Three N.W.T. social action groups have launched a petition against fracking operations in the territory after oil giant ConocoPhillips began exploration without an environmental review.
A horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) exploration near Tulita, N.W.T. was allowed by the National Energy Board and the Sahtu Land and Water Board.
The petition was created in an attempt to have the legislative assembly use its authority under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to subject any fracking applications in the territory to an environmental assessment — which includes public hearings.
Currently the petition is up on the assembly’s website, in a section called e-petitions, where people, community groups, and organizations can raise issues, bring them to the assembly and allow it to consider the need for change within the territory. It has garnered 136 signatures since it launched Feb. 7.
Other companies have applied for fracking exploration in the Sahtu region.
“Anybody I speak to has concerns about water quality, leaking of methane gas, possibility of earthquakes, and poisoning of groundwater. All those things are the result of fracking found in other jurisdictions,” said Ben McDonald, spokesperson for Alternatives North, one of the groups behind the petition.
'Anybody I speak to has concerns about water quality, leaking of methane gas, possibility of earthquakes, and poisoning of groundwater.' - Ben McDonald, Alternatives North spokesperson
“I know that the vast majority of people in N.W.T. are informed and aware about those issues and this is a way for them to tell their government to do something about that.”
Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya said that there is still more to learn about the impacts of fracking, but says the energy board did their due diligence, and that communities will reap the benefits of development.
“We have oil and gas exploration, we have a number of companies that want to come into our communities and look for oil. They have committed dollars,” said Yakeleya.
Those against the development have said that, despite the exploration being concentrated in one area, the effects can extend well beyond that region.
“You know, the Mackenzie River runs right by it. There’s no way that any major environmental impact that happens because of this is going to stay in the Sahtu land claim area,” said McDonald.
The social action groups are hoping the petition will gain traction and get the government to look deeper into the environment effects of fracking.
The petition will remain open to signatures until March 7.