Drills for fracking operations near Hudson's Hope, BC

What “Fracking” is About


Until a couple of months ago I had never heard of “fracking”.
I now understand why. And I should have known.

Governments, by long standing habit, don’t like smarty pants
environmentalists to learn what the hell is going on and thus be able
to alert the masses, for those masses can mess up the process. The BC
government’s policy was neatly summed up by Finance Minister Kevin
Falcon when he was Transport Minister. Frustrated by boo-birds who
were always asking questions, going to public meetings and
demonstrating, said the Chinese “don’t have the labour or
environmental restrictions we do. It’s not like they have to do
community consultations. They just say ‘we’re building a bridge’ and
they move everyone out of there and get going within two weeks. Could
you imagine if we could build like that?”

Here is as good a definition I could find for “fracking”:

Horizontal hydrofracking is a means of tapping shale deposits
containing natural gas that were previously inaccessible by
conventional drilling. Vertical hydrofracking is used to extend the
life of an existing well once its productivity starts to run out,
sort of a last resort. Horizontal fracking differs in that it uses a
mixture of 596 chemicals, many of them proprietary, and millions of
gallons of water per frack. This water then becomes contaminated and
must be cleaned and disposed of.

What happens is that the drilling is not done vertically but
horizontally which allows the company to recover huge quantities of
natural gas unobtainable by vertical drilling and they do it by
forcing huge quantities of water laced with the chemicals mentioned.

Knowing that, what sorts of questions are running through your

  • Does this process weaken the ground so that it might

  • Where do they get all that water from?

  • What happens to the river or lake from which all that water
    was taken?

  • What happens if it comes from a reservoir for a dam, does its
    loss reduce the capacity of that dam?

  • Does it go into the water table? Assuming that it has to go
    somewhere, how clean is it?

  • Does the process have any greenhouse gas emissions?

  • What about people who live and/or work in the area – does
    this process affect them adversely?

This isn’t something that came down the river on a piece of bark
but is a major undertaking throughout North America. The Atlantic
Provinces are involved and Quebec has suspended fracking until there
has been a detailed environmental review.

What about the BC government? Surely they have done studies,
issued a white paper and encouraged public involvement!

Not a chance. The Minister responsible – the Minister of Forests,
Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson – simply refuses
to comment. You will note that the Minister of Environment is not
involved in this huge environmental question mark.

Here we go again, folks! This is the Campbell/Clark Energy plan
all over again. Bring in a policy with huge implications for the
environment and just refuse to answer obvious questions and, for God’s
sake, don’t have any public hearings! The entire environmental policy
of this, the worst government since the Coalition of the 40s and
probably beyond, is to simply ram things through and the public can go to

We must assume that companies will lie through their teeth which
is quite understandable when you remember that their sole objective
of existing is to make money for shareholders. I don’t say that with
a sneer – it’s simply that their raison d’etre does not permit
them to utter a discouraging word about anything they do.

“Good corporate citizen” is an oxymoron. Whatever they
do from sponsoring a Little League Team to building a new wing to a
hospital has a profitable pay-back. They don’t make gifts

They hire the most expensive liars of earth, the Public Relations
industry, to distract the public with literature and film that would
make Josef Goebbels blush with pride. That, armed with some crap from
the Fraser Institute and a rigidly right wing government is all
that’s needed.

It’s all rather like the aphorism, “If a husband sends his
wife flowers for no reason, there’s a reason.” If the government
doesn’t want you to know, there is a reason – and the reason with this government is invariably that they and industry are about to
do it to you again. Lie, obfuscate and clam up is the way the game is

The underlying philosophy of this government is as Kevin Falcon
stated – the public is a nuisance. Don’t level with them for it might
worry the little dears.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

6 thoughts on “What “Fracking” is About

  1. I was like Rafe and didn’t know what “Fracking” was until I watched the movie GASLAND which won a Sundance movie award in 2010. Do yourself a favour and see it.

  2. Additional comment: Gas Industry regulation is an area where legislation and regulation were set up in the days where folks like Rafe and most of us were in the dark. Government and industry set up gas exploitation in a vacuum.
    No more. Keep us informed, Rafe.

  3. We don’t know what we don’t know indeed.
    Regarding natural gas exploitation I found out a lot when Quebec newspaper La Presse had a week of coverage which included an exposé of wm hat it’s like to live and farm in ‘gas country’ in BC.
    They did this because the Quebec government is deciding now how to regulate gas exploitation there.
    Highlights I remember from their coverage: Rights of Way through farmland with little regulation regarding traffic volume and scheduling, seismic exploration (explosives) in farm areas, rights given to companies superseding individual rights.
    Let’s see lots of coverage by BC media about the gas exploitation issue.

  4. “that would make Josef Goebbels blush with pride”
    Seriously Rafe, I’ve been a big proponent of you for years (a fellow Lions Bay’er); and although you occasionally go a bit off the deep-end, I respect that you usually keep analogies within reason (although you do use the word “evil” a little too loosely for my liking). So why do you stoop to the lowest literary analogy by bringing the Nazi’s into this? It is SO beneath you writings and ability.

  5. I was talking to my daughter on the phone today and, as usual, the conversation turned to politics. It started with the HST referendum deadline, but eventually ended up in the ‘fracking’ debate, because her brother (my son) who is considering switching employers, has named one of those employers and I happen to know they are a big ‘fracking’ operation.

    There’s going to be hell to pay in this family if my son goes to work for this company! My daughter says I’m over-reacting; that there’s nothing we can do about the atrocities we must endure under the present government. I disagree. Every time I read one of your columns, Rafe, or see you being interviewed by Alex Tsakumis, I feel confident that the good guys will prevail.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Rafe. Like Red Green always said: “We’re all in this together.” Someday, somehow, we will take back this province from the corrupt BC Liberals.

  6. Well Rafe,

    I’m sorry I induced you, a couple of conversations ago, to say, “why do I bother?” to my insistence to practice what we preach instead of just carping in on-line!

    My point . . .

    I enjoyed a neighbor not too long ago who had, what I thought, a good job as chef in a local hotel. We had many a good conversation together until he abruptly returned to his old stomping ground Alberta.

    He went, he told me, back for a really good paying job driving a sand truck. Evidently he was part of a big operation that involved many of these trucks and lots of hi-tech drilling equipment.

    He was, in fact, part of a huge “fracking” team. And yunno what I don’t thinq he knew what he was participating in and it took me a while to catch on.

    So yeah, so long as we have that insatiable hunger to keep our gadgetry going, air conditioning in summer and 72º+ comfort in winter to say nothing of driving to the corner store for a carton of milk those crazies will keep screwing the earth.

    Do all the on-line chatter you like but until we accept responsibility collectively and act accordingly, “we have met the enemy and he is us!

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