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Communities 3, fracking industry 0: Celebrating victories against fracking

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Photo by Climate Justice Montreal

Communities are celebrating three victories against fracking this week. Quebec, New York and New Brunswick all rejected fracking after years of opposition from communities calling for the protection of community health and the environment.

The Montreal Gazette reported, "Premier Philippe Couillard closed the door on shale gas development in Quebec after an environmental review said its risks outweighed the economic benefits."

The Gazette noted that review by the Bureau des audiences publique sur l'environnement, (BAPE) warned, "The activities of the industry could engender consequences for the quality of the environment, particularly on the quality of surface and underground water."

The New York Times reported, "Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of debate over a method of extracting natural gas."

The Times added, "On Wednesday, six weeks after Mr. Cuomo won a second term, the long-awaited health study finally materialized, its findings made public during a year-end cabinet meeting convened by the governor in Albany. In a presentation at the cabinet meeting, the acting state health commissioner, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, said the examination had found "significant public health risks" associated with fracking."

Wenonah Hauter of U.S. Food and Water Watch wrote, "This is particularly exciting because just three years ago, conventional wisdom in New York's mainstream environmental community held that fracking was inevitable in New York and that strong regulation was the best we could hope for. But Food & Water Watch, Frack Action, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Water Defense, United for Action, Citizen Action of New York and several other organizations joined together to launch New Yorkers Against Fracking (NYAF) -- with the audacious goal of winning a complete ban in the state of New York. For the next three years, thousands of people engaged in activities around the state, from massive demonstrations, to sending in comments to the Department of Environmental Conservation on the health risks of fracking. NYAF grew to over 250 national, state, and local groups."

Hauter added, "For the last two years, it has been impossible for Governor Cuomo to go anywhere in the state without fractivists by the dozens, hundreds, or thousands rallying outside his appearances, delivering the clear message: ban fracking now. At his polling place this November, Cuomo recognized the movement as the most powerful protest movement in the state."

This week New Brunswick introduced legislation that would place a moratorium on fracking and would not be lifted unless five conditions are met. According to CBC News, the five conditions are:

  • A social license in place, which would mean that the public accepts fracking;
  • Credible information on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on health, environment and water allowing the creation of a regulatory regime with good enforcement capabilities;
  • A public infrastructure plan that addresses the issue of waste water disposal;
  • Consultation with First Nations communities;
  • A mechanism to ensure the benefits are maximized including the development of a royalty structure.

Shale gas was a key election issue in New Brunswick's recent election. Shortly after the election, Atlantic Regional Organizer, Angela Giles wrote, "New Brunswick elected a new government this week that has committed to enacting a moratorium on shale gas in the province. Shale gas was the major election issue, with the Progressive Conservative party being the only pro-shale gas party and the 4 others having varied positions on a moratorium."

In Quebec, New York and New Brunswick, movements to ban fracking has been strong, dynamic and creative.  A congratulations to all the residents, activists and community groups who are the driving force behind this week's announcements against fracking.

Yet despite the freeze on fracking in the Atlantic, fracking wastewater plans are putting Bay of Fundy communities at risk. Fracking still occurs in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and the Yukon and the Northwest Territories are considering fracking. There are up to 18 proposals for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals on the Pacific coast.

We need a federal ban on fracking to protect the rest of these communities from this dangerous practice. The Council of Canadians recently sent a letter to both Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair pointing to our Global Frackdown poll, which found that 70 per cent of Canadians support "a national moratorium on fracking until it is scientifically proven to be safe," and calling for both party leaders to commit to stopping fracking in Canada.

Support for a moratorium cuts across party lines: nearly half of Conservative voters support a moratorium. The highest support for a moratorium came from NDP voters: 87 per cent of them support a national moratorium as do 78 per cent of Liberal voters. Currently, the Green Party is the only party calling for a national moratorium.

You can read the letter to Justin Trudeau here and the letter to Thomas Mulcair here

If we draw any lessons from Quebec, New York or New Brunswick it is that we need to put the pressure on Members of Parliament. Tell your Member of Parliament you want a ban on fracking in Canada!

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