The Uncle Gnarley Blog has a new website. Click here to visit to view the latest posts!

Wednesday 21 August 2013


The public should always be allowed to enjoy a level of contentment, that the public policies promoted by politicians, are based upon certain fundamental principles.  Among them: a)  that they are founded on science b) guided by a respect for social values including those relating to protection of the environment and c) reflect the interests of the people for whom the policies have been designed.

Those principles should be tautology; they should be imbedded in the fundamental laws of all policy making.
A recent copy of the Telegram (August 14th) read “Marshall surprised by fracking operations in Sask.”, together with a picture of Natural Resources Minister standing in a canola field; a pump-jack lifting oil from a hydraulic fractured well, provided backdrop. 
Seeing Tom Marshall on a farm, anywhere, how could one not think that, once again, he had stepped into a cow plop?

Source: The Telegram
This Blog has been deliberate in exposing Tom Marshall’s shortcomings; he will likely not understand why until after he, and his cohorts, are dragged before the firing squad of a Royal Commission of Enquiry, into Muskrat Falls, a few years from now.  But, that’s another matter.

The Minister was in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, ostensibly to gather information on “fracking”, the process of using explosives and chemicals to release oil and gas imbedded in shale rock.  The Telegram reported that the Minister’s enquiries “will help inform the province as it makes decisions on whether or not to allow the procedure here”.

The Minister did say, “I want to make sure any decisions here are based on science and not emotion”.  But, if he had been true to his word he would have stayed at home and let experts in the fields of geology, environmental protection and petroleum development regulations become engaged in Government’s ‘fracking’ policy.  An intelligent and science based “White Paper” would have been a useful result.

Such an approach would not satisfy the “Not In My Back Yard” types (NIMBY’S) or those whose minds are closed, but even they might find some comfort in the notion that such an approach to policy making would be based on something more than a Kodak moment.    

The Minister opined, to the Reporter, that he wanted to see “fracking of oil in rock…I’ve been on the internet checking out things people are worried about.”  The Minister expressed surprise that the people out in Weyburn “…are not having any problems with it at all…I was looking at it negatively because all the information I’ve been getting it’s been very negative.” Continues Marshall, “(t)hey haven’t had any water contamination…any problems with water volume…haven’t had livestock dying…haven’t had earthquakes.”

Then, using all this intelligence, from Saskatchewan, the Minister councils: “…don’t base your (fracking) decisions on one person or on one set of facts…on TV or movies.”

Think about it.  If the Minister had volunteered to be lowered several thousand feet down into a well bore or offered to be subjected to the high pressure fluids injected for the purpose of fracturing the rock and creating pathways to release the oil, which is essentially the explosive process on which ‘fracking’ is based, we would have thought him crazy. 

But, is he any less silly trying to understand the process going on several thousand feet underground, as he stands in the middle of canola field, a pump-jack and a local farmer attempting to impart, what he is unable to understand?  

What part of the information, provided by the farmer, who told the Minister “no one is concerned…” is even believable?  Afterall, the Minister acknowledged, that the farmer was paid rents by the oil companies occupying his land.

If this is how public policy is created?  If it is, for my own safety, I would happily join the NIMBY’S, too!

The process of ‘fracking’ is actually not new.  What is new is the scale of its application, especially in the U.S. It is new to us, in NL.

“Shale beds now produce more than a quarter of America’s natural gas, compared with just 1% in 2000. America is on the way to becoming a net gas exporter”, according to the Economist Newspaper. North Dakota and Texas have experienced major economic revival singularly due to fracking;  other states, too, have joined the fracking revolution to propel the United States towards oil and gas self-sufficiency, a condition anticipated by 2030.

Does the Minister not think that the U.S Geological Service might have more scientific data to share or a plethora of public policy institutes, in the U.S.?

For all the good it would do him, rather than being photographed with a pump-jack, the Minister may as well have been pictured with the combined harvester!

The Province has a top notch group of professionals, daily dealing with regulatory matters of the offshore oil industry.   The C-NLOPB, in spite of the Province’s best efforts to politicize its senior management, is one of the unsung benefits of the 1985 Atlantic Accord. That Agency possesses real experts who could very capably assist the Province develop a public policy on hydraulic fracking and bring to the process a level of credibility now lacking.

What should the Minister’s statement have contained?

The Minister’s announcement should have been formulated at home, not in Weyburn. It should have said:

“In anticipation of receiving applications from oil and gas companies to perform hydraulic fracturing activities in the Province, I have consulted experts and determined a suitable course….

“I have asked the senior officials in my Department to engage some of these experts, which include professionals at the C-NLOPB, to compile the best science on this unconventional form of oil and gas exploration and development…….

“Though we wish to advance our economic development prospects, we will never endanger our economy, our natural landscape or our people….I am taking this step to ensure good policy will result….we will ensure that our environment and our communities are fully protected recognizing that there are special places that always must remain pristine, our Parks, our essential watershed areas…. “

If you want to stay above emotion, above ignorance or fear, if you want to build some safeguards around the inevitable influence of the NIMBY’S, and they will not be few; if you desire public policies that are about reality, science, competence, a level of confidence approaching certainty, you won’t get it from the farmer in Weyburn.

Next Tom Marshall should try a corn field.  He seems already in a maze.