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NL fracking consultations: Port-au-Port East, night 3

I didn’t have the privilege of attending more than 1 of the NS Wheeler review panel public consultations so I can’t compare, but here in NL, every meeting has had quite a different feel. Port-au-Port East is as close as you get to “ground zero” so it’s not surprising that presenters were passionate and unrelenting in their desire to ensure their homes, families and livelihoods, and the local environment remain safe from yet another boom-bust industry.

The parish hall was packed with between 175-200 people who attended the meeting last night in Port-au-Port East, with a pretty rowdy and vocal crowd who chided the panel for not having more balance, booed the two pro-industry presenters, and talked back to the chair.

More questions were raised regarding bias of panel, including a strong challenge and exposing of industry ties for each panelist, as they squirmed or smirked arrogantly. The panel did not try to respond to these accusations, and have said all along that people don’t need to trust them; they just ask for people’s cooperation in the process.

The majority of the 4hr session remained respectful, however, and it wins the award for most creative presentations with three poems being read, one song performance and some artwork too.

Jane Bennett, a Mi’kmaq girl, started off the evening of presentations showing her posters to the panel of what a future with fracking would look like versus the pristine natural world that should remain in a future without fracking. Elder Victor Muise provided the panel with gifts to welcome them to indigenous territory.

The session heard many speakers raise again issues of quality of life, impacts on existing industries, climate change concerns, health dangers, risks to water, etc. We also had two pro-fracking presenters, but again the vast majority concluded the panel should recommend a ban on fracking in the province.

The final consultation happens tonight in Corner Brook with 18 (!) scheduled presentations. I’m expecting it to be a long and late night, but that also the panel will depart tomorrow knowing without doubt that the people of the West Coast of NL understand the industry and don’t welcome it here.