Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Newfoundland Pauses Fracking

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has indicated that it will suspend all efforts to explore the prospects for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract oil and gas in the province. The province wide moratorium will include suspension of fracking exploration around Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site which became a focal point of concern. The park comprises 1,805 square kilometres of western Newfoundland’s coastal lowlands and towering Long Range Mountains.
The ruling Conservative government imposed the temporary moratorium in response to pressure from the provincial NDP, public outcry, and campaigns from environmental organizations like Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). The suspension is ostensibly intended to determine the implications of fracking on people's health and the environment. The provincial review is also supposed to include consultation with residents.

The announcement was made by Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley on Monday November 4 in Newfoundland's legislature. Dalley made the following statements about the government's review of the controversial practice of fracking in the province:

"I can assure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that our government’s first and main consideration when exploring an economic development opportunity is the health and safety of our people and protection of the environment...These principles guide our decisions and remain our highest priorities....Our first consideration is the health and safety of our people. In making this decision, our government is acting responsibly and respecting the balance between economic development and environmental protection."

Shoal Point Energy and Black Spruce Exploration have suspended their fracking plans on the west coast of Newfoundland. It is important to note that this is only a pause for further study.

Organizations like CPAWS were at the forefront of efforts to resist fracking and protect the pristine beauty of Gros Morne. This temporary victory is at least in part due to their efforts as Canada's voice for the wilderness. Such groups will also be crucial to ensuring that Newfoundland's ruling Conservatives live up to their word.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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