Tuesday, 10 December 2019
Environment featured

Fracking company leaves province with the cleanup

(KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Ten years after Nova Scotia enticed Triangle Petroleum to experiment with hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in Kennetcook, Hants County, it’s the province that is cleaning up the mess it  left behind.

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Fracking waste pond at Kennetcook. Photo Halifax Media Co-op

In 2007 Energy Department Petroleum Division staff began carefully shepherding Triangle’s approval applications along  to make sure the company cleared the regulatory requirements of multiple departments. Ever since the department has taken a casual approach to whether Triangle met its regulatory commitments.

This summer the  oil company filed for bankruptcy in the US. Triangle Petroleum is still operating, but the government of Nova Scotia is left taking care of cleanup at the six well sites around Hants County. This includes finishing the extensive cleanup of two fracking waste holding ponds, a project now managed by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

Petroleum Division promotes development, regulatory compliance is optional

The Nova Scotia Fracking Resource Action Council report Out of Control  documents the floundering of an ill-prepared department of Environment while it tries to come to terms with the fracking waste ponds it inherited from the Petroleum Division of the Energy Department.

While Environment staff actively wrestled with what to do about the waste ponds and negotiated potential courses of action with Triangle Petroleum, Energy staff took on the self-appointed role of advocacy for the company. 

Belated cleanup halted when company files for protection from creditors

The draining and processing of the nearly 20 million litres of waste water at the two Kennetcook holding ponds finally began in 2015. The project was paused for winter, and was due to start again and be completed in 2016. Instead,  Triangle Petroleum filed in the US for protection from its creditors.

Executive Director Sandy MacMullin of the Energy Department Petroleum Division is a very capable communicator, so the Nova Scotia Advocate hoped to interview him about how the province got into this situation. Our queries began more than two months ago. After a pause for internal deliberation, the department’s spokesperson said that the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is handling the arrangements.

A week was spent with that department establishing that Energy were the ones who had secured the “agreement” with Triangle Petroleum. So we returned to the Energy department with the basic question why the government is now managing the clean-up, and who is paying for it. Three weeks later we got our reply. The Department could not discuss the circumstances surrounding the agreement because of “legal provisions.”

Nova Scotians have no way of knowing whether this legal agreement gives the province any real possibility of recovering the costs of the ongoing clean-up. Non-disclosure provisions of agreements are not unusual. But this one raises the obvious question of whether that non-disclosure serves to protect Triangle Petroleum, or to protect the government from scrutiny by its citizens.

Non-disclosure provisions apply to the terms of an agreement- not to the history of a project. But the Department of Energy continues to hide behind the screen of “legal provisions” when it declines to discuss how the province came to assume responsibility for project cleanup and remediation.

Promoting onshore development of oil and gas

The mission of making Nova Scotia desirable for oil and gas development transcends changes in government, and that mission resides in the Energy department’s Petroleum Division.

Anytime there is a hint of restricting fossil fuel development in Nova Scotia, we are treated to an endless stream of protests about the bonanza we are missing out on. The oil and gas industry has a well established interest in developing Nova Scotia’s offshore resources, but the onshore geology of our province is quite different. The only real interest in onshore oil and gas development comes from small junior exploration companies, hustling other people’s money for their projects.

Undaunted, the very capable and dedicated civil servants of the Petroleum Division work with what is available. It is just another challenge if they can only attract very junior exploration companies who may well go  bankrupt and leave “messes” behind. And if those companies find environmental protection requirements difficult, then make it easier for them.

It seems that if these Petroleum Division practices attract scrutiny, the response is to circle the wagons and protect the mission.

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11 Comments

  1. All three governments were deep into just passing this along, and covering up what they could… only doing something about it when the noise got loud. The PCs were no worse- they were just gone by the time the shit hit the fan.
    Andrew Younger was the best Energy Minister, and the only one with some sense of an independent course… and even he bought the snake oil hustled by the Petroleum Division missionaries.

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  2. Greed, did anyone at all expect this to turn out good except the people who believed the Politicians and oil execs who filled their pockets?? People need to understand the earth is not a concern to them, just dollars, They all are amassing their funds to live out their lives comfortably, and do not care what is left for our future generations to try to survive!! DAM GREED

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  3. We do not have an Environment Department any more. We have, as they are always so quick to point out, an Environmental “Regulator”
    This Regulator only regulates what the Corporate proponents tells them to regulate. Current example to my point. The Regulator “chooses” to allow high risk project to go ahead after questionable Environmental Assessments.
    Then they allow the proponent to destroy the environment for 90 days before they have to release” results” of any environmental effects caused by their process. Emira (Cape Sharp Tidal) are positive that their Turbine, just installed in the Minas Passage, is having absolutely no negative effect on the marine environment. As they just publicly broadcasted.
    Yet they say they have 90 days before the have to “show” any effects. The government allows this even after DFO has required appropriate monitoring to be installed by Jan. 2017.
    Negative effects to our valuable resources need to rigorously monitored by independent authorities at project start up. Farewell to Nova Scotia
    Willie Courtney, Fundy United Federation

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  4. What is being done with the contaminated waste water? Is it being trucked to municipal sewage plants for disposal there, since they are licensed to receive and treat contaminated water? If so, are the sewage sludge biosolids being spread on farmland where the fracking chemicals will contaminate the food chain, and run-off in heavy rain and snow melt flooding to pollute the surface waters?

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  5. Where to dispose of it was the most drawn out aspect of this. The province was OK with it in municipal treatment plants, and it got shopped around to several, all rejecting it. So it has gone, and is going to the cement kiln, of Lafarge in Brookfield. I think there was another article with more in it, but there is this: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/disposal-fracking-waste-water-begins-lafarge-cemen/30791.
    A lot of the cement kiln dust ends up mixed with that same sewage sludge and is spread on fields. The rest sits there in Brookfield and leaches away.

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  6. JUST GOES TO SHOW HOW BADLY OUR GOV IS RUN… VERY UNDER QUALIFIED POLITICIANS WITH NO EXPERIENCE AND IN A LOT OF CASES NO COMMON SENSE… MAKING DEALS WITH NO IDEA OF HOW TO PROCEED WITH ALL THE REQUIRED ACTIONS TO PROTECT US AND NOVA SCOTIA.. BEING A LAWYER WICH IS WHAT 98% OF GOV MP”S ARE,, DON’T MAKE YOU SMART IN ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE AND BUSINESS,, IN FACT A LOT OF THESE F#@K HEADS DONT REALLY GIVE A SWEET TWEET ABOUT US AND WHAT WE REALLY THINK… THEY ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN THEIR MONEY,, THEIR STATUS AND HOW THEY LOOK,, THE REST IS JUST LIP SERVICE AND BULLSHIT.. NOVA SCOTIA TAX PAYERS ARE ON THE HOOK FOR THIS MESS ,,, DON’T FOOL YOURSELVES..

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