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WIN! Panel recommends continued “pause” on fracking in Newfoundland and Labrador

Council of Canadians organizer Angela Giles presents to the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel, October 2015.

A government-appointed panel has recommended that a “pause” on fracking in Newfoundland and Labrador should remain in effect until further study is done.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel has just released an almost 200-page report that says, “There is a limited understanding of the geology and its implications for unconventional oil and gas development.” The report also notes, “[Fracking] cannot be considered a ‘game changer’ with respect to the fiscal position of Newfoundland and Labrador.” And the report adds, “There are a number of gaps and deficiencies that are significant. These must be addressed before we feel that conditions could reasonably exist that would allow hydraulic fracturing operations to proceed responsibly.”

CBC reports, “The panel was clear in the need to mitigate any potential effects on west coast tourism, particularly the province’s top tourist attraction. ‘An appropriate buffer zone around Gros Morne National Park must be established’, it said, adding that buffer needs to be at least 25 km.”

The Canadian Press adds, “Steps before fracking is allowed should also include assessing potential health effects, greenhouse gas emissions and a modern seismic study of the Green Point Shale south of Gros Morne, says the report.”

The CBC article highlights, “In the creation of the report, the panel accepted submissions from more than 550 people and groups, held public consultations and private meetings, as well as made visits to both the west coast of Newfoundland and established fracking areas in Pennsylvania.”

Three of the people the panel heard directly from at their public consultations in October 2015 were St. John’s-based Council of Canadians Board member Ken Kavanagh, St. John’s chapter activist Paula Graham, and Atlantic regional organizer Angela Giles.

The panel also accepted written and artistic comments through to June 1, 2015. The St. John’s chapter held a series fracking review panel submission parties to generate comments to the panel.

In May 2015, the Independent News reported, “These events, organized by the St. John’s chapter of the Council of Canadians, are a way to ‘get as many people plugged into the process of submitting to the panel by the deadline’, said Erika Steeves, an anti-fracking activist and member of the Council. ‘The idea of the submission parties is to have it be a fun, social event that encourages a lot of different types of submissions — not necessarily the traditional letter-writing and reports and technical side of things’, she explained at a video submission party.”

Notably, that newspaper report highlighted, “Steeves and a few others organized the first NL fracking review panel creative submission party on April 30, 2015, out of which came a handful of submissions [resulting in the review panel creating] a new section for—’Artistic & Creative Submissions’—on its official website.”

The Council of Canadians has been calling for a ban on fracking in Newfoundland and Labrador since May 2013. At that time, Kavanagh stated, “We are alarmed that these companies have plans to frack within kilometres of Gros Morne National Park. It’s not just about Gros Morne, though. Communities all along the West Coast are getting informed and organizing to stop the proposed fracking projects from moving forward.”

Our congratulations to Council of Canadians activists, the Newfoundland & Labrador Fracking Awareness Network, and all friends and allies who have worked against fracking in Newfoundland and Labrador. We will be celebrating this win at our upcoming annual Groundswell conference in St. John’s this coming October 14-16.