Northern Journal Article on NEB Approval of Sahtu Fracking Project
The following article on the NEB approval of fracking in the Sahtu and the Maude Barlow event in Yellowknife appeared in Northern Journal on November 4:
Council of Canadians outraged at Sahtu fracking approval
Maude Barlow brings water crisis message to NWT as NEB approves winter drilling
by Meagan Wohlberg
The Council of Canadians voiced its outrage last week following the announcement by the National Energy Board (NEB) approving the Northwest Territories’ first hydraulic fracturing project, which will see ConocoPhillips build two fracking wells this winter in the Sahtu.
Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians and internationally renowned water expert, was in Yellowknife last week to caution residents about inaction on water issues during the announcement, which was followed shortly after by a letter from the territorial government refusing to carry out an investigation into fracking chemicals.
The Council of Canadians’ NWT Chapter received a letter from Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger last week stating the GNWT would not carry out their own investigation of chemicals being used in the fracking process, which the council had requested under the Environmental Rights Act.
According to Miltenberger, the project had already undergone environmental assessment under the federal Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which did away with the need for assessment under the Environmental Rights Act. Both assessments would be “a type of double jeopardy on the process,” he said.
Peter Redvers, with the NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadians, called the GNWT’s response “unacceptable.”
Without a separate investigation, the government is admitting they won’t require ConocoPhillips to disclose the types and composition of chemicals to be used in the fracking process, he said.
Barlow expressed her own outrage at the government’s approval.
“The Northwest Territories government and the NEB have made a decision that you don’t have the right to know what’s going to be put into your water here,” she said. “We have every right to know and every right to free, prior and informed consent as citizens of the territory and the country.”
Barlow said numerous studies at fracking sites around the world have shown the chemicals used are harmful to surrounding ecosystems and freshwater supplies.
“We know that where fracking has taken place there is a chemical soup that is very dangerous to water and to human health,” she said.
The big picture, she said, is that residents need to take action beyond their own water conservation efforts and stand up politically.
“It’s extremely important that the voices of the people of the Northwest Territories be heard loud and clear in their right to have full disclosure, in their right to say no to fracking operations that are going to destroy large amounts of the water of this community,” Barlow said.
NWT facing water crisis
In the NWT where fresh water is plentiful, it’s hard to wrap heads around a dwindling global water supply, but the threat is no less real, Barlow said.
“We are a planet running out of clean water, and that’s very hard for a lot of people who live in this area or other parts of Canada to believe because we are blessed with more water than some parts of the world,” Barlow told media at a press conference.
“We have what I call dismissive abundance, that we have so much water that we can dump anything into it, we can move it wherever we want and we don’t have to respect it, but in fact we have many very serious water issues in this country.”
Because of industrial chemical processes, the current food system and high energy consumption, fresh water supplies are actually disappearing at a faster rate than nature can replenish them, Barlow said.
Around 130 people came to Barlow’s presentation about water in Yellowknife last week, which doubled as a launch for her latest book, Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever.
In the book, Barlow outlines the scale of the global water crisis and offers solutions that include identifying water as a human right and preventing the development of water as a commodity.