Shale gas is giving one of Sarnia’s plastic producers a “new lease on life”, according to the Globe and Mail. Buoyed by the opportunity to power its vast facilities with inexpensive natural gas, Nova Chemicals is planning to spend billions of dollars on new projects.
Replacing costly crude oil with shale gas might seem like a good business move for Nova Chemicals, a major player in in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley producing plastics and other petrochemical products. But when you consider that this natural gas is extracted through hydraulic fracturing or fracking and will power the kinds of operations that helped earn Sarnia the title of worst air quality in Canada this week, it is controversial and downright dangerous.
Petrochemical products are the lesser known part of our fossil fuel dependency but have a significant footprint nonetheless. Many are cheap, ‘single-use’ plastic items like shrink wrap that quickly end up as waste in the landfill after they’re manufactured. And the petrochemical manufacturing process itself is a major factor in Sarnia’s ongoing pollution problem – a problem so bad that Ecojustice has launched a human rights casein response to it.
Refining and manufacturing petrochemicals with the help of shale gas is equally dubious. Nova Chemicals will be contributing to further demand for Marcellus shale gas from the United States, where fracking is raising serious concerns about widespread contamination of groundwater sources, people’s drinking water supply, and watersheds. These concerns are echoed by folks in New Brunswick, who are protesting shale gas developments that could threaten well water quality and property. Similar concerns have prompted moratoriums on fracking in Quebec and New Jersey. Just today [September 30th], B.C.’s energy regulator announced an investigation into whether fracking in northeastern B.C. has led to more earthquakes.
Even if this natural gas wasn’t derived from fracking, its role in fueling the ongoing pollution problems in Sarnia is irresponsible and putting people’s health at risk.