Government rejects ban on hydraulic fracking in Ontario

The Ontario has rejected a call by the NDP to ban fracking in the province
In this June 25, 2012 file photo, a crew works on a gas drilling rig at a well site for shale based natural gas in Zelienople, Pa. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

TORONTO – An NDP private member’s bill to ban high volume hydraulic fracking to produce natural gas from shale in Ontario was quickly shot down by the Liberal government Wednesday.

NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns introduced a private member’s bill to have Ontario follow the lead of Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and New York and ban fracking.

Tabuns said fracking poses substantial risks to ground water, which is combined with toxic chemicals under extreme pressure to fracture shale deposits to free up natural gas for extraction.

“There’s no need for Ontario to risk environmental damage and lawsuits by leaving the door open to this controversial practice,” said Tabuns. “Let’s learn from the hard experience of others and act now.”

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However, Natural Resources Minister Bill Mauro said the Liberal government will not impose a ban on fracking.

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“We’re internally reviewing what our plans will be and we’ll go forward on that basis,” Mauro told reporters. “We won’t be going forward with a moratorium. The review will determine what our next steps will be.”

Mauro would not put a timeline on when his ministry’s review of the fracking issue could be completed, and said there are no fracking applications to the ministry, no one is seeking a licence and there is no exploration going on for fracking in Ontario right now. The minister said he wasn’t sure there’s enough potential gas in the province to attract companies that want to frack.

“I would speculate that if there was a lot of it they would have probably been here already, but I don’t know if there is or is not,” Mauro said. “I would expect they would have already been sniffing around if that were the case.”

But the NDP said Ontario needs to impose a moratorium on fracking before companies exhaust other deposits and come looking for licences to explore for natural gas in this province.

There’s a shale deposit being exploited in Pennsylvania that extends under Lake Erie to its northern shore in Ontario, and potentially other deposits in the province, so the government should act now to block exploration, said Tabuns.

“As gas developers run out of places to exploit, they may well turn to Ontario,” he said. “So we have an opportunity now before we get drawn into this, to block it from happening.”

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Mauro called Tabuns’ suggestion there are more potential natural gas deposits in Ontario that would attract fracking companies in the future “hypothetical.”

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