt to our increasingly confused climate.

    Warnings and good advice about adapting are a necessary discussion, but the real conversation we need to be having on climate change is about preventing the growing threats from a changed climate.

    It’s not as if there is some mysterious force wrecking the climate, with nothing we can do besides learning to live with it. Rather, it is undeniable that the climate-change culprit is our burning of fossil fuels, and the way to slow climate damage is to simply burn fewer of them.

    This elementary and obvious policy solution, however, seems impossible for some to publicly acknowledge. Perhaps, that’s because once you acknowledge a fact, then you must act on that knowledge even if it is uncomfortable.

    Mr. Phillips could have painted an even darker picture. Numerous studies show the climate is changing faster than originally thought and will result in an even hotter world. This past month’s global heat wave shattered temperature records worldwide, often by double digits. Fifty-four people died in Quebec as a result of the heat wave.

    It’s a foreshadowing that should focus our minds, much like the record-breaking floods in New Brunswick. Adaptation to such catastrophes will certainly be necessary, but there are limits to adaptation, especially if conditions continually get worse.

    How many times can you raise the height of a dike, seawall or house on stilts? For trees destroyed by tropical storms, ice storms, warmer temperatures and an ever-growing list of invasive species, it’s too late to adapt.

    And when it’s too hot to work (or even exist) outdoors, adaptation has reached its end, as it is already has in some places. The only long-term solution is to keep conditions from getting worse, and that means reducing our use of fossil fuels.

    Recently, I asked Progressive Conservative leader Blaine Higgs how his plans to lift the moratorium on fracking and promote a shale gas industry fit into plans to combat climate change. It was actually a trick question, because there is only one answer: To slow climate change we cannot exploit any new fossil fuels, and we must leave much of what we have already discovered in the ground.

    This reality now drives global economic trends, which cast doubt on the wisdom of any new fossil fuel investments.

    New studies predict that the plunging cost of renewable energy, advances in battery storage, electric vehicles and energy-efficiency measures will reduce the demand for fossil fuels so significantly that $1 trillion dollars of fossil fuel infrastructure will become worthless by 2035.

    If governments act to reduce emissions as well, the losses grow to $4 trillion dollars and the timetable is shortened by years.

    The U.S. and Canada would be the biggest losers in this scenario because they produce the most expensive fossil fuels – fracked oil and gas, and oil sands. New Brunswick is fortunate to not have much existing unconventional fossil fuel infrastructure at risk.

    But the Atlantica Centre for Energy and Encana claim that now is the time to build a shale gas infrastructure, because current supplies from Nova Scotia will soon run out, leaving 8,600 buildings without gas.

    The obvious rebuttal to this argument is to simply buy gas from elsewhere. But an even better answer is that most gas customers can switch to cleaner sources of energy, which they will eventually have to do anyway. The government and NB Power could even assist in their transition, as part of climate, innovation and energy-efficiency programs.

    In any case, New Brunswick has 319,773 private dwellings and 30,164 businesses. Simple math shows that 8,600 gas-using buildings make up only two per cent of the total. This hardly makes a case for undertaking the huge financial, health and environmental risks of building a new shale gas industry.

    Ireland and Scotland also have fracking moratoriums. Ireland just decided to disinvest all government funds from fossil fuel projects, and Scotland is debating whether to even accept fracked gas from other countries.

    Canada, however, remains among the world’s top three contributors to climate change on a per person basis, due to the high greenhouse gas emissions of our unconventional fossil fuel industries.

    Surely, our New Brunswick moratorium makes the moral statement that “we” at least won’t make things worse for our children, the world and ourselves.

    Keeping the moratorium not only protects us from fracking’s many threats to our health and the environment. It also helps slow climate change, and keeps us from making an unnecessary and seriously self-destructive fiscal decision.

    Jim Emberger is spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NoShaleGasNB.ca).
  • JIM EMBERGER   COMMENTARY
    Telegraph Journal  June 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This is simply, and provably, false.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Jim Emberger
    is a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.
  • October 15, 2015



    PRESS RELEASE



    TransCanada blocking local residents from attending their Energy East Pipeline Community Liaison Committee meeting



    SAINT JOHN – This week, nine local residents and landowners requested to sit in as observers at TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline Community Liaison Committee meeting held at the Hampton Inn, Saint John, on Wednesday, October 14.  Blocking their entrance, a security guard informed them that only members of the Committee were permitted at the meeting.



    Residents then asked to speak with a TransCanada representative. A short discussion took place with Pamela McKay, Trans Canada’s community consultant, which was videotaped. Ms. McKay informed the residents that TransCanada did not have a policy to allow observers at their Energy East community liaison meetings and that the residents would not be permitted to enter the meeting room.



    https://youtu.be/a4hdSWxq1Pw

    TransCanada blocking local residents from Community Liaison Committee in Saint John, Oct 14, 2015 (12:26)



    “Unlike other local industrial committees, TransCanada denies entry to local citizens,“ said Saint John resident David Thompson who was part of the group kept out of the meeting.  Mr Thompson has a long history of participating in industrial liaison meetings, and presently sits on two other industrial community liaison committees in Saint John.  “We simply wanted to sit quietly and listen to tonight’s committee meeting.”



    “Open, transparent, and democratic public participation should be the operating principles of each and every community liaison committee,” added Thompson. “The National Energy Board should be required to practice this.”



     “It’s a straw horse; it’s dishonest that TransCanada will go to National Energy Board and use this Community Liaison Committee as fulfilling part of their community outreach and consultation,” remarked Colin Seeley after being refused entry.  “As a person with a proposed pipeline running across my property, I have not been contacted since it was announced that the project was being delayed for 2 years.  Meanwhile, TransCanada has been pushing ahead with work on the project such as the recent borehole testing in Red Head.”



    Leslie Hillman, Red Head resident and member of Red Head Anthony’s Cove Preservation Association (RHACPA), was also disappointed to be refused entry, “TransCanada should respect the interests, the health, and the well-being of the residents and make the meeting open to the citizen observers.”



    Teresa Debly, a Red Head resident whose family property has already been impacted by industrial development in the area, says, “Several residents who have considerable experience with other industrial community committees, including myself, have repeatedly requested to be accepted as Committee members, but have been denied each time by TransCanada.  Back in February, I was utterly shocked when TransCanada hired a retired police officer to prevent landowners from attending these meetings.  We are calling upon TransCanada to immediately open up their Community Liaison Committee meeting.”



    A copy of this News Release and the web link to the video is also being sent to the National Energy Board. 



    Media contacts: David Thompson, Saint John, 506-635-1297 and Leanne Sutton, Red Head Anthony’s Cove Preservation Association, 506-654-7857
  • Jim Emberger - Commentary, Telegraph-Journal, Daily Gleaner August 24, 2018

    At a recent oil and gas industry conference, Terry Spencer, head of natural gas infrastructure company, ONEOK, told the audience: “One of these days, one of these big ol’ fracs will be operated with nobody there..... We are as an industry working towards where we can operate 24/7, unattended.”

    He wasn’t forecasting the distant future.

    In 2016, the Houston Chronicle was already reporting,“These new rigs, using sophisticated software and robotics, could reduce the number of people working in the oil patch by up to 40 per cent.”  The article continues: “The Holy Grail [is] to not have to touch the pipe and totally automate the process.”

    The 2014 fossil fuel crash forced companies to slash the number of drilling rigs and lay off 440,000 workers. Although the number of rigs is slowly growing back, analysts say that half the workers may never return.

    That’s because the fracking industry, despite its growth, has always been mired in debt – the Wall Street Journal calculates US$280 billion. To have any chance of reaching profitability, the industry must cut costs, meaning eliminating jobs and increasing automation.

    For example, SWN, the American company once exploring in New Brunswick, has announced it will layoff 200 workers to save on annual personnel costs of $65 million.

    Since the fracking industry has always sold itself as a source of high-paying, blue-collar jobs, it doesn’t publicize that many of those jobs are now disappearing.  Replacing workers with machines is masked as “efficiencies” and “cost-savings,” and, with no apparent sense of shame, as “worker safety measures.”

    Industry debt also leads to numerous bankruptcies and company closures, posing financial threats to taxpayers and landowners in the form of thousands of abandoned, often leaking, gas and oil wells.

    Governments should have demanded sufficient funds from the industry in advance to cover the costs of closing wells, but did not. Industry claimed it couldn’t afford the upfront cost.  Now, bankruptcy laws that give creditors first access to the assets of insolvent companies leave little money to remediate abandoned wells.

    Saskatchewan’s auditor general estimates the problem will cost the province $4 billion, while Alberta, with its hundreds-of-thousands of wells, faces a mind-numbing $47 billion in future costs.  Saskatchewan has already asked Ottawa for a few hundred million until they can figure out a long-term plan, so we can surmise that federal and provincial taxpayers will be on the hook for bailout money.

    Any taxpayer bailout will be a bitter pill, as the industry already receives billions from Canadian taxpayer subsidies, another fact not discussed. The International Monetary Fund estimates that Canada’s subsidies to the natural gas industry are 44-per cent greater than its foreign aid payments.

    The British Columbia government, for instance, offers exemptions from income, sales and climate taxes, provides lower electricity rates, and offers extremely generous “royalty credits for fracking operations.”  The Energy Ministry calculates that these “credits” equal nearly $5 billion in lost royalty revenue.

    Despite generous subsidies, Alberta (our largest gas producer) has seen royalties plummet 90 per cent since 2008: from $5 billion down to $500 million.This explains why the Petroleum Services Association of Canada just announced a decrease in Canadian natural gas drilling this year, citing low natural gas prices and reduced demand.It noted: “Many companies are sitting at near break-even points or are still in negative territory.... This is not sustainable from a business continuity and competitiveness perspective,” and explains the “lack of attractiveness for investment.”

    These subsidies, debts and job losses occur in tandem, with multiple economists warning that market forces may turn Canada’s billions of dollars of fossil fuel infrastructure into worthless “stranded assets” by 2030.

    All of this news comes from industry or government sources.

    So why would conservatives, economists and various chambers of commerce members who write newspaper commentaries promoting shale gas not address any of these issues? One would expect that, as businesspeople, they would be aware of the industry’s financial and trade news.

    What are we to think when they endlessly repeat the meaningless phrase “responsible resource development” while displaying no more detailed knowledge about shale gas economics than they do about its health and environmental threats?

    Should we pin our economic hopes on an industry built on subsidies, debt and potentially huge costs to taxpayers, one that provides fewer jobs with each passing year, while putting our health, environment and climate at risk?

    Or, should we instead keep the moratorium on fracking, and choose a business sector with an economic case that is booming with jobs and prospects. Clean Energy Canada’s recent study of a basic energy efficiency plan for New Brunswick shows that by 2030 we could increase GDP by $5 billion and create 25,879 jobs.

    Going beyond the basic plan, and adding renewable energy, makes those numbers skyrocket. These aren’t imaginary figures. Jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy far outnumber those in the fossil fuel industries, while ensuring a healthier, more sustainable, future.

    Jim Emberger is spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NoShaleGasNB. ca)
  • Tories are incoherent on 'regional social licence'

    Jim Emberger,Commentary, Telegraph Journal   September 13, 2018

    The freshly released Progressive Conservatives platform contains only a single sentence on shale gas, and leaves "regional social license" – mooted by leader Blaine Higgs in April – entirely unexplained.

    Even without adequate detail in the platform, the very concept is a clear case of putting the cart before the horse.

    The shale gas moratorium’s first condition sensibly dictates that, before social license can be granted, citizens must receive “clear and credible information about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on public health, the environment and water.”

    As I have documented in previous articles, the “clear and credible evidence” from science and public health studies, court cases, journalistic investigations and government regulatory actions reveal shale gas impacts including:
    • A host of serious diseases affecting those living near gas wells, and especially the unborn. 
    • Water contamination from every aspect of industry activity.
    • Leaking methane from gas infrastructure, making it a leading contributor to climate change.
    • Toxic wastewater created by fracking, with no safe way of disposal.
    • Universally inadequate regulations and oversight, plus the precarious financial state of the industry, means that these threats continue unabated.
    As the Progressive Conservatives haven’t provided the public with any credible evidence that these risks have been addressed, how can they ask anyone for social license?

    Meanwhile, extensive government reviews of shale gas elsewhere have almost unanimously led to bans or moratoriums. These include Quebec, Canada’s Maritime Provinces, 19 of the 25 countries of the European Union, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and several U.S. and Australian states. Mexico, a major fossil fuel producer, is banning fracking.

    In many U.S. states that launched the shale industry before conducting public reviews, hundreds of cities and counties have passed resolutions restricting fracking.

    Before New Brunswick's last election, over 70 municipalities and dozens of medical, public health, religious, community, environmental and indigenous groups called for a moratorium – including Mr. Higgs’ community of Quispamsis.

    The PCs apparently are aware of this widespread public opposition, and attempt to sidestep it by claiming that fracking will be limited to Sussex and Albert County, because those localities want it.

    Yet the municipality of Sussex Corner supported the moratorium, as did citizen groups in the nearby agricultural area of Cornhill, and in Penobsquis, where existing gas wells are located.

    In Albert County, the municipalities of Hillsborough and Alma supported the moratorium, as did the neighboring city of Moncton. Citizen groups – e.g. the Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance, Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County, and the Chepoudy Communities Revitalization Committee – have reaffirmed their support for the moratorium.

    So who will grant "social license," and how is "regional" defined? The PC platform contains nary a clue.

    Do businessmen reaping financial benefits, but living away from the wells, get the same vote as pregnant mothers living next to gas wells, who – willingly or not – will assume greater health risks?

    Airborne chemical pollution affects those with asthma and respiratory problems up to hundreds of kilometres away. Likewise, waterborne contaminants can travel the length of whatever waterways they enter. How far downstream and downwind is the regional line drawn for health and environmental risks? 

    Increased health care and road repair costs have been documented everywhere a shale gas industry exists, as have the costs of dealing with abandoned wells. These financial risks and costs will be borne by all the taxpayers of New Brunswick.

    Leaking methane gas damages the climate for everyone.

    These widespread risks to health and environment from fracking have been proven. Living on one side of some arbitrary regional line doesn’t grant the right to accept those risks for everyone.

    The ethics of medical research require that every individual give their informed consent to be a ‘guinea pig’ before being exposed to toxic, carcinogenic or untested chemicals. Fracking, which uses hundreds of such chemicals, is a massive uncontrolled experiment and should require no less a standard.

    And yet, the PCs are running with the slogan that they will restore trust. 

    Mr. Higgs recently wrote a commentary in this newspaper on his plans to fight climate change ("A carbon plan, not a carbon tax," Aug. 18, A11). It did not once mention his policy on shale gas. Does he know the gas industry is a major contributor to climate change?

    Also unaddressed is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The rapid depletion of shale gas wells means the industry must continually drill new wells. Thus, a "regional" industry won’t stay regional for long. 

    The PCs have not discussed these concerns, or any of the risks catalogued above. Their platform does not even contain the words "shale," "fracking," or "moratorium." Doesn’t the path to trust demand a demonstration that one understands and can discuss the concerns now, before the election?

    If facts don’t support a policy, the policy must change. Not discussing the facts won’t build trust.

    Canada’s Dr. John Cherry, one of the world’s foremost experts on groundwater contamination, testified before our Commission on Hydrofracturing, noting, “It is hard to make the case for social license if you have no scientific proof of safety.” These are words the PCs, and indeed all New Brunswickers, need to heed.

    Jim Emberger is spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance.
 © 2018 NBEN / RENB