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  • Sharon Sawyer
    January 21, 2014 - 08:58

    As I read the cover story in the January 18 edition of the Guardian, I was quite taken aback by the clear pro-oil and gas industry bias of what was purportedly a news story and not an editorial commentary. It was clear from the first sentence that the author is strongly biased in favour of fracking. Yes, it is true that "when it comes to using natural resources no one would confuse P.E.I. for Alberta." This is why tourists spend time and money to visit our beautiful island and don't tend to play on the beaches of settling ponds in the shale pits near Ft. McMurray. The author further quotes one Sheri Somerville as saying, "Many of the chemicals that are used are found in common household items." What she does not say is that many of these chemicals are proven carcinogens. If island residents were to discharge these proven cancer-causing poisons, like the ethylbenzene and methanol mix mentioned, into the water supply they would likely be charged under the criminal code. The oil and gas lobby, however, seems to think poisoning our water supply is just a harmless activity and nothing to be concerned about! In fact, safe handling guidelines for ethyl benzene in methanol require eye protection, protective clothing, gloves and use of a respirator. If this chemical escapes into the air or is absorbed into the skin, the handler risks cancer and infertility or birth defects in unborn children. (Reference: "Spectrum Laboratory Products" https://www.spectrumchemical.com/MSDS/TCI-S0646.pdf) Given the island's current high cancer rates, is this something we should encourage? Cement casing around the steel structures will not prevent the escape of these chemicals over the years. Common sense tells us that cement under high pressure, and even under normal wear, cracks and breaks over time. Sheri Somerville is identified as the natural gas adviser for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers who claimed that hydraulic fracturing has been done "safely" for "more than 60 years." Though her title sounds quite impressive and authoritative, we must keep in mind that she is a spokesperson for the oil exploration companies who are likely paying her well to advance their financial interests. She does not necessarily have the health interests of islanders foremost in her mind. Finally, this controversy is emerging even as potato farmers are lobbying for permission to drill deeply for irrigation water and the fresh water supplies for Charlottetown are drying up. We have a very limited supply of fresh water on PEI. Fracking requires massive amounts of fresh water to fracture shale. Where will this water come from and what will island residents have to drink? Our water supply is already in crisis. Fracking would prove disastrous to life on PEI.