Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada
E i s G E
nvironmEntal mpacts of halE as xtraction
The Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and
Technology to Understand the Environmental
Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction
Science Advice in the Public Interest ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF SHALE GAS EXTRACTION IN CANADA
The Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and Technology to Understand
the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction ii Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada
THE COUNCIL OF CANADIAN ACADEMIES
180 Elgin Street, Suite 1401, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K2P 2K3
Notice: The project that is the subject of this report was undertaken with the approval
of the Board of Governors of the Council of Canadian Academies. Board members are
drawn from the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), the Canadian Academy of Engineering
(CAE), and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS), as well as from the
general public. The members of the expert panel responsible for the report were selected
by the Council for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance.
This report was prepared for the Government of Canada in response to a request from
the Minister of Environment. Any opinions, findings, or conclusions expressed in this
publication are those of the authors, the Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and
Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction, and do
not necessarily represent the views of their organizations of affiliation or employment.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Environmental impacts of shale gas extraction in Canada / The Expert Panel on Harnessing
Science and Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction.
Issued also in French under title: Incidences environnementales liées à l’extraction
du gaz de schiste au Canada.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN 978-1-926558-77-6 (bound). ISBN 978-1-926558-78-3 (pdf)
1. Shale gas industry–Canada. 2. Shale gas industry–Environmental aspects–Canada.
3. Hydraulic fracturing–Environmental aspects–Canada. I. Council of Canadian
Academies. Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and Technology to Understand
the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction, author II. Title.
TN882.C3E58 2014 338.2'72850971 C2014-901141-5
This report should be cited as: Council of Canadian Academies, 2014. Environmental Impacts
of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada. Ottawa (ON): The Expert Panel on Harnessing Science
and Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction,
Council of Canadian Academies.
Disclaimer: The internet data and information referenced in this report were correct,
to the best of the Council’s knowledge, at the time of publication. Due to the dynamic
nature of the internet, resources that are free and publicly available may subsequently
require a fee or restrict access, and the location of items may change as menus and
webpages are reorganized.
© 2014 Council of Canadian Academies
Printed in Ottawa, Canada
This assessment was made possible with
the support of the Government of Canada. The Council of Canadian Academies iii
The Council of Canadian Academies
Science Advice in the Public Interest
The Council of Canadian Academies (the Council) is an independent, not-for-
profit organization that supports independent, science-based, authoritative expert
assessments to inform public policy development in Canada. Led by a 12-member
Board of Governors and advised by a 16-member Scientific Advisory Committee,
the Council’s work encompasses a broad definition of science, incorporating the
natural, social, and health sciences as well as engineering and the humanities.
Council assessments are conducted by independent, multidisciplinary panels of
experts from across Canada and abroad. Assessments strive to identify emerging
issues, gaps in knowledge, Canadian strengths, and international trends and
practices. Upon completion, assessments provide government decision-makers,
researchers, and stakeholders with high-quality information required to develop
informed and innovative public policy.
All Council assessments undergo a formal report review and are published and
made available to the public free of charge in English and French. Assessments
can be referred to the Council by foundations, non-governmental organizations,
the private sector, or any level of government.
The Council is also supported by its three founding Member Academies:
The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) is the senior national body of distinguished
Canadian scholars, artists, and scientists. The primary objective of the RSC is
to promote learning and research in the arts and sciences. The RSC consists
of nearly 2,000 Fellows — men and women who are selected by their peers
for outstanding contributions to the natural and social sciences, the arts, and
the humanities. The RSC exists to recognize academic excellence, to advise
governments and organizations, and to promote Canadian culture.
The Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE) is the national institution
through which Canada’s most distinguished and experienced engineers provide
strategic advice on matters of critical importance to Canada. The Academy
is an independent, self-governing, and non-profit organization established
in 1987. Fellows are nominated and elected by their peers in recognition of
their distinguished achievements and career -long service to the engineering
profession. Fellows of the Academy, who number approximately 600, are
committed to ensuring that Canada’s engineering expertise is applied to the
benefit of all Canadians. iv Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada
The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) recognizes individuals of
great achievement in the academic health sciences in Canada. Founded in 2004,
CAHS has approximately 400 Fellows and appoints new Fellows on an annual
basis. The organization is managed by a voluntary Board of Directors and a
Board Executive. The main function of CAHS is to provide timely, informed,
and unbiased assessments of urgent issues affecting the health of Canadians. The
Academy also monitors global health-related events to enhance Canada’s state
of readiness for the future, and provides a Canadian voice for health sciences
internationally. CAHS provides a collective, authoritative, multidisciplinary
voice on behalf of the health sciences community.
@scienceadvice Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and Technology to Understand the Environmental Impacts of v
Shale Gas Extraction
Expert Panel on Harnessing Science and Technology
to Understand the Environmental Impacts of
Shale Gas Extraction
John Cherry, FRSC (Chair), Director of the University Consortium for
Field-Focused Groundwater Contamination Research, Associate Director of
G360 – Centre for Applied Groundwater Research, and Adjunct Professor in
the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph (Guelph, ON)
Michael Ben-Eli, Founder & Director of the Sustainability Laboratory
(New York, NY)
Lalita Bharadwaj, Associate Professor, Toxicologist, School of Public Health,
University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK)
Richard Chalaturnyk, Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, Department of
Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)
Maurice B. Dusseault, Part-Time Professor of Engineering Geology, Department
of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)
Bernard Goldstein, Professor of Environmental and Public Health, Graduate
School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)
Jean-Paul Lacoursière, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering Department,
University of Sherbrooke (Sherbrooke, QC)
Ralph Matthews, Professor, Department of Sociology, the University of British
Columbia (Vancouver, BC); Professor Emeritus of Sociology, McMaster University
Bernhard Mayer, Professor of Isotope Geochemistry, Department of Geoscience,
University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)
John Molson, Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Hydrogeology of Fractured
Porous Media, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Laval
University (Québec, QC)
Kelly Munkittrick, Director, Monitoring, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation
Alliance (Calgary, AB)
Naomi Oreskes, Professor, Department of the History of Science, Harvard
University (Cambridge, MA) vi Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada
Beth Parker, Director, G360 Centre for Applied Groundwater Research,
University of Guelph (Guelph, ON)
Paul Young, FRSC, Vice President (Research) & Professor of Geophysics,
University of Toronto (Toronto, ON) Message from the President vii
Message from the President
The development of unconventional oil and gas resources — including shale
gas — holds prospects for dramatically changing the global energy supply.
Jurisdictions worldwide are weighing the potential benefits and impacts of this
development. As the world’s third-largest natural gas producer, fourth-largest
exporter, and possessing vast shale gas resources of its own, Canada has a major
stake in this new source of energy.
The Council of Canadian Academies was asked by the federal Minister of
Environment to assemble an expert panel to assess the state of knowledge about
the impacts of shale gas exploration, extraction, and development in Canada.
In response, the Council recruited a multidisciplinary panel of experts from
Canada and the United States to conduct an evidence-based and authoritative
assessment supported by relevant and credible peer reviewed research. As with
all Council panels, members were selected for their experience and knowledge,
not to represent any particular stakeholder group. The report does not include
recommendations, since policy prescription falls outside the Council’s mandate.
This report and its findings come early in the conversation about the development
of Canada’s shale gas resources. Council assessments strive for consensus, which
proved challenging in this case given the number of issues involved, the lack
of evidence on some of those issues, and rapidly evolving industry practices.
While this report is far from the last word on this topic, the Council believes
the Panel has shed light on important matters that need further reflection.
The report focuses on Canada as a whole but points to significant regional
characteristics and differences wherever these are relevant. It is the Council’s
hope that everyone engaged in and concerned about this topic will find value
in the Panel’s assessment. The Council believes that this report can inform both
public discussions and a future environmental research agenda on a natural
resource that could play an important role in the future of several provinces.
The Council is deeply appreciative of the contributions and assistance it received
from numerous individuals and organizations throughout the course of its work.
First and foremost the Council thanks the Expert Panel members who gave
generously of their time and expertise for this challenging assessment, as well
as the peer reviewers who commented on a draft of the report. The Council is
grateful to Mark D. Zoback, Professor of Geophysics, Stanford University, and
to Jennifer Miskimins, Associate Professor, Petroleum Engineering Department, viii Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada
Colorado School of Mines, for their insight and counsel throughout the
assessment. The Council also wishes to acknowledge the many other individuals
and organizations that provided helpful advice throughout this assessment.
Elizabeth Dowdeswell, O.C., President and CEO
Council of Canadian Academies
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