One year after devolution, the territorial government is proposing new filing requirements for companies that want to frack in the NWT.
On April 1, 2014, more than 100 pieces of federal legislation, including hydraulic fracturing regulations, were passed on to the territorial government.
The new regulations, introduced Wednesday for public engagement, would require industry to meet new baselines in four areas: baseline surface and groundwater information, public disclosure, measures to address air quality, and enhanced reporting.
“This is the first significant step that the Government of the Northwest Territories has taken to put a distinctly northern stamp on the regulatory system that we now govern, said David Ramsay, minister of industry, tourism and investment.
“The proposed filing regulations that we are introducing are a continuation of a commitment to balance our work to protect the land, water and wildlife in our territory with our investment in northern development and prosperity.
“As the world has increasingly begun to recognize and consider our vast storehouse of energy and mineral resources, the [GNWT] has consistently and unapologetically held that we are open to business to socially and environmentally responsible companies that are willing to invest in and work with us.”
The gas and oil extraction method been a point of contention in the territory over the last couple of years.
Last March, a group called Fracking Action North delivered an anti-fracking petition containing nearly 800 signatures to the legislative assembly.
And now, government officials say the public will have as much a say as anyone in drafting the new regulations.
Ramsay says proposed regulations will be posted online for three months and a series of public engagement sessions will be held across the territory, with the first one scheduled for next Thursday in Inuvik.
The final regulations could be brought into effect in August.
Once finalized, they’ll complement the territory’s existing Oil and Gas Drilling and Production Regulations.
Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger says the government has been working on regulatory framework surrounding fracking since late in the 16th Assembly.
“We recognized that we needed to get up to speed if we’re going to manage this whole area post-devolution.
“What we are doing is not any more onerous than it is in any other jurisdiction that has the same concerns that we do.”
As it stands, no companies are fracking in the Northwest Territories.
ConocoPhillips, which drilled and fracked in the Sahtu last winter, says it doesn’t plan on doing any more exploration work in the region for the foreseeable future.
Husky Energy meanwhile, withdrew an application to frack in the Sahtu last May. The company is however, interested in drilling for silica sand – which is used in the fracking process – near Yellowknife.
Ramsay says the government plans on using this window of inactivity to get its regulatory framework right.
“We are trying to ensure that we get this right. We believe that we can strike the balance.
“Now that we do have a bit of a lull in activity and the global price of oil has fallen tremendously, it is a real opportunity for us to ensure that we get this right.”
Miltenberger says it’s important to lay out new filing requirements before activity picks up in the territory.
With time, he believes companies will look to areas outside the Sahtu and expand to the offshore or the Beaufort Delta region.