Letters to the Editor

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The PVP on a Break: Off to U2 Concert in Moncton

Although currently working on stories to bring you in the future, The Purple Violet Press is breaking for the next few days to attend the U2 concert in Moncton. It's been a lifelong dream of ours to see this band in action. We will be back on the job next week with coverage from the Aug 1, Day of FrAction protest march.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Mayor Woodside Speaks About Fracking in Fredericton

(Photo: City of Fredericton website)

Recently The Purple Violet Press has been in contact with City of Fredericton officials regarding the work of shale gas companies within city limits, it's potential of leading to fracking and where the city stands on the issue. The following is the latest comment Mayor Brad Woodside gave to this publication today via Twitter:

"FYI I was talking to the man in charge [SWN General Manager Tom Alexander] and there will be no fracking in Fredericton unless I know about it and there is none happening now."

The Purple Violet Press has followed up this correspondence and asked the mayor:  "So if you are notified, will you approve of it when/if it does happen?"

We await the mayor's response.

Cancelled Shale Gas Meeting for Municipalities Top Heavy with Government Presenters

The Purple Violet Press has received a copy of the agenda from the recent shale gas information session arranged by government for mayors and councillors from around the province on July 21. The meeting was to be held in Fredericton at UNB's Wu Conferene Centre, but was cancelled due to a lack of attendance numbers by municipal officials.

According to the agenda, the majority of information to be presented to the officials was by Natural Resources from members of the Natural Gas Group, a committee overseeing the industry in New Brunswick. These members and their duties at the meeting included: Mark Wies - Opening Remarks, Action Plan, Closing Remarks, Gary Mersereau - Meeting Planner, Agenda Process and Community Perspective, David Whyte - Environmental Perspective, Angie Leonard - Economic Perspective.

The lone non-committee member was Dr. Adrian Park of UNB, who was to present the Geology perspective. Park was also a part of the government's shale gas forum in Fredericton on June 23.

None of the shale gas companies currently working in the province were listed on the agenda to give a presentation, nor were any environmental or community groups.

DNR spokesperson Anne Bullmonteith has said there has been no decision on whether the meeting will be rescheduled at a later date.

The Natural Gas Group has been contacted for its perspective by The Purple Violet Press, but as yet, there has been no response. Mayor Brad Woodside was also contacted via Twitter, but also has yet to respond. We will publish their responses as soon as they are received.

UPDATE: The following is Mayor Woodside's response to our inquiry of whether he was scheduled to attend the July 21 meeting:  "No...my schedule from morning to night was full."

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

SECURITAS Responds...

The Purple Violet Press contacted SECURITAS head office in Moncton today for comment on the allegations of intimidation by one of it's officers towards local citizens recently in Penniac. Manager Jennifer Canning made the following statement:  "Due to reasons of confidentiality, we can't comment."

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Fracking firm says vandals won't stop it - New Brunswick - CBC News

Fracking firm says vandals won't stop it - New Brunswick - CBC News

Friends of UNB Woodlot Call Regulations "Sham"

- Meeting with Energy Minister Craig Leonard 

By Cheryl Norrad

Above is seen a portion of the UNB Woodlot. (Photo: Mark D'Arcy)

FREDERICTON - The Friends of the UNB Woodlot had a meeting in the capital city Monday with Energy Minister Craig Leonard. Concerned about shale gas development within city limits, the group cited the need for stringent watershed protection and called current regulations a "sham".

Mark D'Arcy, above, spokesperson, Friends of the UNB Woodlot. (Photo: Charles LeBlanc)

"I told him that our wetlands protection policy was a sham and that it gave us little comfort that promises of 'strict new protections' would be in place for shale gas development," said Mark D'Arcy, a spokesperson for The Friends of the UNB Woodlot group involved in the meeting with Leonard.

Leonard reiterated the province's position, D'Arcy said, promising that the government was committed to putting in place one of the strictest set of regulations for shale gas development anywhere in North America.

Above, Energy Minister Craig Leonard. (Photo: Craigleonardmla.ca)

Having witnessed firsthand since 2007 how provincial legislation and enforcement works in the capital city with the construction of Home Depot and Knowledge Park Drive through the middle of the woodlot, the group stressed to Leonard the need for real protection of provincial watersheds.

"We asked Mr. Leonard to implement watershed-based source protection at the provincial level in order to protect our drinking water," said D'Arcy.

One Company's Shale Gas Process from Beginning to End - Part 1: Site Selection

- video Chesapeake Energy Channel, courtesy of YouTube

Part 2: Well Pad Preparation

- video Chesapeake Energy Channel, courtesy of YouTube

Part 3: Fracking

- video Chesapeake Energy Channel, courtesy of YouTube

Part 4: Natural Gas Production & Marketing

- video Chesapeake Energy Channel, courtesy of YouTube

Part 5: Aqua Renew

- video Chesapeake Energy Channel, courtesy of YouTube

Part 6: Well Reclamation

- video Chesapeake Energy Channel, courtesy of YouTube

Shale Gas A Bridge Fuel to Cleaner Future?

- video from The Agenda with Steve Paikin, TV Ontario courtesy of YouTube

Shale Gas Issue Reaching House of Commons

SWN Responds to Vandalism and Intimidation Reports

Responding this afternoon to inquires from The Purple Violet Press, SWN General Manager, Tom Alexander, gave the following statement via email:

"Geokinetics, our subcontractor for the seismic exploration program, has hired security to assist operations across the province. They have experienced vandalism and threats to equipment and unfortunately, a few individuals have made threats to personal safety. Repairing vandalism and replacing equipment can be very costly and cause delays so security has been added to help avoid such incidents from occurring. That being said, we have asked Geokinetics to investigate the [intimidation] claim in your story. It is no one's intention for any aspect of our work to interfere with New Brunswickers enjoying the land as they normally would. I would also take this opportunity to add that the majority of the team's interactions during the field work have been respectful."

JD Irving communications official Mary Keith also responded a few moments ago to our inquiry regarding whether it was Irving equipment damaged in the act of vandalism over the weekend. Here is the response via email:

"I am not aware of any of our equipment involved in these vandalism incidences."

RCMP Report Damage to Seismic Equipment in Cumberland Bay

District 2 RCMP reported in a website press release yesterday, that seismic recording devices were vandalized over the weekend by one or more people in the area of Cumberland Bay. The mounties are asking for anyone with information to come forward.

The Purple Violet Press has asked SWN for comment since it is in that company's licensed area the vandalism took place. However, SWN has yet to reply. 

Security teams have been accompanying SWN seismic testing employees for some weeks now, but this is the first public mention of any vandalism to equipment. Since we have had no reply, it is assumed SWN employees lodged the complaint with the RCMP. Or perhaps it was JD Irving, since that company is also supplying SWN with seismic equipment. 

Above, a seismic recording device owned by Irving is being used around the province by SWN Resources to find potential shale gas deposits. (Photo: Ban Fracking NB)

The Purple Violet Press has contacted JDI and hopes to receive a reply on the matter soon.

This publication is aware that locals throughout SWN's licensed area have recently been removing markers placed by seismic exploration teams in areas showing potential for shale gas drilling, but no vandalism, confrontations or violence was a part of these removals, that we are aware of. These new reports of damaged equipment begin what seems an escalation of the opposition to the shale gas industry in New Brunswick.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Intimidation in Penniac on Weekend

By Cheryl Norrad

PENNIAC - Local Penniac resident Joe Stafford and wife Marjorie were with Stafford's brother on the weekend doing some ATV-ing in the area's backroads when they came across a SECURITAS truck blocking a road to the brother's camp. They wanted to go down the road to check on the camp that is situated along the public route. However, the group had difficulty accessing the road.

"A white truck from the private security firm SECURITAS was blocking the entry as we came upon it," said Marjorie Stafford. "Joe's brother went to drive around it and as he did, the SECURITAS truck backed up and almost hit him," she said.

Stafford's brother got past the truck, but the same thing happened when he and Marjorie attempted to pass.

"I was upset and went to speak to them, but the female guard on the passenger side rolled her window up and locked the door so I couldn't speak to her," said Joe Stafford.

Going around to the other side to the male security officer behind the wheel of the truck, Stafford voiced his frustration, but was admonished for being in the area by the officer, saying work was taking place and the Staffords shouldn't travel the road.

The group ignored the officer and went down the hill anyway to check on the camp, coming across no workers, but did encounter a bog caused by large vehicle tracks and they could hear a motor running in the distance. Seeing signs denoting explosive testing going on in the area, the group went no further.

Taking a different route to exit the road, the group encountered another SECURITAS truck. They asked one of the officers inside where the supervisor on site was so they could lay a complaint about the aggression of the officer at the other road.

Pointing down a nearby road, the officer said that's where the group could find the supervisor.

"When we got there we saw several vehicles with plates from Alberta, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick," said Marjorie Stafford. "There was also a SWN truck there," she said.

Joe Stafford demanded to know who the supervisor on site was and eventually, Ron Skeleton of SWN stepped up and said he was.

Stafford related what had happened with the SECURITAS officer, voicing his anger at the officer's attempts at intimidation with the truck in trying to prevent the group from accessing their land where the camp sits.

Stafford said Skeleton replied that shouldn't have happened; that it's not the policy of SWN to use such tactics to prevent locals from enjoying the woods.

Stafford said he will be contacting both companies to lodge a formal complaint. He wants to try to head off any future confrontations with security personnel to ensure it doesn't escalate into something violent.

"We understand they have a job to do," he said. "But that doesn't give them the right to intimidate us."

The Purple Violet Press contacted SWN General Manager Tom Alexander for comment and asked why security is required. We hope for a response soon.

New Blog Feature: Letters to the Editor

Having had it suggested and requested of us several times by our readers, The Purple Violet Press has decided to create a space for letters to the editor. You can find it by clicking on 'Letters to the Editor' below our title.

We hope that by providing this space, readers will respond with their opinions in a more formal manner. A comments section for each posting will remain in place for brief or more informal observations.

We are glad to give readers another way to communicate and inform each other of the issues that affect them and their quality of life. Send us your letters at thepurplevioletpress@gmail.com. Please see our Policy section above for guidelines.

Saturday, 23 July 2011


 - Calling For Ban in UNB Woodlot: "Don't Frack Our Forest."

By Cheryl Norrad

It has recently been discovered by concerned citizens that the UNB Woodlot, a portion of which is seen above, has been licensed for shale gas work within Fredericton city limits. (Photo: Mark D'arcy at www.elements.nb.ca)

FREDERICTON - After discovering shale gas exploration licenses on a Provincial Natural Resources map, The Friends of the UNB Woodlot want to make a presentation to Fredericton’s City Council and outline the reasons why such an activity is an unacceptable risk of contamination to the city's drinking water.

"Why was the public not told of this by city or provincial officials? Our watersheds and aquifer are literally surrounded by a 10-kilometre area of shale gas exploration licenses in all directions," said Mark D’Arcy, a spokesman of The Friends of the UNB Woodlot group. "This is an unacceptable risk to our drinking water. City Council will be asked to use the precautionary principle and ban this activity due to the risk of serious or irreversible damage to our aquifer. The City of Fredericton can ban high-impact industrial uses from within the city limits using an amendment of their Zoning Bylaw Z-2," he said.

Above, a Natural Resources map shows the areas licensed or leased for shale gas work in New Brunswick. The beige area covers the city of Fredericton, licensed to shale gas company SWN Resources. (DNR maps online)

The group of concerned citizens in Fredericton, NB is calling on the City of Fredericton to use their existing land use planning system to stop any future shale gas testing and drilling within the UNB Woodlot Forest. This 3800-acre forested wetland is the origin of four major watersheds that extend over the entire southside of Fredericton and part of New Maryland.

Above, City of Fredericton wetlands map outlining wetlands found within city limits. (Photo: Charles LeBlanc)

"It is beyond any notion of the precautionary principle that anyone would allow shale gas companies to drill vertical boreholes a mile down, drill horizontal laterals more than a mile across, and introduce cancer-causing chemicals under extremely high pressure, just outside the wellfield protection areas of the City of Fredericton and the Village of New Maryland," said D’Arcy.

Above, Mark D'Arcy of The Friends of the UNB Woodlot. (Photo: Charles Leblanc)

Since 2007, The Friends of the UNB Woodlot have been actively trying to prevent the fragmentation of the entire 3800-acre forested wetlands by the current development plans by UNB. The approval of shale gas exploration licenses only adds to their concern. City Council is going against its own environmental technical report of 1989 that clearly stated that the UNB Woodlot is an "environmentally sensitive area", which  "should be protected and enhanced".

"Our group has consistently spoken out against the destruction of these forested welands within our city limits. Our concerns are real, especially now that the NB Department of the Environment is using an outdated Natural Resources map that is missing more than 60% of the wetlands in this province," says Caroline Lubbe-D’Arcy, another member of the Friends of the UNB Woodlot.

Natural Resources welands map from NBGeomap Viewer, June 16, 2011. For an enhanced view go to the following link: http://www.snb.ca/geonb2/index.html

"If a wetland does not appear on this map, you can drain it, infill it, or drill it, all without the requirement of a Watercourse and Wetland Alternation Permit (WAWA), or if the wetland is more than 2 hectares in size, all without the requirement of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The public will not even have any government records to show that wetlands not shown on the map are being destroyed! Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney and Mayor Brad Woodside are turning a blind eye to this destruction," said Lubbe-D'Arcy.

Above, Caroline Lubbe-D'Arcy of The Friends of the UNB Woodlot. (Photo: Charles Leblanc)

"If the City of Fredericton and New Brunswick used a holistic, watershed-based approach to drinking water protection, it would have immediately raised red flags about any future shale gas development in the UNB Woodlot," said D’Arcy.

According to D'Arcy, watershed-based source protection should be implemented to protect New Brunswick’s sources of drinking water against contamination and depletion. A source protection plan for the City of Fredericton would protect not only the immediate recharge areas of wellfield protection areas, but also the intake protection zones, and vulnerable watershed areas that exist outside the city limits. The source protection plan is a "living document" that is continually updated with new information and safeguards.

"We need to have our municipal and provincial government rethink the development plans for the UNB Woodlot," said Lubbe-D’Arcy. "The cost to the public is becoming too great, especially with more severe rain storms of climate change. If our elected representatives choose to do nothing, we will continue to have increased government spending, increased property taxes, increased home and business property insurance rates, increased flood risk, decreased UNB alumni support, and decreased quality of life for our community and children. And now we have to contend with shale gas exploration in the future. Our response is a loud "Don’t Frack our Forest."

Although it is the weekend, City of Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside was reached via Twitter and offered the following comment on the situation: "Sorry, I did not know that, but have found that it [shale gas work] is not being done, at least that I'm aware of...Nobody has talked to me about this [Friends of UNB Woodlot claims people not told] and I am trying to find out if this [shale gas work] is being done or proposed in the City."

The Purple Violet Press has also put in e-mails to communications officials at both DNR and the Environment Department.

CCNB Fundraises @ Boyce Farmers Market

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick was taking donations for it's various programs and campaigns Saturday at the Boyce Farmers Market in Fredericton. The non-profit organization raises awareness on issues surrounding buying local produce, water conservation, forestry, climate and energy. Check them out at http://www.conservationcouncil.ca/

Kevin Matthews, Renewable Energy Project Coordinator at CCNB, takes donations for the organization at the Boyce Farmer's Market in Fredericton on Saturday. His costume is a reminder of the importance of the work bees do in the environment. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Leah Anstis, Local Foods Coordinator at CCNB, takes donations for the organization at the Boyce Farmer's Market in Fredericton on Saturday. Anstis promotes buying local NB-produced food to enhance the local economy and environment. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

CCNB Board Member Luc Walhain, right, came out to the Boyce Farmer's Market in Fredericton on Saturday with his son Remi, left, to help gather donations for the organization. Remi said he came out with his father because he wants to help with environmental issues. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

One Frederictonian's Opinion on Shale Gas Work Within City Limits

Friday, 22 July 2011

Steve Mueller, Southwestern Energy - Water Conservation

New Brunswick's Shale Gas Issue Going National

Late yesterday The Purple Violet Press got a call from Vanessa Greco, a reporter at CTV.ca. She's doing a story on the shale gas issue in New Brunswick. Looking for background information and contacts, she is currently in the research phase, but expects to have something on the CTV site soon. You can find it at this link:  http://www.ctv.ca/

The Purple Violet Press Asks...

This week it was learned by The Purple Violet Press that a provincial meeting by DNR's Natural Gas Group to educate New Brunswick's mayors and councillors was scheduled for Thursday, but was cancelled due to a lack of participants. There was no word on whether it would be re-scheduled.

Question: Given the importance of the shale gas issue to New Brunswickers, should the province's Natural Gas Group re-schedule a meeting with mayors and councillors from around the province as soon as possible, even if it means mayors and councillors have to cancel other plans?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thank you.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Blasphemous Rumors Part II: Meeting was Happening

The Purple Violet Press learned this morning that the provincial meeting informing municipal officials around the province on the facts about shale gas was indeed scheduled for Thursday. The Natural Gas Group, a government steering committee overseeing the shale gas industry in New Brunswick, said Natural Resources and the Environment Department arranged the meeting, but was cancelled after it was found not many would be in attendance. There is no word on whether the meeting will be re-scheduled at a later date.

Anne Bullmonteith, a communications advisor with DNR, gave the following response when The Purple Violet Press inquired about the meeting:

"I checked with the Natural Gas Group. I was unaware but yes, there had been a meeting arranged between staff at Natural Resources, as well as the Department of Environment to speak to municipal administrators about the shale gas file.

Meetings are regularly held with municipal administrators on a variety of government issues. 

Because we are in the middle of summer and the responses of those who could attend was low, the meeting has been cancelled. It may be re-scheduled but there is no date set..."

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Purple Violet Press on Global News

Global reporter Mayya Assouad makes The Purple Violet Press part of her analysis on the rumors and misinformation from both sides of the shale gas issue.

- video courtesy of Global News Maritimes at www.globalmaritimes.com

Editorial: The Issue of Fairness

“There’s some potential here but it’s pretty one sided which isn’t a hallmark of quality journalism.” – Anonymous commenter to the Purple Violet Press site

The Purple Violet Press received this missive in the comments section of one of its postings recently. We wanted to address it because that isn’t how we see it, nor would that be the perception by anyone who has taken the time to read through our postings.

This publication has attempted to be fair in its coverage of the shale gas issue, however, that isn’t always possible when those approached ignore queries, requests for interviews and submitted questions. When there is no comment by them, this publication can’t be reproached for not having tried.

As is often the case with other media outlets, they have stated those they’ve contacted for an interview were unavailable. This publication has done that. Scroll through and take a look.

Perhaps organizations preferring not to acknowledge The Purple Violet Press do so because they don’t see blogs as being professional or objective. We disagree. There is no reason why a blog can’t work alongside the mainstream media as a source of information. By conducting ourselves in a respectful manner with all parties involved in an issue, and reporting on it fairly, we believe it is possible.

Pulling together voices from all sides through print and video, our blog lends a unique perspective while educating the reader. And since we are a small operation, one issue is enough, especially one as big as shale gas in New Brunswick has become.

According to Navneet Alang at Techi.com, an online technology publication, the future of blogging is bright – and respectable:  

“Blogs are becoming places much more about content than the face behind it.”

We're growing and finding our way, striving to bring you interesting content from various aspects of the shale gas issue. Regardless of what anonymous armchair critics say.

Blasphemous Rumors: Meeting Not Happening

There is a rumor circulating the province is putting on an information session Thursday for municipal councillors and mayors to educate them on the facts of fracking. However, according to Anne Bullmonteith, a Natural Resources communications officer, she isn't aware of any meeting taking place. Since the shale gas industry in New Brunswick is in part overseen by Natural Resources, it's logical to assume if they aren't aware of it, it likely isn't happening. However, that isn't to say there may not be one in the future and The Purple Violet Press will continue to monitor the situation and report on it if it happens.

UPDATE: The Purple Violet Press received a response back moments ago from an inquiry to SWN about whether they've heard anything about such a meeting taking place. General Manager Tom Alexander said, "I am not aware of that." 

UPDATE II: The Purple Violet Press contacted the City of Fredericton to inquire whether Mayor Woodside is attending any meeting with the province on Thursday. According to his assistant, there is nothing in his schedule with the province that day.

Green Energy Industry Downside: Adverse Effects of Wind Turbines

- video compiled by Chris Gillis courtesy of YouTube, song titled 'Mad World' by Gary Jules

Monday, 18 July 2011

Carl Urquhart, MLA York, on the Fracking Issue

- video courtesy of Charles LeBlanc

City of Fredericton Environment Committee Chairman Unaware SWN in Town

Mayor, Water and Sewer Manager not Concerned 

By Cheryl Norrad

FREDERICTON - Fredericton city councillor and chair of the city's environment committee, Eric Megarity, was unaware shale gas company SWN has exploration rights in the city until asked about it on the weekend.

"I wasn't aware of it [SWN exploration] until it was mentioned to me," said Megarity.

Contacted by The Purple Violet Press on Saturday, the publication wanted to  know what Councillor Megarity's reaction was to a report out last week by the NB Media Co-Op stating SWN has a license to do work in the UNB Woodlot and northside areas.

Megarity looked into the matter and found indeed, SWN is licensed to do seismic exploration within city limits, adding the city is working on finding out more.

"We are currently trying to ascertain the situation," said Megarity.

It is thought by many the cities are exempt from shale gas work in the provincial agreement with shale gas companies. However, in New Brunswick, mineral rights underground are owned by the Crown not the landholder, no matter if private or municipal, leaving cities vulnerable to possible fracking if shale gas is found.

Fredericton falls within the area mapped for shale gas exploration by SWN, stretching across the southern half of the province from the east coast around Moncton, to the southwestern area near St. Andrews.

Above, the large beige area stretching east to southwest is the exploration license region granted to shale gas company SWN by the province. The area includes Fredericton. The map is courtesy of DNR. 

Although Megarity was unaware of the situation, Neil Thomas, the city's water and sewer manager is aware but wasn't concerned when contacted last week by The Purple Violet Press.

"I don't believe the work [seismic exploration] being done at the moment is an issue for us...I'm not concerned at this point, but we are monitoring the situation...we meet with consultants from DNR to be apprised of work being done," he said.

Thomas also stated the city's aquifers aren't in the bedrock, but sit high above it, out of harm's way of drilling, if it should occur. 

Confident the city's treatment facilities can catch any changes in the water supply, Thomas added there are mechanisms in place to do so.

"We routinely monitor the quality of the water during the treatment process in person and automatically. There are a series of checks and balances in place," he said. 

Fredericton's Mayor, Brad Woodside, is also confident in the city's water monitoring process.

"We have a good system in the city. The taxpayers invested a lot of money in it...Fredericton was used as an example in the Walkerton case about getting it right," he said. 

Mayor Woodside noted the province has done its research and put regulations in place to deal with problems up front, although he's not well-versed on what they are and acknowledges the city has no control.

"Whatever the government does, it better do it right," he said.

The Purple Violet Press contacted SWN and DNR for comment on the NB Media Co-Op piece, however, inquires went unanswered.

UPDATE:  The Purple Violet Press received the following response from SWN General Manager Tom Alexander late this afternoon:

"Technically, the UNB woodlot is within one of our licence areas. However, we are not conducting any activities on the UNB woodlot and have no plans for any work on the UNB woodlot. If we were to choose to pursue anything in the future, anything within city limits would require the permission of city council.  As well, all of our operations are reviewed and thoroughly vetted by the appropriate provincial authorities and when required, public consultation is conducted. We understand and accept that some areas will be excluded from certain operations and will gladly avoid such areas. SWN Resources Canada will at all times strive to meet or exceed all rules and regulations."

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Anti-Shale Gas Protest Today in Capital

FREDERICTON - Members of the Penniac Anti-Shale Gas Organization (PASGO) held a small protest and handed out information packets to the public today at the Boyce Farmer's Market in Fredericton. The group was trying to raise the level of awareness on the subject of the shale gas industry in New Brunswick amongst the urban population. PASGO organizer Joe Stafford reported 400 packets were given out to the public and approximately 150 signatures taken down on an anti-shale gas petition to be sent to the Premier's office.

Joey Saindon and Marjorie Stafford of PASGO protest near the Boyce Farmer's Market in Fredericton today, trying to raise awareness of the shale gas issue among urban dwellers. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Maude McSorley of PASGO protests near the Boyce Farmer's Market today in Fredericton. The group is trying to raise awareness of the shale gas issue among the urban population. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

PASGO member Sharon Levesque hands out an information packet to a Fredericton local while discussing the issue of the shale gas industry in New Brunswick. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Anna Saindon, member of PASGO,  protests shale gas in New Brunswick today in Fredericton at the Boyce Farmer's Market. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Tourist Dorothy Utnik of Rome, New York took part in the PASGO anti-shale gas protest today at the Boyce Farmer's Market in Fredericton. Utnik is an anti-shale gas community organizer in Rome and decided to take part when she came upon the protest today. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Penniac Emergency Meeting: Ways to Deal With Shale Gas Seismic Crews in Area

Maliseet Grand Council pledges support and muscle

By Cheryl Norrad

PASGO members Joe Stafford, left, and Eric Hadley, right, listen to community members voice there concerns at the group's emergency meeting in Penniac on Wednesday evening. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

PENNIAC - An estimated crowd of 100 locals packed an emergency meeting held by the Penniac Anti-Shale Gas Organization (PASGO) at the Penniac Recreational Centre on Wednesday evening. The group called the meeting to discuss measures community members can take against shale gas exploration crews now working in the area.

"Keep it civil, don't contemplate anything illegal...stop crews in a non-confrontational manner," meeting chair Eric Hadley advised at the beginning of the discussion.

Helping Hadley conduct the meeting, PASGO member Joe Stafford informed the crowd the organization is forming a network of community watch groups, asking them to sign a contact list at the back of the room for those who wanted to participate.

"We need to get groups together to intercept trucks, get in their way and slow them down," said Stafford.

After discussing a few more measures such as a letter-writing campaign to the local MLA and getting information pamphlets out to the public, Stafford turned the floor over to a member of the Maliseet Grand Council, also on hand to discuss strategy in dealing with shale gas exploration companies.

Maliseet Grand Council member Ron Tremblay participated in the PASGO strategy meeting Wednesday evening in Penniac. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

"Be more aggressive about telling crews to leave the area because you people live here, it's your territory," said Ron Tremblay to murmurs of agreement in the crowd. "Don't let the trucks through."

Outlining the tactics of First Nations, Tremblay said there are three levels of reason with opponents on an issue. 

"We reason with them once, even twice, but by the third time there is no reason...the big guys take over,"  he said.

Tremblay, attending the meeting at the behest of clan elder Alma Brooks, pledged the Council's support to the Penniac people, whereupon the anxious crowd erupted into applause.

As locals talked amongst themselves after the meeting closed, business owner and former provincial NDP candidate, Sharon Levesque, said it was time to get things going.

"People have to get together and stop the government from rolling over," she said.

Levesque also went on to question the job local MLA Kirk MacDonald is doing on this issue, having had no reply from him to her letters about the shale gas industry in New Brunswick.

"He has to stand up for the people who voted him in; he's going to lose his seat if he doesn't stand up," she said.

Anna Saindon also attended the meeting, one of the rare under 30 faces in the crowd, who pointed out a sad irony for many in the room.

"We moved here for a quiet life, we want to stay here. Now we have to deal with this," she said.

Shale Gas Comes to Bon Temps on True Blood TV Show

- video clip property of HBO Entertainment courtesy of YouTube

Don and Mary MacDonald from Stanley Chat with Charles LeBlanc about Fracking

- video used with permission from Charles LeBlanc's Other Blog

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Sacred Native Water Ceremony Powerful Experience

By Cheryl Norrad

A view of the St. John river from the old Native burial grounds in Fredericton on Saturday. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

FREDERICTON - Looking out on the placid waters of the St. John River as nearby birch trees rustle quietly in the wind, the old Native burial grounds in Fredericton sit covered in lush green grass, outlined by stout bushy hedges that soften city noise.  For centuries this place has given spirits peaceful rest, and been an oasis of quiet contemplation for the living.

A banquet tent acts as a traditional Native longhouse for the sacred water ceremony at the old Native burial grounds in Fredericton on Saturday. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Last Saturday, on those grounds next door to stately government house, a large white banquet tent substituted as a traditional First Nations longhouse. Inside a group of women numbering over 50 stood solemnly arranged in a circle. They surrounded a large copper pot resting on a wooden bench covered in a royal blue blanket. Beside the pot was a cluster of cedar leaves and a wood-carved smudge bowl.

The women who came to this place were from different races and walks of life, bringing with them flasks of water that flow through the lands where they live. There was a young homesteading mother swaying gently to the ceremonial drum as she nursed her wide-eyed baby. A thoughtful group of teenage girls from white and Native backgrounds were side by side. Twenty-something university bachelorettes were shoulder to shoulder with young wives. Middle-aged professional women stood alongside their baby boomer counterparts, who lent their experience from the passionate sixties. All listened intently to the wise tribal grandmother in charge of a ceremony offering thanks to Mother Earth and her life-giving water.

Respected First Nations elder Alma Brooks of the Maliseet Grand Council speaks during the sacred water ceremony on the old Native burial grounds in Fredericton on Saturday. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

“The water you bring symbolizes the water you carry life in inside for nine months,” said Alma Brooks, respected elder and member of the Maliseet Grand Council.  “The same pure water from rivers, lakes and streams of the Earth.”

Stanley Paul conducts the ritual smudging as part of the sacred water ceremony on the old Native burial grounds in Fredericton on Saturday. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

The ceremony began with a ritual smudging to purify the women in the circle. Moving somberly from woman to woman waving an eagle feather, Native smudger Stanley Paul sent curls of smoke rising from a wooden smudge bowl wafting towards each one. They reached out and gently washed their faces with the smoke, then turned with their backs to Paul to ensure both sides of their bodies were purified. As Paul went around the circle, Native drummer Ron Tremblay beat a hand-held deerskin drum and sang a native chant, giving goose bumps to those on hand, some of whom were having their first experience with Native culture up close.

The women gather their flasks and circle the fire as part of the sacred water ceremony on the old Native burial grounds in Fredericton on Saturday. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

The ritual completed, the women followed Brooks in single file outside the tent to the sacred fire. They picked up their flasks, circling the fire several times while it carried their prayers for the Earth’s water to the ancestors.

Returning to the longhouse, the women were in a circle once again while Brooks blessed the water. “The water is everything, nothing can live without water…the Earth is a living, spiritual being as we are…the water we pour into this pot is like the tears we cry for our mother Earth,” she said.

A woman looks at some of the water she brought from her home area with reverence as she partakes in the sacred water ceremony at the old Native burial grounds in Fredericton on Saturday. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

As each woman came forth with her flask, she could give testimony about her water, where it was from and her hopes for its future preservation. Some simply poured the water without speaking, others were moved to tears.

“This is rainwater I collected near my home because my well has been ruined…” said one woman, her voice breaking.

“This water comes from the mighty Miramichi,” said another. “May she always be mighty.”

One by one they poured: St. Ignace, Cornhill, the Tobique, Salisbury, the list went on. Rainwater, well water, river water, brook water, it all went in; mixing together like the waters that flow throughout the Earth.

As she closed the ceremony, Brooks said, “The ancestors looked after it [the water] for us. If we stop polluting mother Earth she will cleanse herself.”

Gradually the circle of women broke off with them drifting outside the longhouse where it was announced lunch was ready. Many walked in silence to the enclosure for the meal; lost in thought about the powerful ceremony they had just witnessed.

“I was so moved I could hardly get words out,” said Wendy Clowater.

So powerful was the sacred water ceremony at the old burial grounds in Fredericton on Saturday, twin brothers Luc and Cody Richard of St. Ignace abruptly stopped their play to watch the women around the fire. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

The Nays Have It

Results of The Purple Violet Press poll on the question, If it can be done responsibly, do New Brunswickers want an oil and gas industry or not?

Total votes cast:  120

Yea: 21

Nay: 99

The yeas comprise 17 per cent of total votes while the nays are 82 per cent of the total votes.

The Purple Violet Press conducted the poll after the question was posed by SWN Communications advisor Louis Legere at the SWN open house meeting in Durham Bridge.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Native Drummer Ron Tremblay at Sacred Water Ceremony

- Video property of The Purple Violet Press. To reproduce, copy or distribute, contact The Purple Violet Press for permission.

Muskrat Singers at Sacred Water Ceremony

Video property of The Purple Violet Press. To reproduce, copy or distribute, contact The Purple Violet Press for permission.

Native Sacred Water Ceremony: Quoted...

“The women were asked to bring water [for the ceremony] from the areas they represent and to symbolize how women carry children beneath their heart for nine months in water; the same pure water they drink in rivers, lakes and streams.”
Alma Brooks, respected elder and Maliseet Grand Council member

“The ceremony is powerful; it unites us as one. There are no differences here; we’re here for the water.
- Ron Tremblay, member Maliseet Grand Council, water ceremony drummer

“It was a wonderful ceremony and it was a good thing Alma had a big pot!”
- David Coon, Executive Director, Conservation Council of New Brunswick

“…it’s unusual in western tradition for a ceremony to be dominated by women…The First Nations community reminds me how western culture has turned things on their head in the New World…”
- Janice Harvey, President, New Brunswick Green Party

“I am grateful and honored to be counted among those gathered here in a common cause in protecting and preserving what we have in this province.”
- Armand Paul, Spokesperson, Penniac Anti-Shale Gas Organization

“We’re [Ban Fracking NB website] not looking for just shale gas company SWN to be banned, but all of the natural gas exploration companies and the entire process.”
- Melissa Gallant, Administrator, Ban Fracking NB website

“It’s actually a good thing Bethany Thorne-Dykstra made the decision she did for two reasons: one, people are now coming out of the woodwork who didn’t actually support her…and two, the rest of the other groups don’t have to compromise with her. We can now work for a full ban and not have to consider the moratorium.”
Jim Enberger, Taymouth Community Association

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Maliseet Grand Council Sacred Water Ceremony

Wendy Clowater empties a bottle of Miramichi river water into a copper pot at the Native water ceremony in Fredericton earlier today. People from all over the continent were on hand to give thanks to Mother Earth for her water. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

About 200 people were in attendance today at the sacred water ceremony on the old Native burial grounds near government house in Fredericton. Although organized by the local Maliseet Grand Council, First Nations from all across North America were on hand at the event. Also present were French and English peoples young and old, environmentalists, band councilors, and the plain curious. The ceremony gave thanks to Mother Earth for providing her water to sustain human life. It also allowed people the opportunity to voice their concerns about the effects of industry on nature, especially the burgeoning shale gas industry in New Brunswick. The Purple Violet Press will have more to come on the ceremony over the next few days. For now, we've posted the images below for a sampling of the goings-on at the ceremony.

Alma Brooks leads women around the fire in the sacred water ceremony today at the old Native burial grounds near government house in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Native ceremony guide Gkisedtanamoogk speaks to the crowd today at the old Native burial grounds near government house in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Native drummer Ron Tremblay of the Maliseet Grand Council helps out the clan mothers today during the sacred water ceremony in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Members of the Muskrat Singers keep time on the drum as they sang and chanted at the sacred water ceremony on the old Native burial grounds today in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Above some of the estimated 200 people on hand for today's sacred water ceremony at the old Native burial grounds in Fredericton pause for lunch and fellowship. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

The local chapter of the Raging Grannies participated in today's sacred water ceremony put on by Natives today in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Friday, 8 July 2011

Penniac Anti-Shale Gas Organization's Response to Bethany Thorne-Dykstra's Reversal

The Penniac Anti-Shale Gas Organization is one of the 11 groups still working for a ban on the industry in New Brunswick. The following is the PASGO reaction to the about face Wednesday by the leader of Citizens for Responsible Resource Development, Bethany Thorne-Dykstra, to join the government in overseeing shale gas development.

Press Release - Penniac Anti-Shale Gas Organization

Like many others, we in the Penniac Anti-Shale-Gas Organization are both surprised and mystified by the sudden reversal of position by the president of Citizens for Responsible Resource Development. We understand that the group’s constitution includes a call for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until there is scientific proof that it is not harmful.
All the scientific evidence so far available indicates that fracking is very dangerous, so this new stand seems to be directly contrary to the group’s official constitution. No wonder there’s so much speculation about what might have motivated such a sea change in that group’s objectives.
In our opinion, the government’s announcement of new regulations changes very little. Nobody would trust the results if the gas companies get to conduct the baseline well testing. That should be done by independent labs, and simply paid for by the gas companies.
Having the gas companies disclose which poisonous and carcinogenic chemicals they plan to use is pointless, unless the government does some research and tells the companies what chemicals they can and cannot use. There’s nothing like that indicated in the new regulations.
And a security bond for compensating property owners is a pretty clear acknowledgement that our government fully understands that therewill be problems, and property owners will experience damage and loss. 
Finally, the promise to pay a share of royalties to communities and land owners who agree to have wells on their property is a transparent attempt to buy support for a dangerous industry that simply cannot be undertaken without causing damage.
The promised regulations do not even address the detrimental effects that are guaranteed to occur in New Brunswick, as they have everywhere the shale gas industry has touched:
·     Industrialization of the landscape, with wellheads, pipelines and storage tanks popping up wherever there’s a well;
·      Increased industrial traffic, with more than a thousand tanker trucks of potable water rolling in for fracking every well;
·     Trucking and storage of dangerous chemicals at every well site, and there could be as many as 5,000 wells in our province;
·     24-hour-a-day noise during the fracking process from compressors that sound like a roaring jet engine.
 As for the accusation of special-interest groups frightening people with information about what the shale gas industry has done elsewhere, that much is true. Groups such as the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and the many anti-shale-gas community groups have been giving people real information, and it is very frightening. The “special interest” of these groups is the health and well-being of all New Brunswickers, and the protection of their homes, property and water supplies. If that’s fear-mongering, I guess we’re guilty.

The Penniac Anti-Shale-Gas Organization continues to call for an outright ban of the shale gas industry in New Brunswick, because we believe that the risks it presents are too great, and inescapable. We will continue to tell our neighbours about what could happen to all of us if this dangerous industry is allowed to develop here.

Armand A. Paul
Spokesperson, Penniac Anti-Shale-Gas Organization

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Citizen Group No Longer Calling for Moratorium on Shale Gas Fracking

By Cheryl Norrad

Bethany Thorne-Dykstra, left, attends a news conference with Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup yesterday where she stated her group, The Citizens for Responsible Resource Development, has changed its position on shale gas fracking in New Brunswick. (Photo: Government of New Brunswick)

Media around the province are reporting today that a leader of an anti-shale gas fracking community group has changed position and is no longer calling for a moratorium on the industry in New Brunswick.

Bethany Thorne-Dykstra, head of Citizens for Responsible Resource Development, shocked anti-fracking groups around the province yesterday in a press conference with Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup, by coming out in support of government regulations recently put in place to tighten up oversight on the industry.

"We are willing to meet the government half-way by dropping our request for a moratorium," said Thorne-Dykstra.

In dropping the call for a moratorium, Thorne-Dykstra's group now expects to be part of the steering committee overseeing the development of the shale gas industry in New Brunswick.

Although Thorne-Dykstra claims the group has 650 members,  it's Facebook page shows only nine members so far.

Followers of the anti-shale gas Facebook site, Ban Hydraulic Fracturing In New Brunswick, Canada, registered their dismay with Thorne-Dykstra.They were baffled as to why Thorne-Dykstra did an about face on the issue. Sal Cunliffe asked on the same site, "why, why, why Bethany?"

A member of Hampton Water First, Carl Wolpin, said Thorne-Dykstra doesn't represent other anti-shale gas community groups around the province, and he wasn't aware of her group until yesterday. Wolpin questions Thorne-Dykstra's support from members of Citizens for Responsible Resource Development, wondering if she spoke to them or just made the decision unilaterally.

In a conferene call Wednesday evening, Wolpin and the other groups resolved to continue to ask the government for a moratorium on the industry in the province.

- with files from cbc.ca/nb

Post script:  Several members of Thorne-Dykstra's group, Citizens for Responsible Resource Development, are formally disengaging their membership through notification of her and Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup. The former members hope by doing so, Thorne-Dykstra will lose her credibility and be removed from DNR's steering committee on the shale gas industry.