Shale Gas – Open letter to Lucien Bouchard by Dominic Champagne

Shale Gas – Open letter to Lucien Bouchard by Dominic Champagne (Membre de L’Ordre du Canada, teacher, lecturer, playright, director, scriptwriter and actor, as well as the co-founder and artistic director of the Théâtre Il Va Sans Dire and outspoken opponent to shale gas in Quebec)

Translation by Amie Richelieu October 27, 2012

Ressources naturelles – Lettre à un vieux politicien by Dominic Champagne, October 26, 2012, Le Devoir

Mister Lucien Bouchard.

In the last pages of your Letters to a young politician, you mention our private meeting in June 2011 and say that in business like in politics, problems have to be solved by rational solutions and that by demonizing your opponent, that only polarizes positions and leads to a dead end.

After observing the little respect you showed this week to those you call “blockers” and other “environmental sects”, when these people propose a different ideal of development, ask only for a better future and true progress and deserve all your consideration, you will let me write to you today to try to untangle the deadlock where your reasoning is leading you to.

In February 2011, you were finishing your first public interview as a lobbyist for the industry by declaring that you had decided to get involved in the shale gas affair in order to build a better future for your sons, the heart of your life. As you well know, I have three sons of my own and I have also gotten involved because of very similar reasons. Today, these are two opposite visions of our future that are facing each other. I would like to believe that there is a possibility of a compromise that will let us march toward a better future, but the more I hear you promote your own propaganda campaign, the more your words sound like an insult to the intelligence of any citizen that follows this file closely. What dialog are you talking about here?

The precautionary principle

What you call the golden age of gas is polluting the existence of thousands of citizens across the planet. The first advice I could give you would be to go in the counties in Pennsylvania with a guide independent of the industry so you can see for yourself that this model of development should in no case be attractive to you. It is not this country, nor this kind of progress, nor this future that you dream of for your sons, of that I am sure.

If you yourself cannot go listen to the people over there that implore you not to let this industry settle on our land, you could read some of the most recent independent studies that keep coming out that conclude that the risks associated with this kind of extraction are very real indeed. Studies paid for by the industry come to completely opposite conclusions. And so do you…

Enlightened by these conclusions, there is no doubt that an agricultural region like the St. Lawrence Lowlands should adopt the precautionary principle. Here are a few thoughts to help you along in your reflections about the subject:

In the last few years, more than a thousand cases of contamination, explosions and other collateral damages have been documented and presented in a legal court or to governmental agencies in many states in the US. In 2011, a report from Cornell University concluded that when it comes to climate change, shale gas is worse than conventional gas, coal or oil. Last July, a report from Duke University confirmed the link between shale gas formation and underground water tables, concluding that drinking water reserves are at risk of being contaminated by the gases leaking from exploration wells. In another report that came out in March 2012, researchers at Colorado University compared two groups of people living at different distances from wells and came to the conclusion that those living nearer to wells ran a greater risk of catching cancer because of their greater exposure to gases generated from the drilling activities.

Blind development

By repeating blindly the industry’s mantra, it’s your own credibility that you risk of loosing. Let’s be honest men of good will and try to talk about our sons’ future truthfully. Climate change, one of the most important political questions right now, will only be resolved by switching to clean renewable sources of energy and cutting ourselves off gradually from dirty energy. It’s an enormous challenge. A challenge to our imagination, our courage, our sense of sharing and of justice. Its the challenge of today. To keep on doing blind development would be immoral.

We cannot sacrifice the future of the next generations on the altar of economic performance at any price and of short term profit for the shareholders, no matter how powerful they are. Cupidity under the invisible hand of free enterprise to the detriment of public interest is a bad master.

Many citizens of the St. Lawrence Lowlands that have been actively requesting respect from the industry have acquired during this saga a deep knowledge of this question. Also a great conscious awareness of the impacts of our energy development. And if they deserve that their preoccupations be perceived as being legitimate, it is because that they live on the land the industry is yearning for. These inhabitants are the top owners of the resource, the real experts of their way of life, deeply involved in the protection of the common good.

And then there’s sovereignty

You have once been a rallying person, Mr Bouchard, when it came to obtain sovereignty of our people. It is still sovereignty we are talking about here, when it comes to exploit freely, fully aware of our riches that are ours: the water, the air, the soil, and the gas imprisoned underground.

For what is to come, you could play an important role in the democratic use of our collective wealth. By doing the promotion of intelligent, wise and just use of our energy resources. As René Lévesque had brought us towards a promising horizon by the appropriation of our hydro-electric resources, let’s hope that by rationally, rigorously going towards a deep knowledge of the energy file, you will continue in this tradition rather than oppose it with backward forces. Those that promote clean sources of energy march towards the future.

Your words can be charming, and you could use of your authority and your leadership to influence the promoters that you represent so that they invest more into the sources of progress and real collective enrichment.

On paper, at first glance, the exploitation of shale gas seems like a bonanza. But the recent gas boom has made half of the investments go down in renewables, even though we know on what side the tendency is for those that plan the future. In Northern Europe, especially in Germany, big biomethane sites are in production right now to transform organic waste into natural gas. In Quebec, by investing more in that sector, we could meet half of our needs in natural gas, in a clean way, and by solving an important waste problem! Contrary to misinformation campaigns funded by the industry that gain, in the short term anyway, by snuffing these efforts.

After years when the government has very little taken care of it’s citizens preoccupations, the arrival of Minister Martine Ouellet lets us hope that change will be done in the public’s interests.

But the members of the team of experts of the Strategic Environmental Study (ÉES) going on right now are still a point in contention. By electing a committee partially made out of members of the industry, without any citizen or ecologist representation, that is a great blow to the credibility of this study. You can go on repeating that we have to wait for their conclusions, we already know that it is a report made to order for the development of the industry that will come out of it. The mandate itself, tendentious in its nature, is clearly meant to establish the pertinence of it’s development without seriously evaluating alternative solutions to shale gas.

The natural resources of Quebec are collective, and it’s up to the government to insure the democratic control and the decider, with the free consent of the population that will be well informed first.

It is a sad day, the day when the defender of public good that you once were decides to use your influence to try to make the unacceptable acceptable, to discredit many active forces of the community and make the interests of his clients before the superior interests of the nation.

It’s not too late for you to compromise!

As for myself, I remain faithfully yours.

[Refer also to:  Lucien Bouchard – Wikipédia

Dominic Champagne – Cirque du Soleil

Dominic Champagne – Wikipédia ]

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