About 50 people opposed to fracking in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories have written letters urging a full environmental review of Husky Energy’s latest proposal, but local businesses who stand to benefit are fighting back.

Husky Energy wants to drill and frack four wells at its Slater River program area, about 40 kilometres southeast of Norman Wells on the west side of the Mackenzie River.

April 28 was the deadline for people to review the company’s proposal.

Alternatives North, Ecology North and the Council of Canadians joined forces to call on people concerned about fracking to write the Sahtu Land and Water Board, urging it to order a full environmental assessment of the project.

Many people joined the campaign, using a form letter stating “I am very concerned about the impacts of fracking on the health of our water, land, wildlife, climate, people and communities.” The letter goes on to outline concerns about groundwater contamination, spills, disruption of water supplies and air pollution. It also cites an increased risk of earthquakes.

One of the 50 letters include signatures from 16 elders in Tulita; another is signed by almost 40 people in that community, which lies just south of the area where Husky wants to work.

Many of the letters are signed by people in Yellowknife.

Businesses back Husky

About 14 business owners or development groups who work in the region submitted their own letters.

"For the majority us of us who call this remote region home, pay day is not always a known certainty," writes James W. Uch of the Heritage Hotel in Norman Wells. He says Husky Oil has met regulatory requirements so far, and that a full environmental assessment would only further deter future exploration. "Those that feel differently should put their science on the table, not in the media."

David Hodgson, a member of the Norman Wells Land Corporation and owner of Hodgson's Contracting in Norman Wells writes: 

“It has come to my attention that there are individuals and groups that have been raising concerns on horizontal drilling and the impact it has on the environment. In my opinion, such concerns raised by those individuals and groups are based on assumptions. Further, it seems that many of these concerned individuals or groups do not have any direct ties to the 'Sahtu' nor are they beneficiaries to our land claim.”

Hodgson, like many, says a full environmental assessment is not needed at the exploration stage, though it may be needed if a Significant Discovery Licence is sought down the road.

The Sahtu Land and Water Board says Husky will have a chance to respond to the comments before the board makes a final decision.

“There's always the opportunity to conduct more study or further review,” says Paul Dixon, the board’s executive director.

The board can also approve the licence, issuing terms and conditions for the operation, or send the application for a full environmental assessment.

Dixon says the board expects to make its decision May 15.