Harry S Truman, famously had a sign on his desk in the oval office saying “the buck stops here”. According to Wikipedia this saying originated in frontier poker games where the marker to identify the dealer was a buckhorn handled knife. Passing the responsibility to deal to the next player was known as passing the buck.
Strangely, the buck on telling Quebeckers the truth on hydraulic fracturing may just have been passed to the desk of the President of the United States. Quebec’s Strategic Environmental Assessment Committee (SEA) decided it doesn’t need demonstration projects. It decided it can rely on the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other jurisdictions. Clearly, the SEA Committee, for the duration of their mandate, created by default a complete and total moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.
The BAPE environmental review (page 51) said the opposite. They concluded it was not possible to fulfill their Government mandate to review other jurisdictions and recommend best practices for Quebec. So they instead formulated the SEA to carry out local studies and demonstration projects.
The SEA got this one right. There are sixty years and one million wells of experience to look at in North America. Close to 100,000 wells are fraced with modern technology including over ten inside Quebec already. Likely over 50% of Quebec’s natural gas is produced safely using this technology today.
The SEA also got it partly right about the EPA study on hydraulic fracturing. The EPA has more experience and resources. They also realize the importance of private sector expertise and have successfully called for demonstration projects. On the other hand the EPA is a US Federal agency locked in a bitter jurisdictional battle over control of resource development with individual US States.
So ultimately the buck ends up with the US President. He will have to try and arbitrate between the results of the EPA study and Individual State rights to tell Americans, and maybe now Quebeckers too, the truth about hydraulic fracturing. I am glad at least the SEA also plans to visit Alberta who is second only to Quebec in resisting Federal interference in Provincial rights. May be Obama would be interested to come too.
Is there a cost to this buck passing? After all the gas is still safely in the ground.
How about the advantage Pennsylvania has. They have been building the expertise, the technology, the trained workers and the infrastructure. It’s true they did have a temporary worry about taps lighting on fire in Dimock but the EPA has now confirmed water is safe there. As a result of moving early, they can compete today with low gas prices. They even plan to export their Marcellus shale gas directly from Dimock½to restaurants in Montreal.
Is it too late? Will Quebec end up captive to US natural gas imports, only to be told by the US President, hydraulic fracturing was safe all along , or will it choose the alternate, to become independent. That’s a real question for Quebeckers. Which would you choose?