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Brent Patterson

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Brent Patterson is the Political Director at the Council of Canadians. He works with the Council's chairperson Maude Barlow, its campaigners, organizers and chapters across the country on trade, energy, water, and health care issues. The Council has political staff in Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Halifax, Delhi, Cape Town and Mexico City. You can follow Brent on Twitter @CBrentPatterson.

UNESCO expresses concern about fracking near Gros Morne National Park

| May 20, 2013
Gros Morne National Park

CBC reports, "Gros Morne National Park's status as a world heritage site may be in jeopardy due to plans for controversial oil exploration on Newfoundland's west coast, CBC News has learned. Black Spruce Exploration wants to use hydraulic fracturing -- the so-called fracking process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth -- to find oil and gas in Sally's Cove and other areas, which lie just a few kilometres from the boundaries of the park. …The company (has) submitted its fracking and drilling plans for environmental review with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, but nothing has been presented to the Newfoundland and Labrador government yet."

In February of this year, former Chevron executive Scott Tessier took over as the chief executive officer of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

The CBC article continues, "On its website, UNESCO describes the park as 'a rare example of the process of continental drift, where deep ocean crust and the rocks of the Earth's mantle lie exposed. More recent glacial action has resulted in some spectacular scenery, with coastal lowland, alpine plateau, fjords, glacial valleys, sheer cliffs, waterfalls and many pristine lakes.' The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture has contacted Ottawa over the potential environmental impact that fracking could have on the park."

"Guy Debonnet, the UNESCO unit chief for North American heritage sites, said the issue is on the group's radar. 'Very clearly this is an issue of concern to us,' he said. Even if the plans are approved in Canada, Debonnet said it may not be enough to satisfy UNESCO. 'There is a possibility of de-listing the site from the world heritage list. Of course, we are not talking about this issue for the moment. There are also other procedures in the convention,' he said." Debonnet is recommending that the world heritage committee monitor the developments when it holds its annual meeting in June. He also said UNESCO is keeping tabs on Canada's environmental review process. 'The fact that there is also a plan to use fracking techniques with very known potential environmental impacts, this issue is of concern to UNESCO,' he said."

Parks Canada expresses concerns

This past February, CBC also reported, "A Parks Canada official says staff at Gros Morne National Park are concerned about a fracking proposal in nearby Sally's Cove. Peter Deering, resource manager for Parks Canada in western Newfoundland and Labrador, said officials have questions about how the fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, could affect the park. 'We certainly have concerns around both the tourism side in terms of the experience', said Deering. 'From the environment and ecological side, in terms of what the activity might expose the park to, whether it's anything from noise, to pollution, to increased traffic.' …(But) Deering said officials at Gros Morne National Park won't take a stand on fracking until they find out more about the proposal from the Newfoundland and Labrador government, which regulates oil and gas exploration, and the company."

Residents opposed to fracking citing water concerns

And in April CBC reported on a public meeting in Port au Port East where 300 people raised concerns about fracking at three sites along Newfoundland's west coast. "Emili Martin said fracking will not mix with the tourism industry, particularly in such areas as Gros Morne National Park, which is near one of Shoal Point's proposed sites. 'We have all these potential wells that could occur, there's [potential problems with] water, there's all these trucks going up and down -- how could that not affect tourism?' she said. 'We're selling a destination. It's like, you wouldn't sell sour milk -- you're not going to sell sour water', said Martin."

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