Monday, 28 November 2011

Letter to the Editor - Fishing for shale gas red herring

The shale gas drilling media conversation has become a carefully managed theatrical event orchestrated by government and industry. Their message is controlled by filtering what issues will be discussed and what will be ignored. The mainstream media have been complicit in allowing industry to frame the conversation.

Industry wants to keep the conversation focused on water contamination because it's difficult to legally establish a link between shale gas drilling activity and water contamination. Water contamination is only the tip of the iceberg of the environmental and economic degradation that is threatened. Our province's recent guest Calvin Tillman from Dish, Texas pointed out that dangerous air pollution has been associated with the shale industry in communities where this industry has been in production, Canada included.

Another area where industry wants the conversation focused is that fracking takes place a mile in the ground. What concerns opponents about this industry is party what is going on a mile down, but the primary concerns are the environmental risks at the wellhead and the other above-ground activities.

Our mainstream media have paid much attention to our government's claim that we will have the strongest regulations on the continent. Their readers would be better served if inquiries were made about specific details about these regulations. As, for example, if air quality will be monitored and for what chemicals? Do we have an air quality standard and what levels of these chemicals will be allowed in our air? How many regulators will be hired at what cost? How will NB's regulatory regime be compared to other districts? Have other districts' efforts effectively  protected the environment?

In a true democracy the media acts as a check against government and industrial tyranny. It is time for our mainstream media to glance beyond where industry wants their attention and do some responsible journalism the serves the people of NB.

Paul Melanson
Rexton, NB