New call to halt fracking in Northwest Territories

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A group named Fracking Action North wants hydraulic fracturing in the NWT to be postponed until an environmental review is completed.

This isn’t the first time the group, which includes Alternatives North, Ecology North and the Council of Canadians, has petitioned for fracking in the North to be reviewed.

In March last year, the group delivered an anti-fracking petition containing 790 signatures to the legislative assembly.

The group says that should have been more than enough to trigger a review under a clause of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which states that projects of “significant public concern” should undergo an environment assessment.

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Read: Relevant section of Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act

“What constitutes public concern,” asked Fracking Action North’s Eugene Boulanger, “if a petition with 790 signatures on it does not represent public concern?

“I have no answer for that. I don’t know, 790 to me seems worth mentioning, isn’t it?” Boulanger told Moose FM.

“The regulatory system right now is an immense frustration for a lot of people.”

In August 2014, ConocoPhillips received further regulatory approval for fracking near Norman Wells.

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“Governments need to have revenues to operate and there needs to be jobs for people to have, so you always have to have that balance,” said oil and gas development minister David Ramsay three months earlier. “I would say we are striking that balance.”

“This is not North Dakota. This is not Alberta,” added environment minister Michael Miltenberger at the time. “This is the NWT and what we are doing is very, very modest.”

The more oil and gas exploration there is in the North, the more royalties the territory will expect to take as it works to keep its budget balanced.

Read: NWT budget – money for now but a tougher outlook ahead

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But Boulanger, launching a new petition against fracking – aka hydraulic fracturing, which uses pressurized liquid to open up the ground for oil and gas exploration – said the government was acting in haste.

“We’re simply interested in sound regulatory decisions that support the interests of NWT residents with regard to economic development, and specifically with hydraulic fracturing in the Sahtu region,” said Boulanger, who hails from Tulita.

“We think this is rushed and the government should be supporting us in our call for a full environmental review, so we can generate some of our own data with regard to the very sensitive and unique Mackenzie Valley, and come to our own conclusions as to whether fracking is a viable industry we want to see developed here.

“We are against fracking, but we’re not against economic development. What we’re asking of the public here is, is this the kind of industry we want to be investing in, and are these the risks we are willing to take?”

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