Don’t downplay fracking’s risks

Don't downplay fracking's risks Open letter to Ron Sumanik, Yukon's director of oil and gas resources: I was not reassured by your equating the risks of fracking to the risk of driving a car to work. (The News, April 15.) Driving, where someone statisti

Open letter to Ron Sumanik, Yukon’s director of oil and gas resources:

I was not reassured by your equating the risks of fracking to the risk of driving a car to work. (The News, April 15.) Driving, where someone statistically has a high likelihood of arriving safely, has little relation to many undisputed adverse consequences caused by fracking.

According to Wikipedia, in Canada, road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year, is six. Total fatalities: 2075, in latest year of World Health Organization data (2011). As you say, that is a reassuringly low level of risk, made even more so because people usually can avoid an accident if they drive safely.

The word “risk” also conveys a possibility of an acceptable outcome. Wikipedia defines “risk management” as the “identification, assessment and prioritization of risks … followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor and control the probability and/or impact of unfortunate events or to maximize the realization of opportunities. Risk management’s objective is to assure uncertainty does not deviate the endeavour from the business goals.”

I can imagine all too easily that the government has instructed you to assure uncertainty does not deviate us from the government’s goals, which in this case are evidently include getting fracking inside the territory somehow or other. However, it would make me feel a lot safer as a citizen if you acknowledged the legitimate serious consequences, as distinct from risks, posed by fracking. Particularly to water, which you seemed to gloss over.

Lois Moorcraft pointed out in the legislature last week, as so many others have, that fracking permanently contaminates millions of litres of water. We know that northeastern B.C., just adjacent to the Liard basin, is already suffering a shortage of water. We know a global water shortage is imminent. We know that people cannot survive without water.

We also know that industry and government cannot prevent this contamination even with the best regulations, and that attempts to deal safely with fracking wastewater and flowback are a big issue in the industry.

How can you justify saying yes to permanently polluting so much water when our global water supply is in grave danger?

You address health risks more fully in your remarks. Yet adverse impacts of fracking also include inadvertent leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, at many points of production, into the atmosphere. We cannot afford this consequence either.

As well, new studies confirm almost daily that health risks are either as bad as feared, or still poorly understood, and that adequate safeguards for people’s health just aren’t there! Many people know this, yet you want a very informed population to trust you simplistically as “safe drivers,” capable of minimizing risk?

Seems to me more like unsafe driving – or inadequately protected sex. In both cases, “trust me” seldom works. Myself, I prefer 100 per cent safeguards on such intimate issues as the health of my body and my biosphere.

Susan Gwynne-Timothy

Marsh Lake