Say no to heavy development

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Dear Editor: In response to a recent letter published regarding “Oil and gas opportunities abound” written by Sharon McLennon, I would like to engage in a more detailed commentary.

This letter would not be needed if I did not get the sense that Ms. McLennon (and by association) the group she represents support the idea of hydraulic fracturing.

If my interpretation is not correct, I apologize and no further discussion is required at this time.  However, if the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade supports the idea of hydraulic fracturing I contend this is a short-sighted and potentially dangerous assessment. I have nothing against development as long as it is a conscientiously achieved objective, encompassing all aspects of the greater socio-economic it impacts upon.  

My first objection regarding any heavy development concerns the three World Heritage sites on the west coast and southern Labrador, as well as the natural beauty of the region. These sites and the region in general are economic drivers which must be protected at any cost.  I would argue — absolutely no heavy industrial development in region.

After all, there remains damage done by the pulp and paper industry on the landscape of western Newfoundland, and this is a ‘renewable’ resource.

It does not take a geo-scientist to determine the long-term effects a heavy industry such as oil and gas infrastructure would do to the natural setting. Simply ask the people of western Pennsylvania or Texas what impact hydraulic fracturing has had on their environment.

The visual alone is enough to halt any further discussion, but the uncertain impacts of pushing a chemical cocktail into the ground to extract another chemical is absurd.

Are we as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians sick of selling our souls for so-called economic wealth? Development is not singularly economic, nor is it the simple measurement from which we determine progress. Ideally development should be sustainable with benefits for all involved, not merely tax and royalty benefits along with a wage for some individuals.  

There should be a measure of long-term sustainable strength for lasting positive socio-economic benefit.

Once any element extracted from the ground there is a lasting geological, health, environmental and economic impact in both the short and long term. Some of these impacts may appear positive; however just recall the mines of St. Lawrence, Buchan’s, Bell Island and Baie Verte to comprehend how fast the positivity surrounding ‘economic’ development laid waste to their geography and their community cultures.  

A decision will have to be made regarding the oil and gas industry on the west coast. Personally, I am not against economic development (when done responsibly). However, if up to me I would say absolutely ‘no’ to any heavy development on the west coast.  We live in an era when natural beauty is at a premium.

Western Newfoundland is arguably one of the most beautiful regions on the earth. Why would anyone have any interest in threatening this status quo? I would not want to be the one who looks back with hindsight questioning what we did to the environment. Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade better think long term with due care before supporting any heavy industry.

Nick Pretty, Portugal Cove-St. Phillips

Organizations: Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, Dear Editor

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Southern Labrador, Pennsylvania Texas Bell Island Baie Verte Portugal Cove

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  • John
    August 04, 2014 - 12:00

    I understand and recognize the natural beauty of Western Newfoundland. I sincerely appreciate the sentiments of people who have retirement pensions (public supported pensions in many cases) to enjoy its beauty. But as (i) we export our children/grandchildren/families forever to areas of the country that experience development and (ii) the government struggles with its economic liabilities (like public pensions) there has to be a recognition that, in all things, balance is needed. Beautiful Newfoundland should be enjoyed by all Newfoundlanders, not just those who retire here, or those that occasionally visit their families. I'll bet some would like to raise their families here, too. :)

  • Joe Wiseman
    August 04, 2014 - 11:45

    I wonder if Henry has any idea of what the economic benefits of Gros Morne has provided the West Coast. This economic benefit is permanent and expanding. Gather some data Henry - do your homework.

    • Dennis Bruce
      August 05, 2014 - 09:56

      Provincial tourism in total is about 1% of the NL economy as measured by GDP. Gros Morne itself is at most one-third of that. The heavy industry of oil and gas is about 30% of GDP and is responsible for about 1/2 provincial revenues, yes half.

  • Henry
    August 03, 2014 - 16:54

    Easy for you to say when you reside in st johns and benefit from economic prosperity from oil. Your atitude is keep the West coast pure and poor. We want prosperity too, you know. Not handouts from st johns... Fracking oil can give us this.. I believe it can be achieved safely...

  • Graham Oliver
    July 31, 2014 - 19:35

    I concur with Nick Pretty .... "if the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade supports the idea of hydraulic fracturing I contend this is a short-sighted and potentially dangerous assessment". Encouraging economic development in the Corner Brook region is no doubt well-intentioned and I applaud the GCBBT for trying to boost the economy of Western NL. But it is important to do your research before you become a cheer leader for unconventional oil and gas exploration and development on the west coast. Just take a peek at what's happening in New Brunswick and more recently, Nova Scotia. Dr. Wheeler, who heads the panel on Fracking in Nova Scotia has been consistently met with opposition at numerous public meetings and has faced many citizens who have asked probing questions about fracking that he cannot answer. Several days ago he stated that fracking should not go ahead without more research on its effects. I read Ms. Mc Lennan's letter and she spoke of good regulations made for Newfoundland. This is a common statement made by those who promote fracking and it is a speaking point often used by CAPP (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers). "We'll put in robust regulations and you won't have to worry. Trust me ... we've been fracking for over 50 years and have not had one problem with groundwater contamination." This mantra is far from true and you do not have to do much research to find out the truth. An internet search of "Alberta Voices" will introduce you to real Alberta families who have some interesting narratives about the fracking industry. I suggest that the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade be very careful of what they wish for. I also encourage individual members of the board to do their own homework on the industry, rather than heed the soothing words of junior oil companies who come into town with promises of a prosperous future in oil and gas industry.