Whose interests are really being served?
Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall has recently stated his support for oil exploration using fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and his confidence in the regulations.
His colleague, Environment and Conservation Minister Tom Hedderson, had put forward the view that his department “has assessed many big projects during the past three decades.”
The truth is that there are still no regulations in this province regarding horizontal slick water hydraulic fracturing and that the social acceptability of fracking in this province is very low and for good reasons.
Full examination required
Citizens and environmental groups, researchers, health professional, tourism operators, cultural sector, visiting tourists and business owners are correct in requesting a full comprehensive assessment (social, economic and environmental) followed by a proper, strict regulatory framework for fracking before we move forward.
This responsible and measured approach falls under due diligence.
That is to say, do your homework to protect the communities, the workers, and only then, decide and proceed on the best course of action.
But, in this case, the communities ought to realize that the decision to approve fracking might have already been made by the ministers and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB).
People following the oil and gas industry projects in this province realized that Minister Hedderson’s claim for expertise in large projects does not include fracking onshore to offshore as it is currently proposed for the west coast by Shoal Point Energy and Black Spruce Exploration Corp.
Claiming expertise in fracking at this point in time is ill-thought-out, wrong and misleading.
Why move ahead?
For both respected ministers to blindly support the industry and its fracking preference appears to be premature, unless they have other reasons to do so.
Would they position themselves for post-political careers in the oil industry or for the usual appointment at the CNLOPB in return for this sort of “good corporate behaviour”?
With due respect, may I remind the ministers that their terms in office and service to the communities are not over and that it would be uplifting to witness the application of the greater good and ministerial responsibility to the people over the positioning for a political appointment at the CNLOPB or in the oil and gas sector.
The people’s requests are based on common sense, prudence and logic. Folks understand that to continue to support on the west coast the well-proven, sustainable, high-return-on-your-dollar tourism industry is the wise and preferred thing to do over fracking.
Would the ministers, like the rest of us, conclude that the risks outweigh the benefits and ban fracking in Newfoundland and Labrador?
Let’s show the people that the collective good will prevail over self-interest.
Frank George writes from Corner Brook.