Fracking Cancelled near Newfoundland UNESCO World Heritage Site

There will be no fracking near Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Newfoundland.

Shoal Point Energy has lost its exploration license for an area near the park as well as its $1 million deposit after applying to extend that license until January 2015.

In a release, the Canada-Newfound and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) said the extension was not approved because in the nearly eight years since the license was issued “minimal exploration has been undertaken.”

"We are disappointed by this decision," Shoal Point chief executive officer Mark Jarvis said in a statement.

"We feel that our proposal recognized and respected the importance of Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. Our proposal balanced a desire to protect this unique and beautiful park with a desire to safely and responsibly develop a much needed economic opportunity on the west coast of Newfoundland."

Earlier this year Shoal Point drew criticism from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its plans for fracking near Gros Morne, which was designated a world heritage site in 1987 for its unique geological features and has been a boon for Newfoundland’s tourism industry every since.

Guy Debonnet, the UNESCO unit chief for North American heritage sites, told the CBC that the group was concerned about possible impacts of drilling and hydraulic fracturing, including "offshore leakage reaching the property, pollutants affecting pristine lakes on the property, and the risk of rock fall from high cliffs caused by shocks during hydraulic fracturing, including areas of the property with high visitation."

The decision to deny Shoal Point's application comes in the wake of groundbreaking legislation regarding the future of hydraulic fracking in Newfoundland and Labrador. In November the province's Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley announced a moratorium on fracking in the province pending environmental reviews and public consultation.

“Our first consideration is the health and safety of our people,” the minister said. “In making this decision, our government is acting responsibly and respecting the balance between economic development and environmental protection.”

A similar ban in Quebec drew a lawsuit from Calgary’s Lone Pine Resources Inc for $250 million. The suit was filed under NAFTA, which the company believes is possible because it is registered in Delaware.

Critics argued that the suit shows the dangers of international free trade in issues of environmental regulation.

"If a government is not even allowed to take a time out to study the impact without having to compensate a corporation, it puts a tremendous chill on a governments' ability to regulate in the public interest," said Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club's trade program in Washington, D.C. told the Canadian Press.

Encouraged by legislation in those two provinces, environmental groups have called for similar moves across Canada.

“From coast to coast, communities are calling for a stop to fracking,” Emma Lui, national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians, said in a statement. “We’re relieved to see that the Newfoundland government is taking a common sense approach by reviewing regulations, conducting impact studies and engaging the public before moving ahead.”

Now that Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have put a hold on fracking, Lui says, “it’s time for other provinces and the federal government to do the same.”

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As a freelance writer, Erika Thorkelson is dedicated to showcasing compelling stories that illuminate our world and how we live.…

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