The Sahtu Land and Water Board wants more information about ConocoPhillips' plan to expand its exploration work before it will determine whether the application should undergo an environmental assessment.
The company is looking for permission to drill another 10 fracking wells, but a letter from the board shows several major gaps in the company’s application for land use permits and a water licence submitted earlier this month.
Paul Dixon, the board’s executive director, says the first priority is to get some clarification from the company.
“We’ll look at that first before making any kind of judgment,” Dixon says.
In a letter to ConocoPhillips, the board says the company’s public consultation on water sourcing appears to have been inadequate.
“Your water management slide contains no discussion of additional volumes being requested, or what the water is being used for,” the letter says.
"Presentations given to communities in January and February didn't identify four of the additional water sources," and one map used in a presentation didn't show the water sources currently licensed.
Dixon says the company also proposed to drain one small lake, “although it’s a little bit unclear as to what the use of that water source is,” and use up to 50 per cent of the water in others.
The application also includes no record of how communities were consulted in the selection of the additional four water sources, a surprise "given the repeated community concerns regarding the use of lakes and assertions from ConocoPhillips in applications that communities will be consulted," the letter states.
The board also says there's no explanation as to why ConocoPhillips plans to increase the amount of water it plans to use in its operations.
The company asked for 9,000 cubic metres in its application to drill the first two test wells. Now it's asking for up to 30,000 cubic meters per well.
The board also found the company hadn't provided any archeological survey information for the proposed wells, declining even to pinpoint the exact locations of where the wells will be drilled.
And it notes that the company's emergency response plan "does not factor in the post-devolution regulatory system," where the National Energy Board is no longer the oil and gas regulator and Aboriginal Affairs is no longer the enforcement agency of permits and licences.
It’s now up to ConocoPhillips to clarify the issues raised in the letter.
That’s when the regulatory process will begin in earnest.