The Sahtu Land and Water Board has decided not to send a controversial drilling exploration project near Norman Wells, N.W.T., to an environmental assessment at this time.

ConocoPhillips Canada wants to drill and use hydraulic fracturing on two horizontal wells.

Instead of asking for an environmental assessment, the board has issued draft terms and conditions for the project and asked the National Energy Board for clarification on some areas that board oversees.

Anyone with concerns has until June 3 to comment on the proposed conditions.

Paul Dixon with the Sahtu Land and Water Board described the decision as "a pause," saying that when the board meets again to discuss the issue it can ask for more time, send the project to an enviromental assessment, give the green light, or turn it down.

This is a change from what happened a year and a half ago when MGM Energy and Shell Canada proposed a similar project. Those companies walked away when the board asked for an environmental assessment.

Energy consultant Doug Matthews said while the board could still send the project for an environmental assessment, he doesn't think it's likely, saying the board has provided a balanced approach to the project.

This doesn't mean environmental assessments are off the table for these kinds of projects, he said. As more companies look to explore and develop the shale oil in the region those kinds of assessments may be deemed necessary.

ConocoPhillips said it will not be commenting on the decision.