Cape St. George Mayor Peter Fenwick. Georgian photo
While some people are against proposed hydraulic fracturing in Western Newfoundland, Cape St. George Mayor Peter Fenwick supports the oil industry in its bid to "frack."
Mayor Fenwick said "self-appointed environmentalists" have recently spread alarm regarding oil exploration on the west coast and the practice of "fracking," as it's more commonly referred to in the oil industry.
He said one assertion is that the oil industry and fracking will destroy the tourism industry, but it's his feeling that nothing could be further from the truth.
Inn at the Cape, which is a family business he operates, is within five kilometres of two oil wells – one of them being the only well on Newfoundland soil with a production license.
"In the 17 years since the first well was drilled on the Port au Port Peninsula, we have not seen any negative effects from the oil industry on our tourism industry and quite the reverse is true," Mayor Fenwick said.
The oil industry and its contribution to his inn, local restaurants, general stores and liquor stores have been positive for tourism infrastructure, he added.
If additional drilling and fracking is allowed on the west coast, Mayor Fenwick is sure the tourism infrastructure in these areas will experience the same economic boost.
He said the oil industry has an appetite for the service industry, and its support often extends the season of bed and breakfast operations and hotels throughout the year.
The footprint of the oil industry is small and the operating well has about two acres of land in its fenced-off area, with the company very particular in making sure that it does not disrupt the environment.
Mayor Fenwick is concerned that if, as some have suggested, a moratorium is imposed on fracking, it will lead to the end of oil exploration on the west coast and a possible massive oil deposit equal to Hibernia will be closed in for good.
He said fracking is critical if the shale oil is to be made to flow and, without fracking, it's a lost resource.
"To suggest a moratorium should be put in place is to kill the project entirely," he said. "The west coast shale oil must be developed in the next few years if it is to secure markets for its oil before the United States becomes self-sufficient in energy in 2020."
Any oil exploration must go through an environmental assessment, and Mayor Fenwick said the Shoal Point proposal would go through two – one by Natural Resources and Environment and another by the Canada –Newfoundland and Labrador Oil Petroleum Board.
He said if the government regulators approve the plan, it should go ahead without delay.
Mayor Fenwick believes fracking is well regulated in Canada and has no fear of problems cropping up as they have in the United States. He said there has been some 150,000 to 180,000 wells drilled in Canada that have been hydraulically fractured with very few problems reported.