In the News

Yellowknife’s Global Frackdown Media Coverage

See the Northern Journal and Yellowknifer coverage of the NWT Chapter’s 2014 Global Frackdown event.

‘Straight from the Horse’s Mouth’: Former Oil Exec Says Fracking Not Safe

In a message “straight from the horse’s mouth,” a former oil executive on Tuesday urged New York state to pass a ban on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, saying, ‘it is not safe.’

“Making fracking safe is simply not possible, not with the current technology, or with the inadequate regulations being proposed,” Louis Allstadt, former executive vice president of Mobil Oil, said during a news conference in Albany called by the anti-fracking group Elected Officials to Protect New York.

Up until his retirement in 2000, Allstadt spent 31 years at Mobil, running its marketing and refining division in Japan and managing Mobil’s worldwide supply, trading and transportation operations. After retiring to Cooperstown, NY, Allstadt said he began studying fracking after friends asked him if he thought it would be safe to have gas wells drilled by nearby Lake Otsego, where Allstadt has a home. Since that time, he’s become a vocal opponent of the shale oil and gas drilling technique.

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The Power Grab at the Heart of NWT devolution

iPolitics Insight by Shauna Morgan  Apr 2, 2014

This week, the federal government passes regulatory power over lands and resources in the Northwest Territories over to the territorial government. Despite the fanfare, the promise of regional control over lands and resources is ringing hollow.

The recently-passed Northwest Territories Devolution Act (Bill C-15) has two parts. The first passes jurisdiction over Crown lands and resources from the federal to the territorial government. The second contains significant amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA) — taking power away from First Nation communities and regional aboriginal governments and giving it to the federal cabinet…

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The “Toxic Legacy” of Giant Mine 

APTN Documentary

February 08, 2014

“Toxic Legacy”, the documentary report on Yellowknife’s Giant Mine, was prepared by Yellowknife-based video journalist Cullen Crozier for APTN Investigates.  See the documentary.


Fracking Requires Transparency

Column by Peter Redvers & Lois Little; NWT Chapter Co-chairs Council of Canadians

Northern Journal January 27, 2014

On June 13, 2013, GNWT Ministers David Ramsay and Michael Miltenberger were guests on a CKLB radio phone-in show about fracking. The phone-in show came on the heels of the approval of the first horizontal hydraulic fracturing project in the NWT.

People phoned in to share concerns about the use and management of fracking chemicals, fresh water quality and supply, impacts to aquatic species, displaced wildlife, landscape fragmentation, induced earthquakes and the negative consequences of bypassing environmental assessment processes. The ministers dismissed these concerns by speaking of extensive monitoring, groundwater mapping, wildlife baseline and habitat studies, best practices and safeguards including horizontal hydraulic fracking guidelines, and full transparency.

It is seven months since the phone-in show and the first frac is about to happen. ConocoPhillips, the company doing the fracking, is following a chemical management plan based mainly on its chemical supplier’s guidelines and on guidance from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The plan maintains “trade secrets” on various chemicals used. Industry guiding industry, along with lack of full disclosure, certainly doesn’t ensure any best practices and safeguards for public and environmental safety.

Concern about trade secrets was a reason the Council of Canadians (NWT Chapter) used the Environmental Rights Act to call for an investigation of contaminants likely to be released as a result of the fracking project. The minister responsible for the Act refused to undertake this investigation. Now, we learn through Northern Journal articles on Jan. 13 and 21, 2014 that the results of this fracking project, including impacts on groundwater, may not be known for a year or more after drilling results have been collected.

Northerners, especially those in close proximity to the ConocoPhillips project, are becoming increasingly concerned about fracking. A rumoured application from Husky Oil to launch another fracking project in the area adds to these concerns. A Jan. 6, 2014 Northern Journal article reported that there are 200 names on a petition in Tulita and 900 on a petition in Fort Good Hope, calling for the suspension of fracking until there is a region-wide vote.

The current situation leads the Council of Canadians to ask many questions. Without thorough environmental assessments, how can we or regulators know what risks and impacts are involved with this and future fracking operations? How do we know whether industry or regulators are monitoring the right things or implementing the correct mitigation measures? What baseline research can we compare monitoring data to? Where are the promised GNWT “world-class” fracking guidelines promised by the minister? Why does our government allow industry to contaminate massive volumes of fresh water that cannot be reclaimed and are permanently dangerous to our ecosystem? What will the cumulative impact of multiple horizontal fracking operations be on the land, wildlife and water? Why do we allow industry to set their own rules for disclosure of toxic chemicals? Why does the oil and gas industry resist environmental assessments of their activities? What are they trying to hide?

These and other questions make it clear that without rigorous public environmental assessments and full transparency with respect to horizontal fracking operations, we are setting ourselves up for a situation similar to Giant Mine – contamination that cannot be removed or mitigated and must be managed for generations, if not forever.

It is time for government and regulators to step up to protect the environment and the public trust.
Environmental assessments on all horizontal hydraulic fracking operations must be mandatory. And if the social and environmental risks are too high, projects should not be approved.

Peter Redvers
Lois Little
NWT Chapter Co-chairs
Council of Canadians

Fractures Form as Fracking Makes Way into NWT

Northern Journal January 6, 2014

The political landscape was the first to fracture last year as debates over future fracking in the territory split clear divisions between those for and against the controversial petroleum extraction process making its way into the Sahtu region.

Tensions were already mounting as 2013 kicked off following MGM Energy’s decision to cancel its winter drilling plans when its proposal to carry out the first hydraulic fracturing in the NWT was referred to environmental assessment in the fall.

Business lobbyists crying foul about the burdensome regulatory system set the scene for the next exploratory fracking application made by ConocoPhillips, which after some delays and deliberation edged its way through the approvals process last summer without requiring a full environmental assessment.

Backed by business owners in Norman Wells, ConocoPhillips’ proposal to drill two exploratory wells was given the green light by the Sahtu Land and Water Board (SLWB) in June – an approval the company credited to its community consultation process.

That approval did not stay criticism, however, as it emerged later that summer that the water license issued by the board allowed ConocoPhillips the right to withhold chemicals considered “trade secrets” when disclosing its frac fluids to the regulator.

The newly formed NWT chapter of the Council of Canadians quickly launched a campaign demanding full disclosure of all chemicals used for fracking in the NWT, putting in a formal request to NWT Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger under the Environmental Rights Act to look into the matter.

Meanwhile, the National Energy Board (NEB) – still charged with regulating oil and gas in the NWT – released its own new filing requirements in September, eliciting praises from fracking critics who remarked that the new rules put additional pressures on companies to ensure projects would meet health and safety requirements.

While the new rules kept chemical disclosure voluntary, the NEB’s announcement came with pledges from industry that companies would fully reveal the list of chemicals.

Despite additional and somewhat onerous requirements, ConocoPhillips received final regulatory approval from the NEB in November, and like a chain reaction, let Miltenberger off the hook for a GNWT investigation.

The NEB was not the only agency deliberating fracking in the NWT throughout the fall, as a Northern delegation composed of MLAs, municipal government and Aboriginal leaders made its way south to Saskatchewan and North Dakota to check out the bustling billion-dollar Bakken play.

While the trip alluded to some of the social problems that have tagged along with the enormous industrial boom in the region, the promise of prosperity was enough for Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya to change his tune on the fracking bogeyman staring down his region.

Still, some MLAs returned to the NWT with more questions than answers, with Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley critical of the “biased” nature of the southern field trip, which ignored a nearby wellbore failure and pipeline spill in the region.

And as fracking protests in New Brunswick stole the national spotlight in October, Yellowknifers hit the streets in solidarity, sending a clear message of “No fracking way” to the territorial government.

Of those, the Council of Canadians continued to cry loudest for obligatory chemical disclosure and a full environmental assessment for future fracking applications.

As the year came to a close, ConocoPhillips moved steadily forward on exploring the 87,000-hectare parcel of land in the Central Mackenzie Valley under the watch of a handful of other industry interests, all eyeing up their own parcels and hoping for quick access.

The company plans to begin its winter drilling by the end of January.

Whether or not industry successfully creates fissures in the underlying geology has yet to be seen, but as far as politics in the North go, those cracks are already visible.


Fracking and the Global Water Crisis

GUEST COMMENT by Maude Barlow, reprinted from News/North, December 16, 2013

This fall, I visited Yellowknife and was deeply impressed by local efforts to protect the area’s freshwater heritage. Protecting the region’s water sources is more important than ever, even though you live in a seemingly water-rich area. There is no water to waste or pollute anywhere on a planet so stressed for water. Areas of relative water abundance, like the Northwest Territories, have a special responsibility to protect their water supplies.

We are a world running out of fresh water. Global water withdrawals have risen 50 per cent in the past several decades, and are still increasing dramatically. By 2030, it is expected that demand will outstrip supply by 40 per cent and almost half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress.

Communities are seeing the effects of the global water and climate crisis with floods, water pollution and some of the worst droughts in decades. Despite this, governments are still approving water-intensive projects like fracking. The National Energy Board recently gave ConocoPhillips the green light to drill two exploratory horizontal fracking wells near Tulita, without requiring an environmental assessment. This project, expected to begin any day, is the first horizontal fracking project permitted in the Northwest Territories.

The risks associated with horizontal fracking, specifically potential for drinking water contamination, extreme high water use and fracking wastewater that threatens our watersheds, are all reasons we must put a stop to fracking.
In June 2013, Canada and the NWT signed a devolution agreement that will transfer administrative control of public land, water and resources to the territorial government.

The devolution bill will merge all land and water boards into one ‘super board.’ The Harper government is effectively devolving responsibility while centralizing policy. The NWT cannot introduce stronger environmental legislation than the federal level, and after last year’s omnibus budget bills that gutted environmental legislation, the bar is now very low.Yet all levels of government have concrete obligations to uphold the human right to water. In July 2010, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution recognizing the human right to water and sanitation. This right is now enshrined in international law and all countries must ensure its implementation. Even before the UN resolution, the NWT became the only Canadian province or territory to declare water a fundamental human right in 2006.

In order to fulfil Canada’s obligation to uphold the human right to water and sanitation, governments at all levels must put a stop to fracking. The risk that fracking poses to water, public health and climate change is one that governments cannot afford.

Northerners are blessed to have relatively abundant pure water resources, but those resources will quickly disappear and degrade if they are not protected. Allowing industry to openly, deliberately, and permanently contaminate fresh water with toxic chemicals is neither a wise nor sustainable approach to water stewardship.
Water is life, water is sacred, and water is a public, inter-generational trust that must be used wisely.

Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians


ConocoPhillips Chemical Data Falls Short

CBC News/Dec 02, 2013

ConocoPhillips says it has revealed every chemical it plans to pump into two wells it will drill in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories this winter. It will be the first time horizontal drilling and fracking has been done in the Canadian North.

But that doesn’t impress one local watchdog, who says the company could be hiding dangerous chemicals under general terms.

“They say right off the top they are maintaining trade secrets, so what comfort does that give you that everything is being disclosed?” says Lois Little, the co-chair of the Council of Canadians’ Northwest Territories chapter. The Council of Canadians has been advocating for full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking fluids.

Some oil companies have refused to release the chemical composition of some of the fluids they use, saying that to do so would be giving out the secret recipes used to make the fluids.

ConocoPhillips’ report to the Sahtu Land and Water Board includes a disclaimer that reads: “Where the specific identity of a chemical ingredient is considered a trade secret, a general identification… will be used.”

But ConocoPhillips says it’s not using any chemicals protected by trade secrets.

Eric Hansen is supervisor of operations for the Central Mackenzie Valley.

“ConocoPhillips is fully disclosing all chemicals and chemical concentrations to the Sahtu Land and Water Board.”

According to the information the company released earlier this month, the fracking fluid will be 87 per cent water, but the remainder is a brew of sand and chemicals, most of them toxic.

Near the top of the list of harmful chemicals is hydrochloric acid. Five thousand litres of it will be pumped down the well during each frack. ConocoPhillips plans to frack each well up to ten times this winter.

The chemicals will be released into the ground 1,800 metres below the water table.

The company says multiple layers of steel casing will be in place to prevent it from coming into contact with groundwater, which is typically held within the first hundred metres below the surface.

Hansen does say that the list of chemicals could change, depending on what the company encounters while drilling.

“There is a small possibility of that,” Hansen says. “If that is the case, before we actually use the chemical we would have to submit to the Sahtu Land and Water Board at that time. When we finish our completions, we will also be reporting to the Sahtu Land and Water board the chemicals and the amounts.”


ConocoPhillips Releases Updated List of Fracking Chemicals

by Meagan Wohlberg, reprinted from the Northern Journal, December 2, 2013

The company behind the first fracking project in the Northwest Territories released an updated list of the chemicals it plans to use when drilling two exploratory horizontal wells in the Sahtu region this winter.

ConocoPhillips submitted its revised fracking program and chemical risk management plan to the Sahtu Land and Water Board last week, outlining the list of fracking fluids and additives it plans to use overall throughout the winter, their concentrations and their environmental and health hazards.

Potential hazards listed for the majority of additives confirms them as toxic to humans and waterways, several of which are carcinogens or neurotoxins.

The company came under fire earlier this year when it was noticed that the water license granted by the board allowed it to keep trade secrets in the disclosure of its fracking fluids.

Certain chemicals included on the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the various additives are listed without their Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) registry numbers and instead are noted as being “proprietary.” Others have their ingredients listed with percentage volumes that don’t add up to 100 per cent, raising questions about what is missing.

While trade secrets continue to inform the company’s chemical disclosure documents, Eric Hanson of ConocoPhillips said every chemical being used has been disclosed prior to the program moving forward.

“All chemicals and all chemical concentrations have been fully disclosed to the Sahtu Land and Water Board. No chemicals are held in secret; we’ve fully disclosed all chemicals that we will be putting into the ground,” said the supervisor of operations in the Central Mackenzie.

“We’re not trying to keep anything secret; it’s not in our best interests to do so. We’re trying to keep the communities informed as much as possible, and to really educate people about what hydraulic fracturing is all about.”

Hanson said the company’s “fracture stimulation provider,” Schlumberger, has disclosed all the ingredients used, just not the way in which they are mixed.

“They won’t tell you exactly what is in that product, but they will tell you all the chemicals and all the chemical concentrations that will be onsite and that will be put in the ground during the fracture stimulation,” Hanson said. “They won’t tell you the exact mixture of each one of their products, and the reason that is, is they don’t want someone to come along and reverse engineer their chemical mixtures for the products that they supply ConocoPhillips.”

Hanson said Schlumberger is responsible for choosing the chemicals that are used in the fracking project based on what will work best for petroleum extraction, rather than weighing options based on their level of toxicity to the environment or human health.

“So it’s really not ConocoPhillips selecting the chemicals that will be used, it’s more of our fracture stimulation provider that provides us with that, because there are a number of different products on the market, and we’re trying to pick the one that is going to hopefully allow us to fracture stimulate the rocks and prove that there’s the hydrocarbons there.”

Hanson said “99.5 per cent” of the mixture will be made up of water and sand, with the remainder composed of a mix of potent chemical additives, like microbiocides, friction-reducing agents, corrosion inhibitors and hydrochloric acid at volumes of 5,000 litres per frac alone, among others.

The listed types of sand, to be used in volumes of 20,000-60,000 kg per frac, contain crystalline silica, a highly toxic respirable dust known to cause lung cancer in humans.

That mixture will be pumped underground at a rate of 10 cubic metres a minute and use 8,000 cubic metres of fresh water for each well.

Waste water is planned to be collected and trucked to licensed disposal facilities outside the NWT, or stored in temporary holding tanks in Norman Wells before it can be barged out in the summertime.

Hanson acknowledged that chemical reactions occur underground when the mixture combines with the shale formation, meaning the wastewater returning to the surface may not be the same as what was pumped below. But he said the major change that usually occurs is only an increase in salinity because of salt and minerals in the subsurface.

ConocoPhillips recently began constructing its winter access road to the fracking site and expects drilling operations to start before Christmas.


Frac fluid disclosure must be obligatory, critics warn

Reprinted from the Northern Journal, November 18, 2013

The NWT’s environment minister may be convinced that voluntary disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing is sufficient, but critics of the controversial method of petroleum extraction say industry’s short track record in the North is already pointing away from transparency.

Peter Redvers, co-chair of the Council of Canadians’ NWT chapter, said the entire debate over frac fluid disclosure arose in the territory because oil company ConocoPhillips, recently approved to drill two exploratory fracking wells in the Sahtu region, asked permission to keep some chemicals secret through a proprietary rights clause.

“There will be some privilege taken with respect to trade secrecy because it was ConocoPhillips that asked for that. After the draft license was floated, ConocoPhillips indicated that it would be wanting to withhold information and the Sahtu Land and Water Board essentially agreed to that in the final permit,” Redvers said.

New filing requirements laid out by the National Energy Board (NEB), which is currently tasked with regulating fracking in the NWT, do not obligate companies to disclose the chemical makeup of their frac fluids, but instead make the decision a voluntary one.

Though ConocoPhillips has promised publicly to disclose the chemicals it plans to use in the Sahtu, along with the list of chemicals used after each frac, Redvers said he simply does not believe that information will be to the detail the public wants.

“We know that ConocoPhillips is not particularly open to revealing those chemicals to the extent that we want, which is the full chemical analysis as well as the volume,” he said. “Voluntary just doesn’t cut it. It’s not reasonable that citizens of the NWT should have to rely on the generosity and goodwill of companies to disclose what it is they’re doing on the land because, frankly, the record hasn’t been all that great in that area. Disclosure has to be mandatory and it has to be done at the pre-screening, as a component of an environmental assessment.”

Redvers, along with Council co-chair Lois Little, recently requested Environment and Natural Resources Minister Michael Miltenberger look into the chemicals planned for use in ConocoPhillips’ fracking project under the Environmental Rights Act, which demands the minister investigate potential threats to the environment or public health and safety.

Though originally indicating he would look into the matter, Miltenberger later flip-flopped following the NEB’s decision to approve the ConocoPhillips project in late October, saying federal legislation trumps that of the NWT.

The minister was later challenged in the legislature by MLA Bob Bromley, who asked the same question posed by the Council in its disappointed letter to Miltenberger following his refusal: “Is the minister of the opinion that the release of unknown contaminants into the environment does not constitute a threat to the environment and the public trust?”

Miltenberger said he had faith in the existing regulatory regime to address the concerns being raised by the Council.

“What I am satisfied with is that we have a process under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, with the boards, with the environmental assessments that were done, the Sahtu Land and Water Board, with the NEB that addressed the issues,” he said.

“(The Environmental Rights Act) does not have the ability to overrule federal legislation just from a legal point of view, and even if it did, I don’t believe that would be a requirement because I don’t think there are the concerns raised.”

But Redvers argued that an environmental assessment never took place in the case of ConocoPhillips – a “major failing” that casts doubt on the minister’s certainty that environmental and public safety concerns do not exist.

“How do we know what the impacts are if we haven’t assessed those, and if we don’t even fully know what the chemicals are or the volumes are? All of that needs to be on the table upfront, prior to any permit or license decisions, and that didn’t happen with ConocoPhillips,” he said. “That was a failing on the part of a number of agencies.”

Redvers said the Council is awaiting a formal response from Miltenberger addressing its questions and has contacted all the territory’s MLAs to urge movement at the political level on the issue. Legal recourse is also under consideration, he said, though he noted that it may be more realistic to look at ensuring better accountability when it comes time to assess the next fracking proposal.

“When we look at future fracking applications, and there may be some coming up in the relatively near future, then I think it’s absolutely imperative that those go to environmental assessment, at minimum. You just can’t allow industrial development that has such huge impacts on freshwater resources in the NWT to sort of sail through,” Redvers said.


Yellowknife Joins in National Climate Change Rally

Climate Change a Growing focus for Residents, government in NWT

by Maria Church, reprinted from the Northern Journal, November 18, 2013

Concerns about fracking and pipeline developments in the NWT were hashed out in Yellowknife last weekend as a crowd gathered in response to a national call to action on climate change.

Defend Our Climate, a nationwide opposition movement against pipeline and oilsands development, sparked events and demonstrations in more than 100 communities across the country.

The movement spread to the NWT with an event on Saturday spearheaded by Ecology North in Yellowknife that was designed to open a dialogue about Northern concerns on climate change and industrial development.

“It’s about recognizing the need for responsible policy development when it comes to deciding our current and future energy resources and what exactly we want to be investing in,” Christine Wenman, Ecology North coordinator, told The Journal.

Recent oilsands development bids and exploration in the Sahtu were a lengthy topic of discussion at the event. Wenman said many people are dissatisfied with the information available and concerned about the future.

“We’re not seeing that planning for the regional scale of development that’s likely to be seen in the Sahtu, so what is that cumultive impact going to be and how’s it going to be managed?” she asked. “There are some pretty big questions that remain unanswered.”

Participants were encouraged to correspond with their elected officials and invited to sign a carbon tax proposal petition by Ecology North that will be given to the GNWT in a matter of weeks. The proposal, based on Quebec’s carbon tax model, would see a $3.50 per tonne carbon levy on greenhouse gas emissions in the NWT.

Wenman said she believes public interest in climate change has been growing, as is evident by the number of events that have recently been held across the territory.

Last week, the Pan-Territorial Permafrost Workshop was held in Yellowknife to discuss challenges and ideas about dealing with melting permafrost in the North. In Dettah, last week’s NWT Roundtable on Emergency Preparedness asked residents to discuss how they believe climate change is affecting emergency response.

“The message from the scientists and from the community members who are out there witnessing all of this is just that climate change is extremely real, the impacts are dramatic, they’re expensive and we’re just not seeing that urgency that clearly exists from those working on the ground being reflected in policy at the decision making level. There’s a disconnect,” Wenman said.

Warming climate on government’s radar

Brian Sieben, a climate change adaptation specialist with the department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), said climate change is of growing interest to the GNWT.

Current data from ENR shows the territory has seen an average warming of three degrees over a period of 50 years, which has had a wide range of impacts, including melting permafrost, coastal erosion and thinning sea ice.

“The greatest climate warming in Canada is occurring in the North and NWT,” he said, particularly during the winter season when the average temperature increase is closer to four degrees.

Climate change adaptation strategies are now being considered and implemented across several departments in the government to address foreseeable problems caused by increasing temperatures, including the departments of Transportation and Public Works.

Sieben said recent suggestions have been to redraw building codes to factor in heavier snowfall and softer ground, and to build permanent bridges over areas where thawing is forcing ice roads to close early.

“I want to hear suggestions for what programs we should do and also what they observe. Lots of people are on the land and if they are seeing things they haven’t seen before, let us know, or better yet, take a picture,” he said. “We have this great resource of all of those observers on the land; if they let us know what they observe, we can respond to that.”


Petition to investigate fracking chemicals shot down

Northern News Services Published Monday, November 11, 2013

A citizens’ group’s request for Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger to investigate the use of unknown fracking chemical combinations and their potential effects on the environment has been denied.

The Council of Canadians, a volunteer organization, petitioned the minister for an investigation under the Environmental Protection Act, stating he is abdicating his legal responsibility to protect the environment and the public trust. However, Miltenberger stood by his decision last week.

“Those concerns are captured in the approvals and in all the conditions that were attached through the approvals for those two projects,” he said in the legislative assembly on Nov. 7 in response to questions put to him by Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley.

Council of Canadians member Peter Redvers, co-signer of the petition, said the hope had been to use the Environmental Protection Act to provide clarity on what companies operating in the NWT have to disclose about the chemical mixtures they inject, and partially leave, in the ground while conducting horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

“Certainly, our intent on this – and it is a fairly focused campaign – is to find a means where the disclosure of chemical composition and volume is obligatory,” said Redvers. “For the minister to not take the responsibility to carry out an investigation is very unfortunate. This could have been a means to present a better understanding to the public.”

Miltenberger did not respond to requests for an interview on his decision by press time, but in the legislature, he explained he is of the opinion the Sahtu Land and Water Board (SLWB) and National Energy Board have dealt with this issue.

The SLWB’s Class B water licence to ConocoPhillips – the company preparing to begin fracking two exploratory horizontal wells in the Sahtu this coming winter – does require the company to disclose chemicals used, as well as their volumes and mixtures – unless those mixtures are considered “trade secrets.”

The National Energy Board, which recently approved the ConocoPhillips fracking project, addressed chemical disclosure in its new filing requirements, released in September. These ask companies to voluntarily disclose all chemical mixtures used.

ConocoPhillips has committed to disclosing which chemicals it is likely to use in the Sahtu – and to that effect, there are hundreds of chemicals listed on the SLWB website – but not necessarily which mixtures are used where or when.

This is a problem, said Bromley when questioning Miltenberger.

On a recent tour to the Bakken oil fields in southern Saskatchewan and North Dakota, NWT delegates learned that once chemical mixtures are injected into underground wells, the intense pressure and heat can cause chemical reactions, creating new chemicals.

“Is the minister of the environment aware that what goes down is not necessarily the same as what comes back up?” he asked.

Miltenberger did not directly answer that question, but in the following exchange said he does not believe the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) can legally usurp federal legislation, despite a clause that states where there is conflict between two laws, the EPA would prevail. The legislation states an investigation can only be denied if there is no perceived risk to the environment or the public.

Redvers and the NWT Chapter of the Council of Canadians are waiting for Miltenberger’s formal response to their rebuttal letter before deciding what to do next. Redvers remains of the opinion that the minister is legally required to investigate.

“We’ll wait for that response and then determine what to do next … we may be looking at getting legal opinion on that,” he said. “Our bottom line is that if there are any future applications, they need to go to environmental assessment.”

Protestors for Science: Yellowknife Advocates and Health Professionals Protest Against What They Say is a Federal-driven Silencing of Scientists

by Candace Thomson, Northern News Services, Published Friday, September 20, 2013


What started as a relatively small protest of 10 people outside the Greenstone Building on Monday grew to a crowd of nearly 100 as gatherers protested what they said is a silencing of scientists by Harper’s government and its lack of evidence-based decision-making.

Dr. Courtney Howard, an emergency room physician at Stanton Territorial Hospital and chairperson for the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, was there representing her colleagues in white coats.

The protest, titled Stand Up for Science, was put on by the organization Evidence for Democracy (E4D) in partnership with the Council for Canadians. According to its website, E4D calls for “the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making.”

The goal of the protest was to sound the alarm on what the organization said was a Conservative project to shift scientific research funding to economic research for the extraction of natural resources.

“I worked as an emergency physician for three years in Ottawa,” Howard told the crowd. “And there was never a day when a politician came in and asked to be treated on the best available ideology.”

Howard said doctors are taught that evidence is incredibly important.

“We realize in the hospital that human health and environmental health are linked,” she said. “Most of what makes people healthy doesn’t happen inside the hospital, it happens outside the hospital.”

She said people go to hospitals and expect to be treated using methods that are strongly backed by scientific evidence and the environment should be treated in the same way.

“Here in Yellowknife, with Giant Mine looming in the distance, we’re aware of the consequences of making big environmental messes we don’t know how to clean up,” she said.

Howard told protestors that the government has been keeping Canadian scientists from releasing their research from publicly-funded projects to the public. Some of the projects being silenced, she said, were on controversial topics such as climate change.

Howard said in a world that is changing quickly, there needs to be more evidence and scientific research, not less.

Doug Lansdown, a nurse at Stanton Territorial Hospital, said he was glad the rally was happening because he, too, was angered by the shift in federal funding away from scientific research.

“You’re seeing research projects being shut down in the name of resource development,” he said.

He was also there to show support for protestors rallying against the silencing of scientists.

“And now you’ve got government-funded scientists not being able to talk about their research,” Lansdown said. “Science is done in the name of the people, so the people should have access to that.”


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