The ABCs of CPP – F

Fracking to obtain oil and gas has become a contentious procedure due to the vast amount of fresh water the process uses, then leaves behind polluted. It’s also been linked to a rise in the frequency of earthquakes, yet in 2016 the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) created a new fracking venture named Crestone Peak Resources, in which it holds a 97% interest.

Why?

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has revolutionized oil and gas production around the world and especially in the United States. The industry is now predicting fracking will return the United States to self-sufficiency. It is not without controversy and more importantly environmental impact. The most definitive study of fracking in Canada conducted by the the Council of Canadian Academies (the only definitive study on fracking in Canada) found: “...that well-targeted science is required to ensure a better understanding of the environmental impacts of shale gas development. Currently, data about environmental impacts are neither sufficient nor conclusive.”

Three provinces: Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have placed moratoriums on fracking fearing environmental impacts including earthquakes,  groundwater contamination, gas leaks into neighbouring water wells and the impacts of traffic and pipeline construction.

Fracking is a well stimulation technique in which rock is fractured by a pressurized liquid. The process involves the high-pressure injection of ‘fracking fluid’ (primarily water, containing sand and often minerals) into a wellbore to create cracks in the deep-rock formations through which natural gas, petroleum, and brine will flow more freely. In addition, intensive fracking operations in places like Oklahoma have led scientists to believe it may be behind the upsurge in the number of minor earthquakes and tremors being felt there.

Not content to just being invested in oil companies, the CPPIB bailed-out energy giant Encana to the tune of $900 million by purchasing its fracking rights in Colorado. It then purchased the drilling rights from another company to create a new venture in 2016 called Crestone Peak Resources, retaining 97% ownership. The value of the company has now plummeted to $543 million, a $357 million (U.S.) loss.

Fracking in Colorado is highly-contentious, as communities across the state demand more localized control over drilling projects. Does a 97% investment in a foreign fracking company appear to be a low-risk investment to you? The CPPIB obviously feels it is.

Fracking contributes to global warming, pollution, and is hazardous to human health. The following are twelve good reasons for abandoning fracking, courtesy of “Frack Free Colorado”. They are:

  • Health: People who live within a ½ mile radius of a fracking well have a 66% higher cancer rate (Colorado School of Public Health)

  • Global Warming: Up to 9% of methane produced from fracking seeps into the atmosphere. Methane is 100x more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (Dr. Ingraffea: Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University)

  • Ozone: Ground level ozone in some rural places, where there is fracking, is worse than ozone levels in downtown L.A. (Wyoming Dept. of Health)

  • Gag order(s): A gag order in the state of Colorado prevents your doctor from informing you if you have fracking fluids in your blood, making it much harder for you to get well (Colorado State website: cogcc.state.co.us/forms/pdf_forms/form35.pdf)
  • Poisoned Water: More than 5,000 spills have been registered with the Colorado state website, and approximately 43% of these have contaminated groundwater
  • Water Depletion: Each well uses approximately 3-8 million gallons of water over its lifetime, according to Dr. Jeffery Time.
  • Toxic Chemicals: Of the 300-odd chemicals presumed in fracking fluid, 40% are endocrine-disrupting, ⅓ are suspected carcinogens, and ⅓ are developmental toxicants. Over 60% of these chemicals can harm the brain and nervous system (Colborn T, Kwiatkowski C, Schultz K, and Bachran M. 2011. Hum Ecol Risk Assess)
  • “The Halliburton Loophole”: Currently, natural gas drilling is exempt from the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Natural gas companies do not have to disclose the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. This 2006 amendment to the SDWA has become known to its critics as “The Halliburton Loophole”, named for the megalithic U.S. oil services firm, Halliburton. With this amendment the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is effectively ‘off-the-job’ (2005 Energy Policy Act)
  • Methane: Methane levels in water sources that are close to fracking wells can be so high that tap water in surrounding homes has been known to light on fire (Josh Fox, Gasland)
  • Earthquakes: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a sharp rise in seismic activity in the middle of the U.S. is the result of injecting water into deep underground wells for hydraulic fracturing (U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s): VOC’s burn-off from fracking fluid tanks. Some of these chemical compounds cause endocrine disruption leading to genetic mutation in unborn children, while others cause cancer in adults (“The Endocrine Disruption Exchange” (TEDX), Theo Colborn)
  • Leaking Wells: 6% of fracking wells leak in their first year, and 50% leak over 30 years (“The Sky is Pink” Pinskyny.com)

Hydraulic fracturing is a dangerous, unhealthy, environmentally-disastrous process, that by its nature is fraught with great financial risks for investors. The CPPIB must divest itself of its fracking entity, Crestone Peak Resources, and any other fracking investments it may hold.