An Open Letter re: the Outstanding NB Medical Officer of Health’s Report on Glyphosate Herbicides

13427865_10208629272382259_8775867326137825778_n

Council of Canadians – Kent County NB Chapter
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/KentCountyChapterCoC/?fref=ts
email: coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com
June 28, 2016

Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health
Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health
Government of New Brunswick
HSBC Place, Floor: 5
P. O. Box 5100, Fredericton, NB, E3B 5G8
transmitted by email: Jennifer.Russell@gnb.ca

Dear Dr. Russell:

We need to see that report on glyphosate that you promised we would have before the spray season begins. We need to see that report now. It is not clear to us if your report has been scrapped, suppressed, or something else has happened.

Dr. Russell, the spray season is upon us. Both CN Rail and NB Power have already publicly released their approved spray plans. Timber industries have already compiled their lists of acreage they want to spray for their monoculture conifer plantations. Their applications for taxpayer-financed provincial silviculture spraying are being reviewed, and they anticipate approvals within the next few weeks.

We remember all too well how the government of that day tried to bury Dr. Cleary’s report on fracking in 2012. They knew they could not “control” her when it came to matters of public health, and they knew the report did not agree with their stated view that fracking is perfectly safe and would be great for NB. A similar situation potentially exists with this matter because in recent weeks, Minister Denis Landry and Premier Brian Gallant have both said glyphosate is safe.

On May 18th, I and eleven other New Brunswickers hand-delivered a formal complaint to the New Brunswick Ombudsman. It addresses matters pertaining to the “no cause” termination of the former Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), Dr. Eilish Cleary. Our major concern is the status of Dr. Cleary’s promise to investigate and report re: the risks of glyphosate herbicide compounds on population and environmental health. Our conversation with NB Ombudsman Charles Murray is ongoing.

During her exemplary tenure as CMOH, Dr. Cleary established a very high standard for independent and comprehensive research, both with her peer-acclaimed 2012 report on population impacts of shale gas development, and in the Health Impact Assessments model developed in 2015 for the NB Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing. Since we learned that Dr. Cleary was put on leave and then dismissed, I am only one of thousands of New Brunswickers who are concerned that we will not see a comprehensive and independent report from the Office of the CMOH on glyphosate herbicide spray use in our province.

In her communication to me promising this report (sent August 14, 2015), Dr. Cleary said that her office would develop “a plan” for reporting “in the coming year.” In response to the issues I raised on behalf of our group, the Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians, Dr. Cleary also made the following comments:

  • concurrence with the IARC/WHO conclusion that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”;
  • there is need investigate “the nature, duration and intensity of the exposure to the toxins in this province” and to look into the high incidence of non-Hodgkins lymphoma among men in NB;
  • any further protections needed to protect the population in New Brunswick would be independently developed and not curtailed by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency conclusions.

On September 24, 2015, I wrote the former-CMOH concerning some additional issues raised by members of our group. You responded to this letter, Dr. Russell, on November 9th, as follows:

  • re: “cases of poor compliance with setback distances, inadequate signage and ineffective advance notice of spraying,” your “office will bring these issues forward to the Department of Environment and Local Government which regulates these aspects of pesticide use”;
  • regarding when we could expect the report: “it is our understanding that its use is seasonal so we do not expect any significant spraying between now and the summer of 2016. We anticipate completing our action plan in advance of the next spraying season.” Subsequently, in a communication to Dr. Caroline Lubbedarcy, you promised the report this Spring.

Dr. Cleary’s impending and then actual dismissal broke in the media in early December 2015. At that time, the Deputy Minister of Health, the Minister of Health, and the Premier all affirmed that this report was forthcoming as originally promised. Spring is over, and the spray season has begun. Where is the report?

I am sure you are aware that new research is coming out all the time on these herbicide compounds.

A literature review by 14 diverse scientists called Concerns over use of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposures: a consensus statement, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environment Health on February 17, 2016. You will find the content in the appendices especially alarming. Other research suggests that glyphosate on its own is not nearly as bad as the complex herbicide formulation, glyphosate PLUS additives and adjutants, that make it work and are protected as “trade secrets.” As I understand it, these additional substances are what carry the glyphosate across cell walls and increase the hazards by untold magnitudes in a multitude of ways. Of huge concern to scientists studying glyphosate is that its use is so widespread: people’s exposures to the residue are pandemic, and tests show high concentrations in humans.

I am sure you are also aware that a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada decision affirmed government has a rightful mandate to apply the “precautionary principle” on the directly related matter of pesticides. The Consensus Statement referenced above clearly advocates for caution and care, and is part of the reason we are convinced that the precautionary principle must be applied to use of glyphosate here in New Brunswick. The precautionary principle can be understood as: first, do no harm; and, second, avoid doing things when there is a reasonable likelihood this could cause harm. The principle applies until the safety of the matter in question can be established.

Thousands and thousands of New Brunswickers share the concerns I have penned on behalf of our Kent County NB Chapter of the Council of Canadians. Valid population and environmental health research of the risks associated with these compounds is urgently needed. We sincerely hope that the report you have been working on will meet the tests for being valid, in depth and independent.

Please send me the report that we are promised.

Respectfully yours,

Ann Pohl
Chairperson, Kent County NB Chapter – Council of Canadians

Copies:

12321540_10153099976890044_6232575893423374604_n

 

Advertisements

Submission to Government of New Brunswick on “Water Strategy”

 

11101926_675102362590738_2022585982866706568_o

Council of Canadians Water Protection Day, Brown’s Yard Bridge


Kent County Chapter, Council of Canadians
April 28, 2016

Department of Environment and Local Government (DELG),
Policy and Planning Division,
P.O. Box 6000,
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1

Re: Public Input on “Water Strategy”

Dear Honourable Minister Brian Kenny:

The Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians is forwarding to you this submission regarding the new “Water Strategy.”

New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance Submission

On April 20, 2016, the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) submitted to you a document called “Remarks to the Department of the Environment and Local Government on Creating a Water Strategy.” Our group, the Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians is a longstanding member of NBASGA, and we are in accord with the points raised in that submission. We will not repeat what is said in that submission.

Like all the member groups in NBASGA, we also speak with and for a specific community in this province that is concerned about major environmental issues. Since 2010, people in Kent County have had to fight very hard to protect: our water and the rest of our environment; the health of people in all communities in our region; and, the creatures and plants that live in the water, soil and air here. This fight-for-our-lives has taught us a lot and especially shown us to what extent we can trust the government in Fredericton to care about us. On the following pages you will see why we are extremely concerned about the development of this Water Strategy. We conclude by asking you to start the consultation over again – and do it the right way.

The Government of New Brunswick does not have a good record on environmental protection.

In recent years some of the evidence of this includes:

  • issuing licenses for shale gas extraction exploration and development in 2010, without doing the research to determine if this was an environmentally sound activity;

  • ignoring the many recommendations about the links between environmental matters and population health contained in the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s 2012 peer-acclaimed, awarded, report on the risks, hazards, and benefits of the shale gas industry for this province;

  • revoking, in 2013, the very strong well water protection regulation that was passed in 2011, which required those doing seismic exploration for oil and gas to test every potable water well along the proposed route;

  • in 2013, stripping most of New Brunswick’s wetlands from their prior protected status, which many local Kent residents believe had to do with the damage to wetlands the government knew would happen during the seismic exploration for fracking that took place later that year;

  • passage of a 25-year forestry management plan in 2014, which overwhelmingly advantages one major corporation in the province, and even more so disadvantages the common, humble people who live near the province’s public forest reserves (also called “Crown,” formerly called “Indian” or “Native” land), and who rely on the forest for at least part of their local sustainable livelihood;

  • promising during the 2014 election to revise the forestry agreement and then saying they would not;

  • approving the permit to construct Sisson Mine in December 2015, without considering first the many environmental and other issues raised by the public, which were published in a report (dated January 2016) by the group of experts contracted by the province to collect public opinion;

  • in the absence of an in-place and functioning water protection regulatory system, eagerly and energetically promoting the development of the Energy East pipeline, which will cross approximately 300 waterways in the province as it snakes along the Saint John rivershed from the northwest corner of the province to the Bay of Fundy, also seemingly to benefit a major corporation, as it will create very few jobs and much risk to the rural areas and those who need water in this province.

The above list of examples does not include a truly major issue: the shameful mess associated with the Government of New Brunswick’s 2002 “Water Classification Regulation.” Incalculable millions of dollars and unquantifiable preparatory community volunteer and provincial staff hours were spent on preparation for the implementation of this regulation, which has been very successful in Maine. For more than a decade, this policy simply collected dust. It was never operationalized. 

599306_10151815955225599_1258067620_n

View of the River in Fords Mills, photo credit George Griffin

The Ombudsman’s Report on the previous, unenforced Water Strategy

In 2013, the Ombudsman for the Province of New Brunswick received a complaint from one of the community organizations involved in the early preparatory work for the 2002 Water Classification Regulation. On August 15, 2014, the Report of the Ombudsman into the Department of Environment’s Management of the Provincial Water Classification Program was published.

In that report, the Ombudsman identifies four aspects that are extremely relevant to this current policy development process:

  1. An apparent government preoccupation with being challenged for authority by corporate interests: On December 2, 2008, the Minister of the Environment said in the Legislature, “What was brought to our attention was that, in the Clean Water Act, we did not have enough authority to run the Water Classification Program… I think what is important to understand is that, right now, under the Act, neither the minister nor the government has the legal capacity to run the program. We do not have the authority. That is all. The only thing that we are asking for is to legalize it here in the House, so that the department and the government have authority to act. That is all. Right now, there are certain activities, for instance, that are not permitted. The minister cannot prohibit those activities because it would not be legal to do so. We could and would be challenged in court. The only thing that we are asking for is to make it legal. That is all… The Department of Justice told us: ‘Well, if you are challenged in court, it is highly likely you will lose.’ ” As the Ombudsman notes, this speech pertained to the passage of a Bill that would strengthen those regulatory powers, and this Bill was given Royal Assent later in December 2008. Still the Water Classification Regulation was not operationalized.

  2. A Troubling Use of Ministerial Discretion,” which the Ombudsman details on pages 6 and 7 of his report so there is no need to summarize here. Just the title of this section summons up the common experience of New Brunswickers: the lack of transparency and accountability by the Government of New Brunswick, especially regarding backroom deals made with corporations that disadvantage ordinary New Brunswickers.

  3. The “Mirage” Aspect, whereby the government claims to do, and makes it look as if they are doing, something they are not doing. Specifically, the Ombudsman identifies “focused political will is the missing element” for successful resolution of this issue, which is another way of saying the bureaucracy has been mandated to make it look like something is happening while the real attention of the political arm of government is focused elsewhere.

  4. The use of public resources for accomplishing nothing, or even worse allowing things to happen that are not in the true public interest. As the Ombudsman points out, this monstrous regulatory wreckage “perpetuated the illusion that the province has a water classification program” while “deflecting public pressure,” so it reduced “vigilance” simultaneous to providing “no protection.” It is from conduct such as this that the vast majority of New Brunswickers have become cynical and distrustful about our government and its (lack of) intention to protect our treasured and essential natural environment which sustains all life.

468189_10150696381220932_940022360_o

Rexton Bridge, decorated with Blue Ribbons to Protect the Water

Distrust of Government, and Not Being Consulted or Heard

Within less than two weeks of the announcement that your government was working on this new “Strategy,” Town Hall meetings began around the province to discuss it. Some might think this was a good thing: to get public input early in the process. We doubt it is early in the process: you have had almost two years to figure out how to respond to the Ombudsman’s report.

Those of us who have been watching what the province has been doing on natural resource and environment issues for the past two years are regretfully skeptical regarding how serious your government really is about this “Water Strategy.” Why the enormous hurry? People had no time to arrange to attend these meetings feeling prepared. Or was that on purpose?

It is instructive to look at the independent panel soliciting public opinion on the Sisson Mine proposal, Summary of Public and First Nations Participation. It discusses in detail the lack of public confidence that New Brunswickers have in your government’s intention to protect our priceless natural environment: the same natural environment that sustains us all.

Most significantly, the independent “Summary” report on Sisson Mine discusses, at length, aboriginal and treaty rights and the obligations of the Crown (on matters of natural resources, this would be the Provincial Crown) in regards to Indigenous Peoples. (See pages 12 – 92, in particular.) Your government clearly needs to pay closer attention to this text, because once again on the development of this Water Strategy, you have failed to do your due diligence in consulting with our neighbour Indigenous community, Elsipogtog First Nation (EFN).

Our Kent County Chapter of the Council of Canadians works very closely with our neighbours at EFN on environmental issues. EFN’s mandated consultation delegation on natural resource issues is led by Kenneth Francis, of Kopit Lodge. (Kopit means “beaver” and the principal mission of the Lodge is to protect the water.)

It is our understanding that Mr. Francis sent you a letter in early March asking for information about this Strategy. Apparently, this sat on your desk, Minister Kenny, for more than five weeks. Your response, dated April 14th, advised the deadline for input is April 29, 2016. You must be aware that this whole process you have just used is a complete violation of the protocols for valid consultation with First Nations in Canada, according to relevant case law precedents from the Supreme Court of Canada, and other levels of the justice system across Canada.

In other parts of Canada, in regards to Aboriginal Rights and Duty to Consult, “provincial governments take Indigenous Peoples seriously,” said Bruce McIvor, a lawyer for Elsipogtog First Nation, at a community meeting on April 21, 2016. “I work across the country. Here in New Brunswick, I feel like we are starting back talking in the 1950’s or 1960’s. I talk to people here and say, ‘Yeah, this is crazy!’ I think New Brunswick must be the ultimate political,legal backwater for Indigenous People, and that’s a sad thing. No one wants that.”

As a result of oversights, or perhaps blind spots, such as this, the taxpayers of this province are in imminent danger of being forced to bear the enormous burden of lengthy Aboriginal rights litigation – which New Brunswick will lose!

Perhaps you will decide to extend the deadline for input for First Nations, as was done by the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing (NBCHF), when their procedural errors were brought to their attention. But, to make your process valid, the “Water Strategy” process may need to be shut down and begun again, anew, bringing First Nations to the table at the very beginning. There may be other requirements as well, such as capacity building, but we will leave these to First Nations to elaborate as appropriate.

It is not only Indigenous people in New Brunswick who are ignored by the provincial government. The Final Report of the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing also speaks at length about “one of the core findings,” which is New Brunswickers’ “distrust of public institutions runs deep.” Specifically, see page 6: “The government’s water monitoring record has caused rural residents to distrust government officials’ assurances that it can adequately monitor a new industry.”

10365325_10152019730915044_2920419361752507464_o

Local Resident who Loves the Water, photo credit Nancy Alcox

The Government of New Brunswick has consistently demonstrated that it does not value having adequate review, inspection and enforcement capacity.

You do not have enough trained staff in the civil service. You always rely on industry to police itself, which is like allowing the fox to guard the henhouse. We saw this over and over again during the year (2013) when we endured the invasion of the seismic exploration for shale gas drilling locations by SWN Resources Canada. We also see this when someone cuts through the river bank to create a place to load and unload their yacht. We see this when we complain about herbicide spraying that does not conform with the regulations.

It is clear to us that the government does not even seem to value this role in its bureaucracy. This was clear when the government fired, without cause, the one person in the civil service whom ordinary New Brunswickers trusted to protect the public’s health and our environment: Dr. Eilish Cleary, the former Chief Medical Officer of Health. Her departure has slowed progress on important environmental policy research for the people of this province, and many people here in Kent County believe this was the real reason she was fired. This has only heightened our distrust of how government acts – how government seems to have higher regard for corporate goals than ordinary peoples’ health.

This past Fall, we understand that the Director of Fish and Wildlife was put on leave from his position in the Department of Natural Resources. In that position, he actually had the personnel, resources and authority to try to protect wildlife during industrial review processes. His closest investigatory staff may also have been put on leave or moved. When the former Director was called back to work, he was put on a completely different job. Shortly after that, the permit to proceed with Sisson Brook was approved. A cross-check with the independent “Summary” report cited above shows there are many reasons why it would have been very inconvenient to have a wildlife champion in the bureaucracy when that permission was issued.

Returning for a moment to Dr. Cleary and the NBCHF: before being removed from office, Dr. Cleary made a cogent, well-researched plea for an overhaul of the industrial proposal review process used by the Government of New Brunswick. She recommended that the more comprehensive and independent “Health Impact Assessment” (HIA) be adopted in lieu of the current Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process. New Brunswick’s EIA process relies on corporate identification of issues, and does not have adequate scope to consider impacts on the range of determinants relevant to population health.

The NBCHF, which was clearly subjected to corporate pressures, supported the HIA proposal. The NBCHF watered down Dr. Cleary’s proposal in their final report, proposing that the HIA could come under the umbrella of the EIA process. Dr. Cleary had specifically proven that the HIA approach is broader,offers superior protection for human and environmental health, and is inclusive of the EIA mandate. So the NBCHF got it the wrong way around, but did support the idea.

Consider as well that the HIA process was also favourably reviewed in the independent “Summary” report about Sisson Mine.

So, the HIA proposal was brought to government three times in one year! Each time it was brought by people hired by the Government of New Brunswick to protect the public’s interest and wellbeing. Your government has not taken any position on the implementation of the HIA, relative to relying solely on the more limited and corporately-biased EIA. This is yet another way it is clear, to those of us watching, that you do not really care what happens to small people in rural areas that are viewed as sacrifice zones by industry and their allies.

Further, we are concerned that your government has historically not put enough resources into effective implementation of policies such as that being discussed in this Strategy. Without the money to inspect and enforce, the policy will be meaningless.

In summary, we simply have no basis to believe that there is any substance to the rhetoric in your “fact sheet” on Working towards a Water Strategy for New Brunswick: Programs and Approvals.

11246598_675108832590091_1546049113478700373_o

The Trees are Wearing their Coloured Jewels to Impress the Water

Watershed Designation, Protection and Related Issues

We note that you have combined several distinct watersheds in our region into one called Northumberland Strait Composite.

  • At least seventeen (17) rivers and tributaries in Kent County are lumped together in this one watershed “Level 1” region. Most of these are not connected.

  • There are at least seven (7) different watersheds (pg 2) that have been locally identified.

  • It is difficult to tell by the information provided, but it may be the case that our Level 1 region has the largest number of rivers of any single Level 1 watershed identified on the “Water Strategy” map.

  • Certainly Kent County is in the region of the province that, in this decade, has been most severely under resource extraction industrial pressure opposed by area residents.

We are concerned about the underlying reasons for lumping together all our waterways into one super-sized watershed. Elsewhere in the “Water Strategy” document it is made clear that a significant purpose of this policy development is to facilitate a balancing of “environmental conservation and economic activities” and to “manage and use water responsibly… while allowing economic opportunities.” For those of us using the land and the waters in this county, for part or all of our livelihoods, the various rivers are not interchangeable. We would be more comfortable with smaller watershed areas that reflect local use patterns.

429941_10151640716400932_2122064261_n

Manifestation, Saint-Louis-de-Kent, Juin 2013

 

There is no Planet B.

No one is making drinking water. The climate will not heal on its own. Our generation has to turn things around. That means you need to show leadership: real leadership, not the appearance of leadership.

Despite the urgency, we are asking you to start this consultation over again. Without a hidden agenda, without narrow and/or meaningless questions, without your own ideas of how you want to do things, please invite the Indigenous, rural and urban people of New Brunswick to tell you what we want you to do to protect our water, and how we want you to do it. Then draw up your plan, and share the ideas with us before legislating.

It is very hard for us here in Kent County to trust a slick package of materials like this, with such a rush-rush series of meetings, and so little actual content to any of it. Regarding protection of the environment, most Kent County citizens have seen too much evidence of too little concern by your government. From our perspective, it usually seems the provincial government is listening far too closely to corporate industrial demands. You do not seem to pay enough attention to the urgencies and needs of common humble people in communities like those here in our area.

In the final analysis, the effectiveness of any government policy, including the case in point – this emerging Water Strategy – will be determined by your commitment to make it strong and comprehensive, and your will to enforce it. The resources provided to this initiative, and the behind-the-scenes guidance given by management to operations personnel, will determine whether or not even the best policy will succeed at its stated goals. Above all we need transparency and accountability.

Something you may want to consider is that, in other jurisdictions, young people have begun taking their governments to court for allowing the environment to be destroyed. They know their futures are in the hands of today’s governments.

Respectfully yours, on behalf of future generations,

Ann Pohl, Chairperson, Council of Canadians – Kent County Chapter
with: Debra Hopper and Denise Melanson, Council of Canadians – Kent County Chapter

copies:
Premier Brian Gallant
Council of Canadians – Atlantic Region network
New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
New Brunswick Environment Network
Kenneth Francis, Kopit Lodge, EFN
Chief Arren Sock, EFN
Wolastoq Grand Council
Chief Candace Paul, St. Mary’s FN
Mr. Charles Murray, Ombudsman, Province of New Brunswick
The Hon. Minister Ed Doherty, Responsible for Aboriginal Affairs

TO COMMENT ON THIS, please email us at <coc.kent.county.nb@gmail.com>, we do not have enough people power to handle comments on our blog space and do all the other stuff!  

Angry New Brunswickers Petition Province’s Ombudsman for Investigation

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 –
Media Contact: Don McDonald – 506-367-2446
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.

Media Contacts:

Ann Pohl, 506-785-2998 or upriverwatch@gmail.com

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: nbombud@gnb.ca

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:

  1. an interim moratorium on all activities associated with the testing for, exploration of, or development of, shale gas and oil
  2. 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,
  3. 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,
  4. 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,

Ann Pohl
(Upriver Environment Watch)

Donald McDonald
(Stanley Area Action Group)

Marilyn Lerch
(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.

___________________

REFERENCES  

ii   Dr. LaPierre at Norton N.B. meeting
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6BX_38QmOM

iii   The Path Forward http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Corporate/pdf/ShaleGas/en/ThePathForward.pdf
Recommendations for Public Discussion: New Brunswick Natural Gas Group (May 2012) – the government’s suggested topics for LaPierre’s Shale Gas Tour
http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Corporate/pdf/ShaleGas/en/RecommendationsDiscussion.pdf

iv   Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing
http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/hydrofracking/methane-levels-17-times-higher-in-water-wells-near-hydrofracking-sites http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/cgc/pnas2011.pdf
Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-011-0061-5
Climate change will be felt strongly in countries like Canada: researcher
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/science/climate-change-will-be-felt-strongly-in-countries-such-as-canada-researcher-says/article14588012/

vii   Louis LaPierre’s research record in question http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/louis-lapierre-s-research-record-in-question-1.1874289

viii    Fake credentials and high profile a bad mix
http://thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/1156272-wong-fake-credentials-and-high-profile-a-bad-mix
LaPierre’s flawed reasons to rule out a moratorium on shale gas
http://nbmediacoop.org/2012/10/20/lapierres-flawed-reasons-to-rule-out-a-moratorium-on-shale-gas/
Alward government has no public mandate to proceed with shale gas
http://nbmediacoop.org/2013/03/20/alward-government-has-no-public-mandate-to-proceed-with-shale-gas/
LaPierre’s credential scandal puts GNB in a difficult position
https://monctonfreepress.ca/post/21658

ix    Lapierre – CBC Radio Information Morning  (Fredericton) re: Crown Lands buffer zone issue
http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningfredericton/2013/09/24/lapierre-decisions/
    Biologist says institute chairman put him through difficult ordeal.
http://www.thelabradorian.ca/News/Local/2013-09-12/article-3386555/Biologist-says-institute-chairman-put-him-through-difficult-ordeal/1
Transport Canada probes LaPierre’s work on P.E.I. bridge
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/transport-canada-probes-lapierre-s-work-on-p-e-i-bridge-1.1871049

x Chief Medical Officer of Health’s Recommendations Concerning Shale Gas Development in New Brunswick http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/h-s/pdf/en/HealthyEnvironments/Recommendations_ShaleGasDevelopment.pdf    Dr. Eilish Cleary CBC interview after receiving prestigious award on shale gas document
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKx0E_xIQWg

NOTE: The NB Government attempted to shelve Dr. Cleary’s report when she submitted it. Tremendous pressure was applied to secure its public release. It appears government has re-shelved it. In a year, there has been little progress on her recommendations.
http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/n-b-health-minister-unclear-whether-shale-gas-report-will-be-released-1.981802
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2012/10/04/nb-shale-gas-health-report-political.html

http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/concerns-raised-over-contents-of-shale-gas-report-1.985468

xi Responsible Environmental Management of Oil and Natural Gas Activities in New Brunswick: Rules for Industry– referred to as “Rules for Industry” in this letter, publication date February 15, 2013 http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Corporate/pdf/ShaleGas/en/RulesforIndustry.pdf

xii Decisions – Supreme Court Judgments — Case number 26937
http://scc.lexum.org/decisia-scc-csc/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/1878/index.do
“The Precautionary Principle in Canada” (Environmental Law Centre, University of Victoria)
http://www.elc.uvic.ca/associates/documents/Jun14.10-Precautionary-Principle-Backgrounder.pdf

xiii Responsible Environmental Management of Oil and Gas Activities in New Brunswick Sharing of Royalty Revenues From Natural Gas Activities in New Brunswick: A Discussion Document http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Corporate/pdf/ShaleGas/en/RevenueSharing.pdf
Comments on the Discussion Documents of the New Brunswick Natural Gas Group – submitted to the New Brunswick Natural Gas Group by Dr. Roderick Hill, Professor of Economics, Department of Social Science, University of New Brunswick, Saint John Campus http://www.unb.ca/saintjohn/arts/_resources/pdf/hillrcommentnaturalgasgrp2012.pdf

xiv GNB chose not to post these on their web site but they can be found online at:  http://www.banfrackingnb.ca/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1496

xviOpen Letter from Upriver Environment Watch // Lettre ouverte du Upriver Environment Watch
https://monctonfreepress.ca/post/18315