Cross-Sector Groups Unite to Demand Independent Review of Fracking

 

Image

May 15, 2014

A province-wide network of organizations is calling for the provincial government to commission an independent review of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial technology proposed for use in oil exploration on Newfoundland’s west coast. The groups outlined their concerns at a news conference in Corner Brook today, citing examples from two recent reports.

“The recent report by the Council of Canadian Academies clearly shows major gaps in scientific knowledge of hydraulic fracturing.This federally commissioned report recommends we move slowly. Unfortunately, we have received the opposite view from the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board who has concluded that oil exploration including hydraulic fracturing can proceed as usual, despite the scientific gaps that exist around that technology, ” said Simon Jansen, spokesperson for the Newfoundland and Labrador Fracking Awareness Network.

In November of 2013 the government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced that they would not accept any applications for oil exploration that involved hydraulic fracturing (fracking) until they completed an internal review.

On May 1, the Council of Canadian Academies released their report on the Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada. The Council is a not-for- profit organization that supports independent, science-based, authoritative expert assessments. The report notes that few peer-reviewed articles on the environmental impacts of shale gas development have been published. They stress that society’s understanding of the potential environmental impacts has not kept pace with development, resulting in gaps in scientific knowledge about these impacts. The expert panel also states that the health and social impacts of shale gas development have not been well studied.

The latest Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for oil and gas exploration in Western Newfoundland released May 5 by the Canada – Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) does not assess the environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

In reaction to these reports an unprecedented number of organizations including labour, tourism, health, fishery, religion, conservation and environment have united to demand that the planned review of hydraulic fracturing for this province be external, independent and science-based.

The groups echo the concern over the gap in scientific knowledge when it comes to the degradation of the quality of groundwater and surface water (including the safe disposal of large volumes of wastewater); the risk of increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; disruptive effects on communities and land; and adverse effects on human health.

“I am pleased that the Council of Canadian Academies is letting the federal and provincial governments know that the concerns of their constituents are backed up by peer-reviewed science. Unfortunately, even though they commissioned this scientific study, they are not showing the leadership necessary to protect residents and communities. This leaves it to our provincial governments to take leadership on this issue,” notes Gretchen Fitzgerald from the Sierra Club.

The board of directors of Go Western Newfoundland, an organization representing more than 600 registered tourism operators along the west coast of Newfoundland, are asking for a hold until “an independent, science- based, comprehensive assessment of all aspects of the project be conducted.”

“In light of the lack of scientific knowledge outlined by the Council of Canadian Academies, we have serious concerns about hydraulic fracturing and its potential impact on workers’ health and safety as well as our drinking water,” says Jeannie Baldwin, Atlantic regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“We want a commitment from government for an external, public, independent review. The public deserves nothing less,” said Wayne Hounsell of the Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group. “The government is currently conducting a number of public reviews, for example on power outages and Bill-29. Surely public concern over fracking and the future of the west coast of Newfoundland are just as important. Premier Marshall has asked for the public to give him feedback. That is what these sixteen groups are doing,” he adds.

-30-

Advertisements

CPAWS Welcomes UN World Heritage Support for Gros Morne Protective Buffer Zone

CPAWS Press Release published on May 1, 2014  

OTTAWA — CPAWS is welcoming a UNESCO recommendation encouraging Canada to create a buffer zone around Gros Morne National Park and World Heritage Site to protect it from industrial threats.  The recommendation in UNESCO’s annual report on the state of conservation of World Heritage Sites was released this week and will be considered for approval at the World Heritage Committee’s June annual meeting in Doha, Qatar.

“We’re delighted with this recommendation,” said Alison Woodley, Parks Director with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “A carefully designed buffer zone would be a huge step towards ensuring that the park’s remarkable natural beauty and ecosystems are well protected from industrialization for the long term.

Last June the World Heritage Committee expressed serious concern about proposed oil drilling and fracking activities next to Gros Morne National Park, and indicated it would be monitoring the issue closely.  If the “outstanding universal values” of a World Heritage Site are damaged or destroyed, the Committee can remove the site from the World Heritage List.

Gros Morne, in Newfoundland and Labrador, was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987 because of its exceptional natural scenic beauty and geological features.  Petroleum development or other industrialization of the coastline would jeopardize the natural beauty and ecosystems of this spectacular national park.

“Creating a protective buffer around the park is important for the region’s long term economic well-being,” said Sue Rendell, owner-operator of Gros Morne Adventures, an adventure tourism business that has operated in the region for 25 years.  “Gros Morne National Park is a huge tourism icon for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and for Canada because of its spectacular natural beauty and unique geology. Over the past 40 years, a sustainable tourism economy has developed around this icon, especially in the Gros Morne region. The park has also had a significant impact on the growth of tourism from Port aux Basque to Southern Labrador. Making sure Gros Morne’s natural beauty and ecosystems are safe from the potential threat of incompatible industrial activities is of great importance to the tourism sector here and to the entire provincial economy.”

Last fall, in response to public and tourism industry outcry against proposed oil exploration, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced a province-wide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to allow for more study and public debate.  Then in December, the federal-provincial offshore petroleum regulatory board refused to extend the proponent’s petroleum exploration license along the coast of Gros Morne and the Great Northern Peninsula. CPAWS welcomed these positive steps, but noted that they would not prevent future harmful industrial development proposals. 

CPAWS wrote to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in January suggesting that it recommend creation of a permanent protective buffer zone around the park to secure the site’s globally significant natural values for all time.  Buffer zones are a tool that is used to protect many World Heritage Sites around the world.

“We look forward to the World Heritage Committee approving this recommendation at their annual meeting in June, and to working with local community members, the provincial and federal governments, tourism operators and others to design and put in place a buffer zone that will help protect Gros Morne forever,” adds Woodley.

-30-

For interviews, contact:

Alison Woodley, National Director, CPAWS Parks Program
613-569-7226 ext 230
613-203-1172 (cell)
awoodley@cpaws.org

www.cpaws.org

View the UNESCO document at: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2014/whc14-38com-7B-en.pdf