Multinational oil and gas company ConocoPhillips has received regulatory approval for its plans to drill and hydraulically fracture up to 10 additional wells in the Sahtu region of the NWT near Norman Wells.
The Sahtu Land and Water Board issued land use permits and water licences to the company on July 31 after delaying the decision by a month to allow for further review.
The five-year permit and licence were issued on the condition that the company lay down security deposits totaling over $3.2 million.
Along with its approval, the board reminded ConocoPhillips to consult with the NWT department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) with respect to emissions testing and contingency plans, and any changes to wildlife and habitat monitoring plans.
The company is also asked to submit an updated surface and groundwater monitoring plan prior to drilling.
ConocoPhillips applied in March to drill up to 10 more wells in the Sahtu over the next five years, but announced later in the spring that no capital funding would be directed towards winter drilling for the 2014-15 season.
The application was not referred to environmental assessment, despite calls for a full public hearing on fracking in the Northwest Territories.
Among those calling for an environmental assessment was the NWT chapter of the Council of Canadians.
“We are profoundly disappointed that the SLWB chose to ignore the many well-reasoned interventions, the territorial petition with almost 800 signatures, the NWT Elders Parliament resolution and the many voices in opposition from the community whose lands and waters are most directly impacted,” the chapter’s co-chair, Lois Little, told The Journal.
“It is offensive that all these voices have been ignored with the sweeping statement that concerns can be addressed by existing technology and the company’s existing practices,” she said.
The issue of fracking was a topic of discussion at last week’s annual Sahtu Assembly, where a resolution was passed to call for a regional study on the impacts of the practice in the Sahtu.
ConocoPhillips is the first and only company to date to perform horizontal fracking in the NWT. The company drilled two exploratory wells near Norman Wells last winter. A second application to frack by Husky Oil was withdrawn earlier this year.