The federal government has a role to play in safe guarding the environment, but it seems they are more then willing to sacrifice the Bay of Fundy, as long as it doesn’t affect Scott Armstrong’s north shore. In various publications that can be found online, Mr. Armstrong opposes fracking on the north shore as stated when the Energy Future Coalition of Nova Scotia held a fundraising potluck dinner at Tatamagouche Centre, with featured speaker Jessica Ernst. He said, “I personally don’t support fracking on the North Shore. I think we have too much to lose; the benefits don’t outweigh the risks. The community has to build public support, stay strong, stay organized, stay vigilant and be prepared.”
These sentiments he has expressed in the past don’t seem to extend to the Bay of Fundy and keeping it clean from fracking wastewater. It can be noted that the Federal and Provincial Jurisdiction to Regulate Environmental Issues includes a number of provisions that spell out the different responsibilities of both federal and provincial governments, but there has been little action to enforce these. The conclusion that one could come to, is that the governments, federal and provincial, don’t really care what happens to the Bay of Fundy, nor the residents or aquatic life, that gain their livelihood from it.
Still, the north shore was appalled at the thought that the fracking wastewater held in Colchester County and East Hants, might get dumped through the sewer system in Amherst last year. No doubt about it! Since it had already been refused by Colchester County residents and was later refused in Dieppe, New Brunswick. The Moncton Anti-Fracking community posted that “the mayor of Amherst agreed to dump frack waste directly into the Leplanche River which empties into the Missaquash River which of course is the shared boundary with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It ultimately ends up in the Bay of Fundy.”
Now, not even a year later, Scott Armstrong made this announcement in his newsletter that was received April 2nd, 2015:
While this may appease some of those who voted him in, it doesn’t do anything for the Bay of Fundy. Plus the river is not in any danger of receiving fracking wastewater now. In section 3.2.2 in the document outlining Federal and Provincial Jurisdiction to Regulate Environmental Issues, it says:
3.2.2 Toxic Substances
Parliament has asserted federal jurisdiction to identify and regulate the release of toxic substances, such as mercury and asbestos, into the air, land and water. This jurisdiction was confirmed in 1997 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that controlling toxic substances is a valid exercise of federal jurisdiction to make criminal laws. Federal provisions for controlling toxic substances are now contained within the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, which includes a process for determining which substances are toxic, as well as a regulatory regime for controlling or eliminating toxic substances.
In the report written by Ken Summers for Ecology Action Centre , other chemicals besides the radium 226-228 (radioactive NORMs) were found to be present in the fracking watewater, but because of the lack of testing, the amounts used are not given, and cannot be calculated. This list of chemicals also includes:
- Ethoxylated Alcohol
- Trisodium Nitrotriacetate
- Sodium Persulphate
- Diethylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether
- Acrylamide Copolymer
- Fatty Acid Esters
- Alcohol Alkyl Alkoxylate
It needs to be noted that Environment Minister Randy Delorey sent wastewater samples to a commercial lab in the US to test for these specialized chemicals and the tests came back as undetectable amounts. These results were made publicly available in 2014.
These would certainly be categorized as toxic substances, but perhaps the reason why we don’t see any federal intervention in this matter can be discovered by examining Mr. Armstrong’s newsletter a little further.
Bill C-51 as it stands now, would make any peaceful activist who opposes any type of Oil & Gas development, a terrorist, and to be watched by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). From the above insertion in Mr. Armstrong’s newsletter, it would seem to be clear where he stands on this issue. He stands with the prime minister, not the people in Nova Scotia who voted him in.
There is some talk on making amendments to this bill. On April 2nd, 2015, during a debate on the bill, Joyce Murray said:
As it stands, Bill C-51 would give CSIS broad powers to disrupt not only real or perceived terrorist threats but also threats that might undermine the economic or financial stability of Canada. This is too broad. It is just not necessary for guarding against any legitimate risks and threats from terrorists. It could also be very harmful in further chilling important rights for citizens to have a voice and for the rights for civil society groups that disagree with government policies in a peaceful way.
Even if you look pass the waving of 3.2.2, it’s clear about the federal government’s position on radioactivity from section 3.3.4:
Parliament has declared that it has jurisdiction over
[a]Any work or undertaking constructed for the development, production or use of nuclear energy or for the mining, production, refinement, conversion, enrichment, processing, reprocessing, possession or use of a nuclear substance or for the production, possession or use of prescribed equipment or prescribed information.38
Declaring federal jurisdiction over a work or undertaking in this manner is authorized under the Constitution Act, 1867.
It’s quite obvious that the federal government has a responsibility but the interpretation is vague, especially where it’s divided with the provincial governments. A look at the Nova Scotia Environment Act section 2(e):
Government having a catalyst role in the areas of environmental education, environmental management, environmental emergencies, environmental research and the development of policies, standards, objectives and guidelines and other measures to protect the environment;
… could be interpreted as the provincial government’s role in this matter that this has been accomplished by the Wheeler Report, and they have fulfilled their end of the process so no further intervention is required. The Federal Government, who doesn’t wish to deal with any opposition that the provinces can handle on their own, simply close their books on the issue as having been dealt with. Mr. Armstrong, as well as Local MLA’s may have been instructed not to comment on this issue any further, as their most recent comments seem to date back to last year, 2014. Since then, there hasn’t been any public statements by them, that I have been able to find.
So where does this leave us?
We aren’t in a favourable position, but then neither is East Hants. Last Fall residents in that county were asking the Honourable Minister Randy Delorey about the fracking wastewater still left in their county, to which he responded:
PORTER « » : I thank the minister for his answer and as a follow up to that he would also be aware that in the Hants County area there are holding ponds that also contain contaminated fracking waste water. Would there be a plan, similarly, to dispose of the water in these ponds as well?
DELOREY « » : That’s correct, there are approximately another 20 million litres in the Kennetcook – Noel areas and the water, the 10 million liters currently in Debert, also stem from the same operation. With respect to plans from our departmental perspective, Mr. Speaker, we wait on the proponent who is responsible for disposal of the water and proper treatment to submit their application to the department. We review the technical aspects of it to ensure it’s safe for the environment and the health, before providing approval. At the present time AIS is working on the water that they have and we’re still working with them and waiting to hear an actual acceptable application from Triangle Petroleum, thank you.
You can read this exchange by clicking here.
Basically it means, they are waiting to see what happens in Colchester County before making any decision on the wastewater in Hants County. If the wastewater gets put through the sewer system here, theirs will either be put through the sewer system here or there, or it will be handled by LaFarge — if no other options are available. Again… why we’re not in a favourable position — because what happens here could set a precedent for the whole province.
Years later when they discover this was a bad idea, taxpayers will be on the hook for cleaning it up. There have already been several precedents set as to how this can be accomplished. Here are some examples:
- Canadian taxpayers on the hook for Pan Am athletes’ travel costs
- Canada’s anti-ISIS mission in Iraq, Syria to cost $528M in coming year
- Toxic dust buried under Yellowknife’s ‘Giant Mine’ to cost taxpayers $900M
- Nova Scotia taxpayers may be on hook for NAFTA defeat
- Canadian taxpayers on the hook for catastrophic oil spills from Enbridge Northern Gateway
- New Brunswick on hook for $70M in Atcon deal
However clean up is several years away. The Oil & Gas companies are already venting their frustration over the fracking ban announced Nov. 14th, 2014 and as we can see from this article, Tory Leader Jamie Baillie’s caucus did just about everything it could to delay passage of the bill. Minister Andrew Younger said:
The legislation is not meant to provide a permanent moratorium, Younger said, but is intended to give the government time to “put in place all of the things that are necessary.”
What things are necessary?
They have to have somewhere to get rid of the fracking wastewater. With several wells opened up, LaFarge won’t be able to handle it, not that it’s any kind of solution. But by labeling groups, like ours, as terrorists, they won’t be compelled to negotiate with us. They will simply take the bay. Years later, when renewable sources takes the place of Oil & Gas companies, Nova Scotia taxpayers will be on the hook for the cleanup.