Draft fracking regulations released by GNWT avoid the main questions of whether or not we should be fracking at all, and whether or not the risks are acceptable to the public. It’s saying to the public, “we don’t care how controversial fracking is, we only want your input on how to oversee fracking projects that we will permit to go ahead.”
Premier McLeod has said repeatedly that this government devolved new authority so that Northerners can have a much stronger voice than when Ottawa was in the driver’s seat. Let’s examine what’s actually happening.
Northerners have repeatedly raised concerns to our government about fracking. The Dene Nation called for a moratorium on fracking in 2011; the Gwich’in Tribal Council banned fracking in 2013; the Sahtu Secretariat called for a comprehensive review in 2014; the Akaitcho Government called for a ban in 2014; 795 Northerners signed a petition calling on the GNWT in 2014 to require a full environmental assessment for any fracking applications; a Tulita petition in 2014 called for fracking applications be put to a vote in the Sahtu; the May 2014 ‘mock’ NWT Elders’ Parliament voted unanimously to place a moratorium on fracking until impacts are better understood; and over 800 Northerners have already signed an active petition calling for a moratorium until a comprehensive review of the risks has been completed.
Compare this with the government’s response, an arrogant claim that they (who have never done this before) are confident they can manage the risks of fracking – “trust us.”
As the government continues to ignore Northerners’ voices, concerns about this highly controversial practice only increase. Research on the impacts of fracking is maturing and being published. It demonstrates that the risks to water, human health and climate are not being successfully managed, and in fact we do not even understand or have the technology with which to manage them. Less than two weeks ago, New Brunswick joined the list of Canadian jurisdictions to ban fracking.
Northerners’ concerns are legitimate on another important front. Scientists have stated in peer-reviewed studies such as the one by Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins, in the January 2015 issue of the respected science journal Nature, that we must leave at least two-thirds of already known fossil fuel reserves in the ground and unburned if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. This includes all those deposits in the Northwest Territories because of the high emissions cost of extraction and transportation. The government is on record in support of the science, yet continues to ignore these findings and act as if they do not exist. Their actions are out of sync with the science, the wishes of many Northerners and the well-being of our families and future generations.
The government’s focus on fossil fuel extraction as the main hope to drive our economy is short-sighted and misguided. Instead, we need an explicit plan and schedule to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for both energy and economic needs, while building a truly sustainable energy and economic development strategy that will serve our families and communities for future generations.
The government says that it is looking “to engage” residents on its draft fracking regulations. I hope that people will take advantage of every opportunity to make their views known during the spring and early summer as community engagement proceeds. I hope they will firmly raise the big questions, like whether or not we should be fracking at all. And, I hope this time their comments will be heard.