The hearings before the Joint Review Panel to consider EnCana’s proposal to drill 1,275 gas wells in the Suffield National Wildlife Area closed on October 31st.
In her closing, our counsel, Jennifer Klimek, told the Panel it has a choice: “You can have an NWA or you can have a gas field. You can’t have both. You get to pick. If you allow it [the project] to go ahead you’re foreclosing on the NWA.”
Over Thursday and Friday last week, the Panel heard final argument from EnCana, our environmental coalition and the Government of Canada.
The position that the Government of Canada solidly argued was that the environmental impact statement, as well as the evidence presented by EnCana, contain such uncertainty that they don’t support the claim that the environmental effects of the Project are not likely to be significant.
The coalition argued that the Panel should recommend against any further drilling in the NWA, today or ever. We also suggested the Panel recommend a cumulative effects assessment and the development of a management plan for the NWA, to start moving towards restoring this area.
On the need for the project, Henry Binder, another expert who spoke on behalf of our coalition, questioned whether this project was even necessary. He showed in detail how EnCana’s claims that infill drilling is needed to avoid wasting an important amount of gas are not based on solid analysis: “The true infill story may be partly to avoid wasted gas, but as Martin and Brusset’s analysis shows, it is largely a story about just getting the gas out faster to increase profit.”
He also recalled Dr. Power’s point that it would be economically irrational to risk irreversible damage to a unique and valuable area like the National Wildlife Area for the incremental recovery that could be gained. Or, as our counsel put it: Would you burn up a Picasso to heat your house when there’s another source down the way?
Let’s all hope the answer is no. The Panel’s decision is expected in January 2009.
Photo: Ord’s Kangaroo Rat by A. Teucher