MOST RECENT MEDIA RELEASE
For Immediate Release
October 4, 2013
How can the New Brunswick government proceed with their extremely divisive shale gas development plans?
The research report they commissioned and use as their pillar of support, is simply not credible.
As quoted in the Telegraph Journal today, Premier Alward says “the Tory government remains committed to developing the province’s shale gas resources,” while acknowledging that “the New Brunswick Energy Institute faces a ‘perceived lack of credibility’ in the wake of controversy surrounding the academic credentials of Louis LaPierre and his subsequent resignation from the independent body meant to provide trusted research on the shale gas industry.”
It is not just the Institute that is facing a credibility issue. And it is not “perceived” — the credibility gap is so large at this point, it is best described as a vacuum. The research that was done under contract to the Government of New Brunswick by Dr. Louis LaPierre is not credible, and this same research is the basis of the government’s shale gas development plan.
Yesterday, the New Brunswick Ombudsman, Charles Murray, was asked to intervene to stop shale gas development in a petition duly signed by 29 New Brunswickers. Notice of this was sent to media contacts across the region, but it got buried in the other news of the day regarding the injunction obtained by Southwestern Energy to stop protests, and the Premier’s announcements from Saint John.
What has happened to human rights in this province?
- For about six months, the Ombudsman’s Office has been sitting on a thick file of appeals from many hundreds of New Brunswickers, concerning the government’s unfair decision to put us at risk of serious harm by promoting deep shale gas and oil mining industrial development in this province.
- Yesterday, non-violent environmental activists were told by the court to let the industry have their way with Kent County, or we will be arrested.
- A member of the group Anti-Fracking Moncton attempted this morning to see the affidavits which SWN used to get this injunction, and was told they were not in the file.
Our only remaining hope for justice is through the Ombudsman’s Office.
The attached document includes both the media release that went out yesterday as well as the lengthy letter of appeal that was sent to the Ombudsman’s Office yesterday, both by email and registered mail.
– 30 –
FIRST MEDIA RELEASE
For Immediate Release
October 3, 2013
Pour diffusion immediate (French text follows)
Shale Gas Activity is Based on Discredited Dr. Louis LaPierre’s Report:
Angry New Brunswickers Petition Province’s Ombudsman for Investigation
A group of twenty-nine (29) individuals representing sixteen (16) rural and urban communities in southern and central New Brunswick have jointly petitioned the Province’s Ombudsman, Charles Murray, to investigate the process behind the decision to grant licences to test for shale gas deposits. “Our natural environment is under attack from so many threats we simply cannot afford to make any more major mistakes. If invalid research has been used to make environmental policy decisions, this research must be reviewed immediately and rectified. We urge your Office to act on this matter at once, for the sake of all future generations in New Brunswick,” the petitioners said in a joint statement.
The petitioners – all residents, voters and taxpayers of this Province – have made a formal written complaint to the Ombudsman via registered mail. They have serious doubts about the merit of Dr. LaPierre’s recommendations in The Path Forward, in light of questions about his integrity, expertise and education. They are concerned about errors of omission and commission that may have resulted in invalid or biased findings that were used by the government to formulate policies that may be hazardous to the health of New Brunswickers and the environment.
The petitioners ask the Ombudsman to protect the public from risk of harm by using his powers under the Ombudsman Act to investigate the work done by Dr. Louis LaPierre while he was under contract to Minister of Energy Craig Leonard. As a preliminary measure, the petitioners have asked Ombudsman Murray to immediately recommend to the Premier and Government of the Province that an interim moratorium be placed on all activities associated with the testing for, exploration of, or development of, shale gas and oil, until a full investigation has been completed.
Ann Pohl, 506-785-2998 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald McDonald, 506-367-2446
Marilyn Lerch, 506-536-4245
LETTER TO NB OMBUDSMAN
Office of the Ombudsman
Attn: Charles Murray, Ombudsman
P. O. Box 6000 Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1 Canada
Also transmitted by email: email@example.com
Dear Mr. Murray:
Pursuant to s. 13(1) of the Ombudsman Act RSNB 1973 c. O-5 (referred to as “the Act” going forward), we the undersigned are petitioning you:
James Lane and Nancy Alcox, 301 Stephenson Road, Bass River, N.B., E4T1E7
- Sam Arnold, 110 College Street, Woodstock, NB., E7M1K6
- Ronald Batt and Leslie (J.) Chandler, 60 Castle Drive, Moncton, N.B., E1A6M1
- Gordon W Dalzell, 32 Dorothea Drive, Saint John, N.B., E2L3V9
- Wayne Dryer, 176 Sydney Street. Saint John, N.B., E2L2M4
- Meredith Fisher, 8 University Place, Sackville, N.B., E4L4M9
- Severin Fontaine, 10485 rue Principale, Saint-Louis-de-Kent, N.B., E4X1E6
- Janet Hammock and Marilyn Lerch, 14 Devon Avenue, Sackville, N.B., E4L3W2
- Janet Kidd, 46 Stockdale Road, Darlings Island, N.B., E5N6P4
- Richard Lachance, 3821 Route 535, Cocagne, N.B., E4R3E8.
- Mary de La Valette, 204 Porter Cove Road, Porter Cove, N.B., E9C2J8
- Donald McDonald, 4768 Route 620, Limekiln, N.B., E6B1G2
- Donna McLellan, 7 Silvershore Drive, Sackville, N.B., E4L1M7
- Grace Morris, 3535 Route 510, Ford’s Mills, N.B., E4T1X4
- Ann Pohl, 679 Fishing Club Road, Bass River, N.B., E4T1H3
- Christopher & Sally Reibling,142 Mount Pleasant Ave., Saint John, N.B., E2K3V1
- Roy Ries and Ethel Duffy, 394 Mary’s Point Road, Harvey, N.B., E4H2N4
- Baden and Dorothy Sexton, 17 Hilltop Drive, Doaktown, N.B., E9C1W7
- Margo Sheppard, 231 Winslow Street, Fredericton, N.B., E3B2A2
- Derek Simon, 1937 Route #3, Harvey Station, N.B., E6K2N3
- David P. Thomas, c/o 221 Avard-Dixon, 144 Main St., Sackville, N.B., E4L1A7
- Judith A. Weiss, Ph.D., 15 Wellington Street, Sackville, N.B., E4L4N7
- Brad Walters, 477 Route 935, Wood Point, N.B., E4L2K4
to investigate all relevant documentation and persons involved in the decision to engage the services of Dr. Louis LaPierre and the decision to grant licenses to SWN Resources and any other company or companies involved in the seismic testing for shale gas in the Province of New Brunswick.
You have the authority as an officer of the Legislative Assembly (section 2(b) of the Act) and pursuant to the scope of your authority as set out in Schedule A to the Act, to investigate the relevant provincial government departments and members of the Executive Council (including the Premier and Minister of the Environment and Local Government) and all relevant agencies, including that of which Dr. LaPierre was head of prior to his resignation. You also have broad powers pursuant to section 19(1) of the Act to access all relevant information and documentation, subject to limited exceptions such as information, documentation and/or conversations subject to solicitor-client privilege.
During the Spring of 2013, many hundreds of New Brunswickers turned to your Office as a last port of call to exert reason and justice in regards to public concerns about unconventional shale gas mining. i Our letters asked you to use your powers to request that the New Brunswick Legislature enact a moratorium or ban on shale gas industrial development in our province. Your Office was literally swamped with these requests. Informally, your Office requested that New Brunswickers stop sending these communications, to give your staff time to consider the request for action in the communications you had already received.
The time has passed for you to quietly deliberate on this matter. Southwestern Energy has descended on Kent County, intent on exploring for the best shale gas fracking sites. Contact Exploration is preparing to re-stimulate 30+ existing oil and gas wells in Albert County, and while waiting on licenses to drill and frack 4 new shale oil wells, they are planning a shale gas exploration program. We ask for a formal decision from your Office.
Pursuant to your power under section 21 (1) of the Act, we ask that you recommend to the Premier and Government of the Province of New Brunswick for:
- an interim moratorium on all activities associated with the testing for, exploration of, or development of, shale gas and oil
- until such time as an independent team of scientists, medical researchers, and environmental experts have the opportunity to review and comment on The Path Forward, including the many binders of information that Dr. LaPierre assembled during his Shale Gas Tour contract; and,
- a mandate to the Chief Medical Officer of Health and yourself, as co-chairs of this independent team, to also consult with the First Nations, the environmental and community organizations in the NB Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, and any other interested parties the Government of New Brunswick wishes to include; and,
- this independent team be given full rein and power to report back to your Office with their findings from this review, any further research they assemble, and their consultations with interested community and organizational representatives.
Also pursuant to your power under section 21 (1) of the Act, we the above signatories petition that following your review of material already received and the findings from the above independent team, you will recommend to the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly to legislate a full moratorium on all shale gas and oil industrial activity that will or could, involve or lead to, unconventional shale fracking, until the identified public health, community, and environmental concerns are satisfactorily addressed.
We, the petitioners, are raising in this communication some new concerns that have arisen since your Office requested the stay in further communications. In the following pages of this letter we will deal with only one substantive matter of grave significance, although additional points are raised in Appendix A. We trust this new information will move your Office into action.
Under contract to the Government of New Brunswick, in June 2012 Dr. Louis LaPierre chaired nine meetings across the province, to listen to the concerns of citizens regarding shale gas development (see Appendix B). In a question at the final “LaPierre Shale Gas Tour” stop in Norton (as per a video record), Dr. LaPierre stated that his mandate did not include telling the government that most of the people presenting to him did not want shale gas development.ii He also said he did not have the power to recommend a moratorium. He said all he could do was take back to the government what people said to him. At all stops on his Shale Gas Tour, Dr. LaPierre was seen taking copious notes. According to an eyewitness report from the media conference when The Path Forward was released, Dr. LaPierre’s notes filled at least seven binders.
Regardless of the note-taking, deputants’ concerns and issues are only fleetingly presented in his report The Path Forward, prepared and presented to the government by Dr. Louis LaPierre (published in pdf. format on October 12, 2012 and subsequently edited for final release on October 15, 2013). iii This report also ignored all the pleas from New Brunswickers for a moratorium or ban on shale gas development that Dr. LaPierre heard during his “Shale Gas Tour.”
In his report, Dr. LaPierre said, “It should be noted that once the public meetings began the majority of participants had not yet familiarized themselves with the government’s proposed regulations document and would use the forum to voice their opinions and concerns. Therefore some participants that attended the meetings were satisfied that the proposed regulations already addressed a lot of their concerns” (see page 1 of the report).
The Path Forward is clearly biased towards the government and industry’s intent to do shale gas mining here. It is an utter falsehood to say that the majority of participants were uninformed. The overwhelming majority of the deputants (90% or greater of the deputants as video records of the entire Tour can show) were well informed about all the risks, hazards and supposed benefits of shale gas mining. We said clearly that we do not want much or all of New Brunswick to be turned into a “sacrifice zone” to keep profits high for giant multinational gas and oil corporations.
We spoke about climate change and how shale gas mining contributes to climate change. We spoke about wanting to protect our clean drinking water, our families, our communities, our sustainable traditional livelihoods, our natural environment, and the fish, wildlife, farm animals, and plant life in our region. We strongly disputed that the government’s proposed regulations could keep New Brunswick safe from the hazards of unconventional fracking. iv
Your Office is in receipt of a copy of the February 27, 2013 “Open Letter On Shale Gas To Alward Government,” undersigned by 29 associations, organizations and unions representing tens of thousands of rural, urban, Anglophone, Francophone and First Nation New Brunswickers. This letter expressed our continued opposition to shale gas industrial development in our province, and raised several key points about Dr. LaPierre’s mandate and conclusions. v
Recently an astounding news story shed new light on Dr. LaPierre. It has come to light that Dr. LaPierre falsified his academic credentials, and that he has no graduate degree in science. In an “exclusive” statement to the Moncton news daily The Times & Transcript (September 19, 2013), Dr. LaPierre acknowledged ”in documents and among various bios, I have misrepresented my academic credentials.” It is particularly worrisome that New Brunswick Cabinet Ministers Craig Leonard and Ted Flemming are not concerned about Dr. LaPierre’s lack of credentials for the job he was paid to do. In fact, Dr. LaPierre’s degrees are in education, and the PhD he holds is from a private, online institution that was not accredited during his years as a student there. A scholar’s reputation rests on his expertise and on his integrity. vi
Dr. LaPierre’s reputation as an expert scholar is being questioned. Some may argue that perhaps he “learned on the job,” but his apparent scarcity of peer-reviewed research publications suggests a lack of scholarly expertise. vii There are also questions about whether he applied valid scholarly ethics to his work on The Path Forward. It is alleged that Dr. LaPierre was in a conflict of interest when he ruled out a moratorium in his report, since he was a board director of NB Power, a crown corporation that has a vested interest in the development of a local shale gas industry. viii
Because he fabricated his credentials as an environmental scientist, it is imperative to give close scrutiny to everything on which Dr. LaPierre put his stamp. Throughout his career, Dr. LaPierre’s research recommendations have been applied to numerous sensitive environmental questions. In various places, questions are already arising about work he has done over the past few decades, such as his research conclusions on impacts of: changes to NB Crown Land buffer zone policy, NATO’s low level flights on wildlife in Labrador, and Confederation Bridge interference with marine life. ix
As he prepared The Path Forward, Dr. LaPierre ignored a peer-acclaimed research report on the possible impacts that shale gas industrial development could have on New Brunswickers, prepared by Dr. Eilish Cleary, the New Brunswick government’s own in-house expert on public health. Dr. Cleary, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for New Brunswick, published Recommendations Concerning Shale Gas Development in New Brunswick in September 2012. Her report was in internal government hands for a full month before publication of Dr. LaPierre’s report although both were released to the public on the same day. LaPierre’s omission of Cleary’s findings seems a tremendous oversight, which leads to further concerns about his bias on this matter. x
Of further concern, in the six months since Dr. LaPierre became Chair-designate and then Chair of the Energy Institute, which he recommended to promote shale gas development in New Brunswick, there was very little progress on the outstanding, crucial issues identified on page VI of the government’s “Rules for Industry.” xi The major outstanding issues identified in ”Rules for Industry” include some of the deep concerns flagged by Dr. Cleary in her report. For more than six months, Dr. LaPierre was in the best possible position to push for action on these matters. Yet, no “good news” has been reported on these outstanding issues, which strongly suggests nothing has been done. The fact that Dr. LaPierre had authority and influence to move the agenda forward on these crucial issues, and nothing of note happened, again suggests possible bias.
Appendix B shows that, at a minimum, the cost to the taxpayer for Dr. LaPierre’s services on the Shale Gas Tour were $24,860.00. This contract was approved by the highest levels of our provincial government, while based on false pretences from the contractee regarding his credentials, knowledge and therefore capacity to fulfill the set tasks. The many serious and valid questions about the reliability, validity and possible bias of Dr. LaPierre’s shale gas development research indicate it is truly time to call a stop, before the government once again sends more good taxpayer money down the hole of a bad investment.
To summarize, in view of the questions arising about the merit of Dr. LaPierre’s work in The Path Forward, we the above petitioners ask your Office to immediately recommend to the Premier and Government of the Province of New Brunswick that an interim moratorium be placed on all activities associated with the testing for, exploration of, or development of, shale gas and oil (see further details above), and that you investigate more fully and consider recommending to the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly to legislate a full moratorium on all shale gas and oil industrial activity that will or could, involve or lead to, unconventional shale fracking, until the identified public health, community, and environmental concerns are satisfactorily addressed.
Our natural environment is under attack from so many threats we simply cannot afford to make any more major mistakes. We must err on the side of caution, following the Supreme Court’s advisory decision about the precautionary principle. xii If invalid research has been used to make environmental policy decisions, this research must be reviewed immediately and rectified on an urgent basis. We urge your Office to act on this matter at once, for the sake of all future generations in New Brunswick.
Wela’liek, Woliwon, Merci, and Thank You for considering this request.
Respectfully on behalf of the above-signed petitioners,
(Upriver Environment Watch)
(Stanley Area Action Group)
(Tantramar Alliance Against Hydro-Fracking)
(original signed by AP per group of signatories)
APPENDIX A: other major issues arising in recent months
1. The government/industry’s unsubstantiated claims that shale gas development in New Brunswick will show a net financial gain to the province. xiii
2. Continuing and unmitigated concern about the inadequate protections in the government’s Responsible Environmental Management of Oil and Natural Gas Activities in New Brunswick: Rules for Industry (dated February 15, 2013, see endnote ’11’)..Three major documents critiquing the “Rules” document were provided to the government, entitled:
- A Response to the New Brunswick Government’s White Paper on Recommendations to Govern the Development of Shale Gas (from The Taymouth Community Association).
- Responsible Environmental Management of Oil and Gas Activities in New Brunswick (by Sam Arnold and members of the Sustainable Energy Group, from the Woodstock area).
- Comments on Recommendations for Public Discussion (submitted by: Stanley Area Action Group, Upriver Environment Watch, New Brunswickers Against Fracking, The Upper Miramichi Stewardship Alliance and New Brunswick is NOT For Sale, dated September 12, 2012).
2 (a)These documents represented many hours of research carried out by many people beginning in early 2011. These documents were submitted to Dr. LaPierre and the government prior to September 18, 2012 which was the deadline for submission. All have apparently also been ignored by the government when preparing their “Rules for Industry” (February 15). These documents have also been made available to your Office. As of the date of writing this letter, the authors have still not received comprehensive responses from any governmental source to the issues raised in these documents. xiv
2 (b). In the “Introduction” to “Rules for Industry” (see page VI, paragraph 3), the government lists twenty-two crucial items that remain to be addressed. More than six months after publication of this report, there has been no government notice of progress on these matters. You have already received many communications describing how these outstanding issues are key to protecting the health and well-being of people and the environment (on which many of us depend for our livelihood) in this province, so we will simply underscore that these outstanding matters are a vital, huge, continuing concern.
2 (c). These “rules” are not legislated, and therefore not firm requirements of industry. GNB’s “Rules” document says these “rules” are “implemented as conditions to Approvals and Certificates of Determination issued under existing legislation.” In other words, the regulator (government) can vary (bend or remove) the rules as it sees fit, indicating that the rules are not rules, they are negotiating points between government and industry. As one example, we have seen how this departmental-based approval process resulted in variances being given to permit seismic exploration through drill and explosion in sensitive wetlands areas and headwaters of the Richibucto watershed, and in other sensitive environmental areas in the Crown Lands in northwestern Kent County. In fact this particular variance was granted broadly to all shale gas exploration industries. The protections to New Brunswickers through this process are clearly not adequate.xv
3. Despite all this constructive criticism aimed at protecting the health and environment of New Brunswickers, the government’s “Rules” document clearly slants in favour of the industry’s needs, not the needs of community members. There are obvious conflicts of interest in this process, which are particularly apparent in Appendices 9 and 10 of the Rules for Industry. A specific important example is the weakening of the requirement to test all potable water wells before proceeding to do seismic exploration (which was in place from June 2011). Under these new “Rules,” industry can now proceed to do this work after signing an affidavit that says the property owner refused the test. To make matters worse, under the “rules”, the sampling and testing of potable water, surface water, waste water, waste solids and air quality is the responsibility of the shale gas industry leaseholders, or a company they contract to do the work for them. Reports are submitted to the government, and in the case of the well-water testing, the actual tests are done in government labs. Both the government and industry are not “third-party” and not independent. This seems like hiring the fox to guard the hen house. xvi
4. The Rules for Industry document is discriminatory. “Wellfields and watersheds used for municipal water supplies” are screened out for use by the gas and oil industries. See paragraph 2, page 33. The distances from schools and dwellings are 500 metres and 250 metres respectively. See Section 9.11 – Required Distances From Buildings and Other Cultural Features on page 35. The setbacks from schools and dwellings are inadequate. See the study “Methane Levels 17 Times Higher in Water Wells Near Hydrofracking Sites”. Why aren’t rural fresh water sources given the same level of protection as urban ones?
5. It is unclear whether, or when, and to whom, or what information concerning chemicals considered proprietary by the industry will be released. This is a crucial concern to the Chief Medical Officer of Health and to physicians across our province as communications you have received indicate.
6. When the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors recognized Dr. Cleary with the prestigious Environmental Review Award (July 11, 2013 in a Fredericton ceremony) for her comprehensive research into the public health issues related to deep shale gas mining, the government ignored this honour bestowed on their Chief Medical Officer of Health. This suggests that the government is out of control: it is so determined to advance its own agenda it will ignore peer-acclaimed scientific research on the impacts of the shale gas industry while favouring a discredited research consultant who has no peer acclamations for his work in the field.
NOTE: APPENDIX B DOES NOT SHOW UP IN THIS PROGRAM — it is a copy of the response from the Government of New Brunswick re: cost of Dr. LaPierre’s Shale Gas Tour contract with the government, including writing his report. Nancy Alcox is a member of Upriver Environment Watch and she pursued getting this information. It is important to note that the accounting she received does not include all the costs, such as GNB staff reassignments and material resources, and quite likely other incidentals.