Lethbridge locals protest fracking

Concerned citizens looking for a provincial ban on the practice of fracking oil and gas wells in Alberta gathered together in Lethbridge Monday evening.

Protesters band together in southern Alberta to ask for a province-wide ban on the drilling practice.

A group of more than 150 citizens came together in Lethbridge Monday evening to protest fracking in southern Alberta.

One of the rally’s organizers said people are concerned that fracking is going to contaminate their drinking water and affect their health.

"People really care about their drinking water," said Sheila Rogers, chair of the Council of Canadians' Lethbridge chapter. "People are really, really upset that this is going on without their consultation and without the oil and gas companies being held responsible for proving that it’s safe."

The controversial drilling process consists of injecting water and a mixture of mud and chemicals under high pressure into a well.

The pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas or oil to flow more freely out of the well, letting energy companies reach resources that were previously deemed too expensive to access by conventional drilling.

"Even though our federal government has called for a review on the scientific knowledge about fracking, which shows that they don’t know a lot about it, they’re still allowing it to go ahead," said Rogers.

A petition was circulated among the protesters calling for a province-wide ban on fracking until the effects on environment and health are fully understood.

 "We have to say no once and for all," Lois Frank told the crowd.

She was one of three Kai-nai women arrested and put in jail for blockading a fracking well near her home earlier this month near Stand Off, Alta., roughly 200 kilometres south of Calgary.

Protest organizers say they will continue the fight and have planned for a bigger event at the Alberta legislature in the coming weeks.

Environmental concerns

Another speaker at the protest was James Byrne, a professor and researcher at the University of Lethbridge in the geography department.

His research areas include atmospheric science, environmental science, surface and groundwater issues and climate change.

"Fracking is bad for our water, it’s bad for our atmosphere and we really need to stop it," he said.

"We don’t need the energy; we don’t need to supply all of North America with energy."

Byrne said up to half of the fracking chemicals injected into the wells are not recovered, and there are hundreds of thousands of wells planned all over North America.

"We are putting thousands and thousands of gallons per well of toxic chemicals into the earth ... and they are going to be there for a long time," he said. "Even though they line these wells with concrete, about one well in a 100, maybe one in 150, has major leakage problems so we get those chemicals leaking back in to our environment."