University hosts special SACPA session on fracking

The University of Lethbridge will host a special session of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs Thursday night, 7 p.m. in PE264.

Should a Moratorium and a Full Scale Environmental Assessment Precede Any Further Development Using Hydraulic Fracturing? That is the question that guest speaker Jessica Ernst will debate.

Ernst is an environmental scientist with 30 years of oil patch experience. Her career and personal experience make her uniquely qualified to talk about drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Ernst must haul water from outside sources because her well has been poisoned by unnatural and dangerous concentrations of methane gas and other industrial toxins.

She filed legal action against EnCana (a large oil and gas company), the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) which approves energy projects in Alberta and the Alberta Government for their responsibility. In May, 2011 Ernst was invited to New York to present her case and to make recommendations to governments at the United Nations 19th Commission on Sustainable Development. On October 1, 2011, UNANIMA International, a UN Economic and Social Council NGO, presented Ernst with its annual "Woman of Courage" award in New York, at the Church Center of United Nations.

Much of the general public know little or nothing about hydraulic fracturing (fracking), an increasingly popular, but controversial technique of drilling for oil and natural gas. Fracking involves vertical and sometimes horizontal drilling into coal bed, or shale rock using extreme pressure for the fracture treatments. Anywhere from 200,000 to 1500,000 liters of water and various stimulation and fracturing fluids, and from 75,000 to 320,000 pounds of propellant are consumed during a typical hydraulic fracture of a single well.

Fracturing fluids can contain chemicals toxic to humans and wildlife, chemicals that are known to cause cancer. These include diesel fuel, which contains benzene, which in very small quantities can cause cancer and are capable of contaminating millions of gallons of water. Drilling chemicals can be more toxic than fracturing chemicals. The speaker will relate her experiences with fracking in her community of Rosebud, Alberta and her fight to bring the many issues associated with drilling and fracking to the public.