Marshall surprised by fracking operations in Saskatchewan

Diane Crocker dcrocker@thewesternstar.com
Published on August 13, 2013
Tom Marshall

Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall says information he gathered while visiting fracking operations in Saskatchewan last week will help inform the province as it makes decisions on whether or not to allow the procedure here.

"I want to make sure any decisions here are based on science and not emotion," said Marshall, who brought along some pictures of his trip to a health-care funding announcement at Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook on Monday.

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"I wanted to see fracking of oil in rock," said Marshall of the reason for making the trip to Weyburn, Sask., the capital of fracking in Canada.

"I've been on the Internet checking out the things people are worried about and I went Saskatchewan with my list."

Marshall said that list included questions on air quality, the affect fracking has on animals, the integrity of well sites, protection against well contamination and water volumes.

What he found somewhat surprised him.

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"They are not having any problems with it at all," said Marshall. "I was surprised because I was looking at it negatively because all the information that I've been getting it's been very negative."

But Marshall said what he saw and heard was positive.

"They haven't had any water contamination, they haven't had any problems with water volume, they haven't had livestock dying, they haven't had earthquakes."

Marshall said it was interesting to see the attitude of the local population to this issue, and noted the people of Saskatchewan were surprised at the opposition to the process they've heard from the east.

Marshall said people from the province work on the fracking process, farmers rent land to the oil companies to carry out the work and regulators talk of economic benefits to the province.

When asked if Marshall now thought that fracking should occur in Gros Morne, he replied, "Certainly not in Gros Morne. I wouldn't want to see anything that would impact in a negative way that facility. We don't want to see any environmental contamination, any environmental damage."

"(But) we would also like to see economic development, but only if it's within a framework where there's robust environmental and health and safety regulations."

To the people in the Gros Morne and Port au Port areas where the possibility of fracking has met with considerable opposition Marshall said he would tell them to get informed.

"Get as much information as you can. Don't base your decisions on one person or one set of facts that you see. Don't base it on TV or movies. Get the facts," he said. "That's what I'm trying to do."

Besides the trip to Saskatchewan, Marshall also met with his counterparts in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and said his "frack finding" mission is not finished yet.

Marshall will be going to Yellowknife in a couple of weeks for the federal, provincial, territorial ministers meeting and will have separate meetings with ministers from Manitoba and British Columbia.

"And I'm going to go through all these questions with them and see what they have to say."

dcrocker@thewesternstar.com Twitter: WS_DianeCrocker