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N.W.T. government releases proposed fracking regulations

The Government of the Northwest Territories has released four new proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing in the territory, and is seeking public feedback on the legislative changes.

New regulations include enhanced reporting and disclosure, applied in addition to NEB conditions

A ConocoPhillips site near Norman Wells, Northwest Territories. The company has extracted oil in the region using hydraulic fracturing, which will soon be governed by new territorial regulations. (CBC)

The Government of the Northwest Territories has released new proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing — commonly known as "fracking" — in the territory.

If approved, the new regulations will be applied in addition to any conditions required by the National Energy Board. They require industry to meet new baselines in four areas: baseline surface and groundwater information, public disclosure, measures to address air quality, and enhanced reporting. 

The proposed rules state that a company must say up front if it is willing to publicly disclose information, such as which chemicals it will use in fracking fluids, but stop short of requiring that information to be publicly available.

"If they refuse then that will be reflected on their application," said David Ramsay, minister of industry, tourism and investment, at a press briefing on Wednesday.

"I would point out that some jurisdictions are already moving to make it mandatory."

The territorial government took control of public lands and resources during the devolution process, which went into effect one year ago today. At the time, more than 100 pieces of federal legislation, including hydraulic fracturing regulations, were passed on to the territorial government. 

In June, the government started changing that legislation to better reflect "northern values and priorities."

Territory putting 'cart before horse'

Several groups in the N.W.T. want the government to slow down and more than 500 people have signed a petition for a fracking moratorium in the territory.

"Our general reaction is that I think they are putting the cart before the horse. We need to first have a public discussion whether we want to do down that road of hydraulic fracturing," said Lois Little, Co-Chair of the Council of Canadians NWT Chapter.

The public will have chance to give input into the new regulations. The draft regulations will be posted online for 90 days and a series of public engagement sessions will be held across the territory, with the first one scheduled on April 9 in Inuvik.

The final regulations could be brought into effect in August.

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