Plans to develop shale gas wells using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology in New Brunswick are being strongly opposed by Mi’kmag people and allied groups like the Council of Canadians.
Fracking involves injecting a high-pressure mixture of water and toxic chemicals into a gas or oil bearing shale rock bed. The layers of rock are fractured and the fossil fuels are pumped out. Fracking is also an environmental nightmare. In extreme cases it activates seismic faultlines and causes earthquakes. To date the tremors have not caused significant damage but some areas have experienced so many small quakes that the concern is for the cumulative effect on housing and infrastructure. More worrying, fracking has been proved to poison local water tables. Both the fracking fluid and the released fossil fuels are toxic. Fracking also releases invisible greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Ordinary people from areas where fracking has been extensively employed--like Colorado, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Texas--are organizing and traveling to other jurisdictions to raise alarms and organize against the spread of the technology. It was delegations from rural Pennsylvania who rallied opposition in New York State, resulting in a moratorium on fracking there.
Recently, at a public meeting in Maury County, Tennessee, residents raised concerns that fracking had poisoned the water table. Local children were coming down with a wide variety of unexplained illnesses. In response, a representative of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation told them: “We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously … But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”
First Nations defending the land
In New Brunswick, fracking opponents have been treated like terrorists. Mi’kmaq people from the community of Elsipogtog rallied to prevent SWN Resources Canada from exploring their territory for potential fracking sites.
At the end of May, Noel Augustine, a leader of the local council, sent the following message to SWN headquarters: “The Migmag Grand Council of the Signigtog district, District 6 hereby gives public notice to all potential developers, the Government of Canada, and the province of New Brunswick, that pursuant to our Indigenous and Inherent rights as the righfull and lawfull owners of all Signigtog District Lands and resources, that no shale gas exploration and/or development or gas line shall proceed within our district without the expressed written consent and full participation of the Migmag Grand Council and the migmag people of the Signigtog District.”
Augustine has received no response.
When corporate equipment arrived a peaceful blockade and sacred fire site was established. The province sent in massive numbers of RCMP to clear the highway and arrest peaceful protesters. The community has responded by inviting all supporters to join its stand to defend the land and water.