Critics to protest ‘fracking’ conference in Point Edward

Chip Martin for QMI Agency

But protesters alarmed by environmental cost

Fracking has not yet begun in Southwestern Ontario but it’s all the talk already.

As promoters of the new technology to exploit natural gas trapped in shale gather Thursday at a Point Edward hotel, environmentalists will protest the move.

“Sooner or later it’s going to occur and we want to alert people,” said Zak Nicholls, a Sarnia environmentalist organizing the protest along with Londoner Toban Black, a doctoral student in sociology and environmental sustainability at the University of Western Ontario.

The release of methane and chemicals like radium into the air and water have been found in Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan where fracking is underway, Black noted.

“It will damage our environment,” said Nicholls, a member of Sarnia Hometown Activist Movement Emerging (SHAME) which has targeted the area’s petrochemical industry.

The group and Climate Justice London have established the “Stop Fracking Ontario” website in its efforts to prevent the practice before it starts.

Black said there have been reports of tap water set on fire when fracking occurred nearby.

“Numerous carcinogenic, endocrine-disrupting, flammable and otherwise poisonous chemicals are are used to draw out the natural gas that lies deep underground in shale rock,” he said in a press release. Black added radium that is freed can seep into nearby water bodies.

Similar rallies and protests are being planned in Chatham-Kent and London.

At Ontario’s ministry of natural resources which governs such natural gas and oil work, spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said there is no shale gas extraction in Ontario.

“At this time there is no indication that Ontario even has economic reserves of shale gas,” she said. “There are no applications for drilling of new exploration shale gas wells.”

The Sarnia-Lambton Shale Gas Conference at the Holiday Inn Sarnia is bringing together major players in the oil and gas industry including Imperial Oil, BP, Union Gas and Nova Chemicals.

Projects being considered will be discussed and industry players will have an opportunity to network with each other.

The gathering, arranged by the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, is aimed at “looking to capitalize on this game-changing development,” says its press release. “Momentum is also building for a renaissance of the Sarnia-Lambton Energy Complex.”

Among the firms looking at unlocking shale gas is Mooncorp Oil and Gas, based in Calgary. It has acquired many acres of gas leases in recent years and Mooncor officials have expressed optimism about the potential of shale gas in the region.

President Darrell Brown of Mooncorp could not be reached Wednesday, but another company official said earlier shale gas is in the “longer term outlook” for the firm.

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