Statement made on 23 November 2011 by Senator Nick Sibbeston
Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston:
Honourable senators, recently plans were announced for a new oil and gas drilling program near Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories that will use hydraulic fracturing, commonly called "fracking." This technique is widely used in some areas of North America, but is prohibited in others over concerns about water safety. This is of great concern in the North, where little is known about aquifers and other geological structures affecting water.
At the same time that this proposal has come forward, it has come to light that fracturing has already been used by an oil company in the Cameron Hills area of the Northwest Territories. This occurred on a small scale for several years and only came to light when the company expanded its operation and had to change from a Type "B" Water Licence to a Type "A" Water Licence. This is an example of the regulatory gaps that currently exist in the North. The patchwork of the federal and territorial systems not only creates problems for economic development, but also for environmental protection.
How will the government ensure, when they finally move forward with regulatory reform, that the new system will be seamless in its operation so that development can proceed in a timely and sustainable manner while the environment is protected?
With respect to fracturing and other innovative industrial techniques, what will the government do in advance of full regulatory reform to ensure that these are not used in the North without proper oversight by regulators and without public knowledge?
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