Proposed drilling in Lethbridge carries too many risks: Letter by Dr. Tyson B. Brust

Proposed drilling in Lethbridge carries too many risks by Dr. Tyson B. Brust, PGY4 Neurology Resident, University of Calgary, January 6, 2014, Lethbridge Herald
I am writing express my deep concern about urban drilling by Goldenkey within the city of Lethbridge. Although I am currently completing my neurology residency training at the University of Calgary, I grew up in Lethbridge and hope to return as I have friends and family in the community.

I would like to emphasize that we do not have enough research evidence to understand the long-term health consequences of hydraulic fracturing and gas flaring in urban areas. Without evidence that urban drilling is safe, we should not risk the health of our citizens. One of the proposed wells is less than a kilometre away from an elementary school, and could potentially put our children at risk – a position held by both local school boards.

I support resource development in general and I am pleased with the PC government’s efforts to lobby for energy projects that will ultimately help pay for our cherished social programs, including universal health care. I understand that exporting Alberta’s oil wealth is important to maintain our health-care system.

But there could also be significant health costs of urban drilling. I do not believe that there should be drilling in urban areas, close to schools, and uphill from the city’s water supply. Nor do I think that dangerous toxins should be trucked through residential neighbourhoods. In addition to health and safety risks, urban drilling will also have negative impact on property values and the future development.

Because the City of Lethbridge has no control over urban drilling, I would urge all concerned citizens to write letters to their MLAs to encourage them to put more pressure on the provincial government to intervene. In addition, letters should be sent to Health Minister Fred Horne and Premier Redford. The only chance to prevent urban drilling in Lethbridge is to pressure the province to buy the energy rights back from Goldenkey. Once the wells are in place it will be too late.

We also need to advocate for municipalities (and their citizens) to have direct control over whether they allow urban drilling within their corporate limits. Citizens should have input into decisions that directly affect their health and wellbeing. We should not be beholden to the AER, which has the appearance of being a puppet of the oil industry, and is certainly not directly accountable to the people. [Emphasis added]

  1. Fedup Conservative says:

    Here is another person using good old fashion common senses and a doctor to boot. You had better listen to him. I’m betting most of oilmen would agree there is absolutely no need for this well to be drilled in this area.

  2. Rural Alberta says:

    It’s essential to have medical professionals speaking out on this issue. However, I do feel that urban kids are no more special than rural kids, and would like to see doctors advocate for the health of all kids, because kids are kids and “with the PC government’s efforts to lobby for energy projects that will ultimately help pay for our cherished social programs, including universal health care,” I don’t think the kids in Alberta are being given much consideration by the PC’s, regulators or the industry – born or unborn:

    “The energy industry has long insisted that hydraulic fracking — the practice of fracturing rock to extract gas and oil deep beneath the earth’s surface — is safe for people who live nearby. New research suggests this is not true for some of the most vulnerable humans: newborn infants.

    In a study presented today at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in Philadelphia, the researchers — Janet Currie of Princeton University, Katherine Meckel of Columbia University, and John Deutch and Michael Greenstone of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — looked at Pennsylvania birth records from 2004 to 2011 to assess the health of infants born within a 2.5-kilometer radius of natural-gas fracking sites. They found that proximity to fracking increased the likelihood of low birth weight by more than half, from about 5.6 percent to more than 9 percent. The chances of a low Apgar score, a summary measure of the health of newborn children, roughly doubled, to more than 5 percent.”

    Fracking Is Bad for Babies, Research builds on and affirms research in Pennsylvania by Elaine L. Hill

    “…As pediatricians specializing in environmental medicine, we at The Center for Children’s Environmental Health are opposed to the current use of hydraulic fracturing not only due to the multiple known risks to children’s health, but also due to the substantial lack of research into the health effects of this practice. While this particular void in research is prominent and must be addressed, multiple health concerns have already been brought up by a wide range of individuals and groups, from rural communities to political bodies and environmental organizations to public health experts.”


    When Bonavista Energy is allowed to drill and frac near an elementary school in Rocky View County, I think it’s a little naive to expect there shouldn’t be wells near city schools – schools are schools, full of kids.

    FrackingCanada Fracking Rocky View County

    “We should not be beholden to the AER, which has the appearance of being a puppet of the oil industry, and is certainly not directly accountable to the people.”

    The 100% funded-by-industry AER, is the PC’s “baby,” so “beholden” we shall be.

    “The Alberta government has appointed the founding president of Canada’s most powerful oil and gas group as well as an active energy lobbyist to head its new energy regulator.

    Gerard Protti, a long-time senior executive for Encana from 1995 and 2009, served as the inaugural president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

    He is also registered as an active lobbyist for the Energy Policy Institute of Canada.

    … The Redford government appointed Protti, who also has close ties to the Harper government, as industry advisor to the Alberta government on its Regulatory Enhancement Project.

    That project is still designing a one-stop shop regulatory body for oil and gas that Protti now heads.

    … ‘By handing the fox the keys to the hen house, the Redford government has made a mockery of their claims to being a tough regulator. No one outside of Alberta is going to take the founder of the oil industry’s main lobby group seriously as an environmental regulator. It may be a cause for joy in corporate boardrooms, but it is our communities and our environment that will pay the price of this revolving door between government and industry.’”

    The Tyee: 2013/04/02/new_top_energy_regulator/

    As I stated earlier, it’s critical that medical professionals speak out.

    “Barry Brace’s letter of Dec. 17 ‘No explosions in fracturing process’ would have us believe that fracturing our underground geology with chemical laced solutions is a perfectly benign and harmless procedure.

    I would refer him therefore, to an article recently published in the medical journal Endocrinology, the prestigious journal of the American Endocrine Society.

    This study reports that a group of American scientists analyzed surface and groundwater samples from Garfield County, Colo.–a hotbed of fracking activity–and compared these to samples drawn from a region with little such activity.

    Water samples near the fracking sites contained ‘moderate to high’ levels of 12 different chemicals used in fracking that have known endocrine disrupting activity and have been shown to play a role in causing infertility, cancer, birth defects and other diseases.

    Children are particularly sensitive to the effects of these chemicals. Samples taken from the Colorado River, which collects drainage from fracking sites also had moderate levels of these same chemicals. By comparison little activity was found in sites remote from drilling.

    More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and the health dangers of many of these are well established. I believe it is naïve and irresponsible to think that tons of these chemicals can be pumped into our environment and that there will not be eventual contamination of our underground and surface water reservoirs.

    The fact that apparently so little contamination has been found in Alberta may well indicate a lack of sufficiently broad and rigorous monitoring.

    My concern is that our children and grandchildren will pay the price for this reckless pollution of our environment.

    Robert Griebel, MD

    Hydraulic fracturing letter by Robert Griebel, Alberta MD: Reckless pollution of our environment

    Hopefully Alberta’s reported doctor bullying will stop, so our good doctors can continue doing what they do best, and our new doctors aren’t squashed before they even begin.

    Alberta Views/2012/11/01/doctor-intimidation/

    Good luck to you Dr. Brust, maybe Lethbridge will be a safe place for you to practice.

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