Who should count most?

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Provincial Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley announced Monday the province will strike an independent panel to delve into hydraulic fracturing in this province, especially along the west coast.

The announcement came as the ruling Tories are in the middle of a byelection campaign in the district of St. George’s-Stephenville East where fracking is a hot issue.

That, however, is beside the point. This pending independent review has been called for by opponents and now it is will go ahead.

Fortunately for the PCs, any recommendations will be made public long after this byelection and likely the next general election, but that is the stark politics of the situation.

For the general public, this will offer a chance to let the government know were the “silent majority” stands on this important decision.

Oil and gas firms are convinced fracking could launch a major industry in this region that could be a boon in jobs and money.

Opponents are likewise convinced that any prospective economic gains are trumped by the environmental risks associated with the method of extraction.

That means it is up to the general public to put their opinions before the panel — and strongly. There will obviously be technical testimony from scientists, the oil and gas industry and environmentalists, but also brought into the mix is what people of this region want for their own futures and the futures of their children and grandchildren.

Panel members will eventually offer advice to the provincial government. All opinions should be heard before final decisions are made.

Geographic location: Stephenville East

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