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Gerties Casino




Frack or fiction

Editorial Comment - Deh Cho Drum

When it comes to resource extraction in the NWT, the territorial government has a responsibility to ensure limited environmental, human and social impacts occur.

And in its most recent public meeting on proposed fracking regulations in Fort Simpson, government officials did little to ease the fears of many residents who are concerned over the short and long-term impacts of the controversial oil and gas extraction method.

In a package of documents provided to the public, the GNWT deems fracking a safe practice, based on projects in Western Canada. Research into best practices in other jurisdictions around the world, and review of existing regulations, along with public input were used to shape the new regulations.

But at no time during the presentation - which felt like lip service - did officials talk about the research it had done to come up with the regulations. People want to know how the government came to the "confident" opinion that the practice can be done safely.

Research by credible scientists and governments indicate environmental impacts of fracking are very real: water contamination, sanded-in wells and air pollution exceeding healthy limits. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tested air quality near a drill site in rural Wyoming in 2011, finding it worse than around Los Angeles and nearly double the agency's healthy limit. So could this be the case if hundreds - even thousands - of drill sites are allowed in the territory?

The biggest issue residents had was the potential devastating impact on water in the territory. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation estimates each well, per frack, will require 10.2 million litres to 29.5 million litres of water. However, the U.S. Geological Survey reports the Horn River Shale extraction in northern B.C., which extends into the NWT and is on the territorial government's list of potential fracking sites, uses 59.8 million litres per well. Wells can be fracked multiple times too, which can increase the risk of soil and water contamination due to well degradation.

Almost all residents who spoke, nearly a dozen, said a moratorium should be in place. The legislative assembly debated a motion last year to do just this - but saw only four votes in favour.

If residents don't want fracking in their pristine backyard, they need to make themselves heard. Vote out pro-fracking MLAs, protest, and make it known that fracking should not happen in the Northwest Territories without proper public and aboriginal government consultation. The long-term effects of the practice are not known and before the government rushes into it, the research and pros and cons of fracking must be made public.

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