Canadian territorial government cracks down on what goes into the ground during fracking

Canadian territorial government cracks down on what goes into the ground during fracking by CBC News, Eye on the Arctic September 6, 2013, Alaska Dispatch
Canada’s Northwest Territories government says the public has a right to know what chemicals are being put into the ground by petroleum companies. ConocoPhillips must disclose all chemicals used while fracking two horizontal wells in the community of  Tulita under the license awarded by the Sahtu Land and Water Board in June. But that excludes chemicals considered to be “trade secrets”, which can be kept hidden. Alberta oil patch consultant Jessica Ernst said undisclosed chemicals in the north are a particular concern. “If a worker is covered in chemicals, how is the hospital to deal with that emergency or that person, how is the helicopter pilot to cope if he is flying a victim in a chopper, which often happens in remote areas, how is that pilot to cope with breathing in the chemicals coming off that patient,” Ernst said.

The minister of environment and natural resources, Michael Miltenberger, agrees it’s a concern. “We as northerners have a right to know what the best practices are, that we will know clearly what we are allowing industry to put in the ground to assist with the shale gas production. It’s an imminently reasonable request,” Miltenberger said. He said a government discussion paper to guide regulators on fracking in the territories has been in the works for months. He hopes those guidelines are ready for public review this fall. [Emphasis added]

Fracking Companies’ Trade Secrets Should Not Trump Public Interest Press Release by Council of Canadians, September 4, 2013
The NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadians has called on the NWT Minister of Environment and Natural Resources to carry out an investigation under the Environmental Rights Act on the use of undisclosed chemicals in fracking operations in the NWT. In an August 29th letter to the Minister the Council has called for the GNWT to require that the name and quantity of all chemicals used in ConocoPhilips’ five-year hydraulic fracturing program be publicly disclosed. “The public interest in clean water and an uncontaminated environment should not be compromised by the asserted proprietary interests of ConocoPhilips, the company recently licenced to conduct hydraulic fracturing in the Sahtu,” says the NWT Council of Canadians Chapter’s co-chair, Peter Redvers. … The Chapter’s letter to the NWT Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources states: “The chemicals used to make fracking fluids are far from safe. Scientists have found that 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer; 37 percent could disrupt the endocrine system; 40 to 50 percent could affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems; and more than 75 percent could impair sensory organs and the respiratory system.” These chemicals are also “associated with low birth weight, birth defects, respiratory problems, cancer, and fertility problems.” Under the Environmental Rights Act “every person resident in the Territories has the right to protect the environment and the public trust.” By keeping certain chemicals secret, ConocoPhilips is violating these rights. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

NWT fracking water license allows for company to keep ‘trade secrets’ by Meagan Wohlberg, August 12, 2013, Northern Journal

MSDS sheets ‘a very good con’: Ernst 

According to Ernst, information contained on these frac fluids’ MSDS sheets is incomplete, with some parts of the solution missing altogether. For example, X-CIDE’s ingredients only add up to 92 per cent of the fluid when using the max quantity of each additive (if keeping levels to the minimum, 38 per cent of the microbiocide is missing). For “Non-Emulsifying Agent W54” – an additive that contains naphthalene, a red blood cell destroyer, and which “cannot be made non-toxic” – four of the six components are listed as “proprietary” without CAS numbers disclosed. Ernst said part of the problem is the “trade secrets” loophole, but said the issue has to do with the MSDS sheets in general, which she called a “very good con.” Besides keeping trade secrets secret, by listing a generic product name like “corrosive” as the chemical itself, the sheets leave out what could be three to 500 harmful ingredients contained within, she said. “They (the board) are getting a number and a name and they think they’re getting a chemical,” she said. “But how much benzine is in each of those products? How much toluene – it’s a known neurotoxin that damages the brain, especially in children?…What acids are they injecting?”

Online disclosure sites like, recently made mandatory in Alberta, also leave out specific information on chemical ingredients. A list of frac fluids on the website from one example well in Alberta gave no information on three of the additives; for the other four, only brand names were given, with no list of ingredients.

Complete list of chemicals unknown in Canada
An assessment done by former federal environment commissioner Scott Vaughan on fracking in February confirmed the lack of government knowledge on the chemicals being used. “Environment Canada and Health Canada told us that while a partial list of substances that are likely to be used in hydraulic fracturing has been developed, a complete list of substances used in Canada is not known,” he wrote, adding: “Environment Canada informed us that it takes about three years to establish control measures…Environment Canada and Health Canada told us that they are still working toward gaining a better understanding of the substances contained in hydraulic fracturing fluid and the risks associated with the hydraulic fracturing process.”

Ernst said regulatory boards and government are being “conned” into thinking they have the information needed to keep people safe and protect the environment, and should use the power given to them through the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to enforce full disclosure of chemicals, or prevent chemicals from being used until their health effects are studied.

“People have the right to know so they can make an informed, balanced, reasonable choice on whether or not they want to let this industry into their territory, or think of a better way to make energy,” she said.

“If people in the Territories knew that these wastes contained such and such chemicals and were radioactive, perhaps, had a certain concentration of carcinogens, neurotoxins, but the specific deadly chemical identified, I would expect communities anywhere who knew this would refuse to allow it.

“I don’t believe it’s at all about trade secrets.” 

Health Effects of Chemicals Used in Fracking by Denise, Aug 12, 2013, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles
Many stages of oil and natural gas development use chemicals. These chemicals are used not only for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” but also well drilling and during recovery and delivery of oil and natural gas. Many of these chemicals are toxic and may seriously harm human health and the environment.

Trade secrets v. public disclosure by Alan Harvie, July 26 2013 issue,

A Toxic Spew: The near death- by frac chemicals – of emergency room nurse Cathy Behr collection of articles, 2008

Alberta joins British Columbia in partial disclosure of frac chemicals by, January 1, 2013. Secrets permittede.g.for one of the wells in Alberta as of September 7, 2013, none of the chemical additives are disclosed:

Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Chemicals, CAS#/MIRC# not provided
Dec 1 2012 – Dec 3 2012, 08-33-053-10W5, Artisan Energy:
CARRIER FLUID      TG-740    Not Available
ADDITIVE                 HB-4           Trican Breaker 0.46%
ADDITIVE                 HX-2W       Trican Crosslinker 0.44%
ADDITIVE                 Hg-2            Trican Gelling Agent 0.46%
ADDITIVE                 S-12             Trican Surfactant 0.16% ]

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