We have had three interesting tours related to shale gas recently: one of Pennsylvania, one of Alberta and one of the airline industry.
Anti development folks visited like-minded opponents in Pennsylvania to confirm if everything they already knew was true. Mario Levesque, a proponent, asked to join this tour but was told his safety couldn’t be guaranteed. The tour organizers also refused offers from US proponents to accompany them.
Unsurprisingly, this tour successfully met its goal. Participants were not only able to confirm their fears, they managed to discover things were even worse than they imagined. The EPA didn’t have the same luck and after more than three tours of their own have not been able to find water contamination from fracing in Dimock Pa.
Mario Levesque President of the Oil and Gas Services Association of Quebec (“OGSAQ”) decided to organize his own tour of Alberta farms with natural gas operations. His thought: there must be an alternative to confrontation, why would we look in Pennsylvania to see how things are done in Canada? His tour was unscripted and open to all including opponents. Participants met a cross section of the communities of Rosemary and Beaverlodge, visited Trican, a fracing services company, saw presentations from three Governmental organizations including the Farmer’s Advocate Office and even toured the culture and heritage museum of Grande Prairie.
The upstream industry simply got out of the way and let farmers from Québec talk to farmers from Alberta. Arno Deorksen, former member of the Alberta legislature, said it’s “just a good idea to get Quebecers talking to Albertans” never mind shale gas in Québec.
Participants said a three day crash course wasn’t enough to make up their minds and they still had more questions. They aren’t forming an opinion before doing their homework like so many others have done just based on what they saw on TV or the web or a scripted tour to Pennsylvania. It was useful for Quebecers to see how Alberta, the world’s best at onshore natural gas development, does things. Instead of perpetuating confrontation the tour opened minds to possibilities, which is real success.
Least successful was the tour of the airline industry which no one asked about. On the way out from Montreal the plane had a flaw with the toilets and had to divert to Winnipeg for repairs. On the way back the luggage compartment door jammed and they had to wait for hours in Montreal. To everyone’s credit they all took those problems in stride.
However, if tour participants had found issues like that on their tour of farms with natural gas operations I wonder what they would have said. A while back a few wells in Quebec had some fugitive emissions and needed preventative maintenance. No one in Quebec took that in stride. Industry was quote, unquote “out of control”.
Call the papers! The airline industry was “out of control” on the #qcfarmertour!