Provincial, territorial ministers tackling fracking

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Conference includes panel discussion on onshore oil and gas projects

Tom Marshall. — Telegram file photo

Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall continued his information gathering on the subject of hydraulic fracturing — fracking — while at a meeting of his provincial and territorial counterparts in Yellowknife, N.W.T., this week.

The Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference, held from Aug. 24-27, included sessions on geoscience and aboriginal engagement in relation to natural resource projects, but also fracking.

“Overall the theme was responsible resource development. That’s what I took out of it,” Marshall said Friday.

Taking in a panel on fracking, Marshall said he had conversations with researchers and government representatives on the topic — adding to information gathered during a fact-finding mission to Weyburn, Sask., earlier this month.

“The Yukon minister, I spoke with him and they’re pretty well where we are. They’re still looking,” he said. “British Columbia is well advanced in shale gas. They’ve built a large industry in northeastern British Columbia. They’re proud of the industry. (They) are trying to capitalize on the low price of natural gas by looking at (liquid natural gas) facilities and export to China,” he said.

He had already spoken to representatives from provinces in Atlantic Canada, but said he was not aware of Nova Scotia’s decision to abandon an internal review on fracking, in favour of a public review panel, until his return home.

The Newfoundland and Lab-rador Fracking Awareness Network has been calling for just such a review to be launched in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Marshall said he has not ruled anything out.

“We’ve looked at our regulations and rules and compared it to other jurisdictions. We’re also considering where we go next with research and science,” he said, expressing an interest in getting more information specific to western Newfoundland.

In terms of research, Marshall said he spoke with University of Moncton professor Louis LaPierre while at the ministers’ conference. LaPierre is chair of a research think-tank in New Brunswick, tasked with investigating shale gas exploration and providing independent information on the topic.

“He gave me the example of this famous video of people lighting their water faucets and catching it on fire. He told me how that was happening before fracking, because of methane getting into water wells in different parts of the United States,” Marshall said.

Wastewater and seismic activity were also part of his discussions, he said.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, there are no applications with the provincial government to use hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas work. There must be an application put to the province and moved successfully through environmental assessment before any fracking could go ahead.

Companies who have previously suggested they would be fracking wells within the year have since stepped back from the rhetoric.

Black Spruce Energy has announced its intention to tackle projects that do not involve fracking in the near-term.

Investcan Energy Corp. has not ventured far into the fracking discussions, having drilled at least five oil exploration wells in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2009. The company’s next round of exploration work was registered for environmental assessment in March and a detailed environmental preview report was submitted to the Department of Environment by Investcan this week.

“The proposed petroleum exploration activities that are currently being proposed by Investcan ... do not include hydraulic fracturing. Indeed, the drill rig that is planned to be used to drill the Thoulet #1 well is not capable of undertaking hydraulic fracturing activities,” it states.

Meanwhile, Marshall said he will plans to attend the upcoming Western Newfoundland Oil and Gas Conference Sept. 11-12.

Organizations: Energy Corp., Newfoundland and Lab, University of Moncton Department of Environment

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia, Yellowknife Weyburn Sask. Yukon China Atlantic Canada Nova Scotia New Brunswick United States

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Recent comments

  • Mary
    September 03, 2013 - 05:44

    Mr Marshall one thing i can say, Mr Murphy from corner brook, said no to fracking right from the beginning. For some reason you and the liberal are on the same foot note, Talk about it for a month of sunday. Pretend your doing something important, concerning this problem. hoping the people will forget about it. Then let the toxic waste process. I was at that debate the liberal had in Gander, when they were ask the question concerning fracking, all they did, gave a song and dance about it.

  • Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County
    September 02, 2013 - 11:48

    If that is all that the head of our 'think-tank' has to say about the independent research associated with fracking, then the people of NB are really in trouble. Perhaps your minister should try talking to NB's Chief Medical Officer. She included five pages of research references to her report on the impacts on health. Neither Dr. LaPierre's opinion report, nor the NB gov't 'rules' include any backup references.