New Brunswick Federation of Labour
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL) represents 20 affiliated unions, 333 union locals and 40,000 working women and men in every sector of our economy, in every community in our Province.
For over 100 years, the New Brunswick Federation of Labour has worked to advance the rights of working people. The NBFL advocates for them on issues such as occupational health and safety, workers’ compensation, retirement security, equality, child care, labour standards and worker rights.
The NBFL also advocates for improved public services (such as healthcare and education), as well as public policy and laws that support our principles of social and economic justice – including the overall well-being and welfare of all citizens.
We have long advocated for societal measures that enhance the quality of life for all New Brunswickers, that enhance community and environmental sustainability and that ensure that we are well positioned to leave this province a better place for the next generation. It is within this context that the New Brunswick Federation of Labour makes this submission to the review panel.
Various types of fracturing technology have been used in the oil and gas industry for decades. The new generations of the technology, however, have raised substantial environmental concerns, including:
- Pollution of water sources (as the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and the methane released in the process 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 hydraulic fracturing 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.
Health and Safety Concerns
Safety issues related to hydraulic fracturing 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 Lac Mégantic tragedy in Québec in 2013. The train was carrying fracked crude oil from North Dakota.
Economic consequences and short term gain
The expansion of hydraulic fracturing has also had dramatic and damaging economic consequences. The sudden surge in market supply of new U.S. oil and gas sources 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 in supply of fracked oil and gas is not likely to last. It would be ill-advised for Canada and New Brunswick to re-orient our energy infrastructure around a short-term surge in an unsustainable energy-source.
New Brunswick could model the province of Quebec and the U.S. state of Maine by pursuing wind energy, solar power energy, and other clean energy sources. All that is needed to do so is the political will.
First Nations rights
Another troubling dimension of the oil and gas industry, in Canada and elsewhere, is its impact on relations with First Nations peoples. Our First Nations brothers and sisters have treaty rights which must be respected by the Federal and Provincial governments. First Nations communities must be permitted to freely exercise their choice to pursue resource development on their land. This problem is especially acute with hydraulic fracturing. It requires more land than other forms of exploration and extraction and the industry will likely generate a short-lived profit-hungry rush. 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 about the potential economic, social, and environmental damage of a poorly-regulated oil and gas industry. The provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador have both imposed a moratorium on new hydraulic fracturing exploration. Other provinces and regions are also now investigating the risks and effects of hydraulic fracturing.
For all these reasons, the NBFL supports a New Brunswick-wide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing activity. This moratorium should stay in place until such time as the safety and environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing have been adequately addressed. First Nations communities must also provide their full and informed consent for hydraulic fracturing activity on their traditional lands before the moratorium is lifted.
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour expresses its solidarity with the non-violent efforts made by First Nations communities to assert their treaty rights and to resist new hydraulic fracturing activity in their lands. Instead of being guided by short-term swings in prices and profits for private energy producers, the New Brunswick government should develop and implement (in cooperation with relevant stakeholders) a plan for a stable and sustainable energy industry that respects our social and environmental commitments, and generates lasting wealth for all who live here.