© Submitted photo
Premier Tom Marshall is seen near a hydraulic fractured well in a canola field near Weyburn, Sask. during his visit to the site when he was Natural Resources minister in 2013.
Premier Tom Marshall says the provincial government isn’t about to revamp its review of the environmental impacts of fracking, but promises those opposed to the practice will have more opportunity to have their voices heard.
The province is in the midst of an internal review of the controversial method of hydraulically fracturing underground rock to facilitate extraction of oil and gas resources.
There is a moratorium on the practice in Newfoundland and Labrador until the review is completed. Similar moratoriums or bans are in place in other provinces and jurisdictions where there are concerns about the impacts of fracking.
Those concerns include knowledge gaps in the science behind fracturing and the potential for negative repercussions on water supplies and air pollution and the possible ramifications for communities and human health.
This week, the Newfoundland and Labrador Fracking Awareness Network — which consists of 20 different organizations — jointly called on the province to commission a more independent review than what it is doing.
When asked for his thoughts on that request Friday, Marshall said he is confident the government review will come up with answers to the questions and concerns.
“We have heard what they said and take what they say very seriously,” the premier said of the network’s collective voice. “I know they have real concerns about the environment and that’s why we put this moratorium in place. I think what we do has to be based on the evidence and the science and not just emotion.”
So far, government has reviewed the regulations and guidelines in place in other provinces and jurisdictions with regard to fracking. Marshall said it has also completed technical work necessary to assess the geological impact of fracking in western Newfoundland.
The last step, the premier added, is the public consultation process. The manner in which those consultations will be held and the time period for when they will be conducted have not yet been determined.
“Our primary consideration is going to be the health and safety of residents and protection of the environment,” assured Marshall. “These principles are going to guide our decisions and will remain a priority for us.”
Recently, the Council of Canadian Academies released a report on the environmental impacts of shale gas extraction in Canada. It recommended a go-slow approach to fracking, given the gaps in scientific knowledge associated with the practice.
Marshall said that report will be part of the review process.
“We agree with the council’s science-based approach and we’ll certainly give that report and their recommendations due consideration in our review,” said the premier.