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As Canadian Province Puts Fracking on Hold, Will Others Follow?

'From coast to coast, communities are calling for a stop to fracking'

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Safe for now: the pristine Gros Morne National Park on Newfoundland is under threat of fracking should the government rescind its temporary ban. (Photo: Erictitcombe/ cc/ Flickr)As an energized First Nations fracking resistance movement continues to rage across New Brunswick, Canada, environmentalists are celebrating in the neighboring province of Newfoundland and Labrador where government officials announced Monday a moratorium on the dangerous and polluting gas drilling process.

"Our government will not be accepting applications for onshore and onshore to offshore petroleum exploration using hydraulic fracturing," Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley said this week speaking before the State's House of Assembly.

"Our first consideration is the health and safety of our people. In making this decision, our government is acting responsibly and respecting the balance between economic development and environmental protection," Dalley added. The provincial government plans to assess the geological impact of fracking and open the review process to public comment.

According to the CBC, the announcement comes amidst a bid by Shoal Point Energy, with its partner Black Spruce Exploration, to employ fracking to extract oil and gas from the Green Point shale formation which runs along the western coast of Newfoundland near the pristine Gros Morne National Park.

The Canadian Press reports:

Western Newfoundland’s shale-oil deposits have been described as a potentially huge resource. Shoal Point Energy Ltd. (CNSX:SPE) holds three exploration licences. It reached a farmout deal earlier this year with Black Spruce Exploration, a subsidiary of Foothills Capital Corp., for as many as 12 exploration wells to be drilled over the next few years in the Green Point shale, if the province approved.

UNESCO had previously warned that the World Heritage Site status of the park could be at risk if fracking proceeds near its boundaries, CBC reports. 

"I think this is a really, really wise thing to do," Angie Payne, who lives near the national park and is also a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Fracking Awareness Network, told CBC.

"It's great the government is listening to us," she continued. "That's what they are there to do. But we can't give up yet."

The announcement comes as First Nations groups in New Brunswick stage a series of demonstrations, including plans for a "sacred fire" blockade this week, in protest of plans to restart exploratory fracking in their province.

"The New Brunswick government should follow suit and place a moratorium on fracking in order to conduct similar reviews and hold genuine public consultation,” Angela Giles, Atlantic regional organizer for the Council of Canadians, said in a press statement following news of the moratorium.

“From coast to coast, communities are calling for a stop to fracking," adds Emma Lui, national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “Now that both Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have put moratoriums on fracking, and Nova Scotia effectively has a moratorium while undergoing an independent review, it’s time for other provinces and the federal government to do the same.”

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