Panel Confirms the Need
Calgary (January 28, 2009) – The seven-group Suffield Coalition today applauded the decision to deny EnCana’s three-well application in the Suffield National Wildlife Area (NWA).
However, the Coalition voiced disappointment that the Panel fell short of recommending against any further oil and gas development in the NWA.
The federal cabinet, led by Defence Minister Peter MacKay as Responsible Authority for the NWA, is now expected to respond to the Panel’s recommendations. “The only appropriate decision is to prohibit any further oil and gas development in the Suffield NWA and to close the door to future applications,” says Sandra Foss, past-president of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists.
Suffield NWA was established in 2003 to protect endangered native prairie and the many species of animals and plants at risk in the area, including at least 15 federally listed species threatened with extinction.
The Panel concluded that EnCana’s proposal to drill 1,275 natural gas wells and construct associated infrastructure in the NWA would result in significant adverse effects on certain species at risk and interfere with the conservation of wildlife. However, the Panel’s recommendations do allow for future proposals to be considered. The report sets out three requirements that would have to be met for the project to go forward:
“The Panel clearly put a great deal of thought into its recommendation,” says Alberta Wilderness Association’s Cliff Wallis. “The problem, however, is that while the requirements and additional conditions recommended by the Panel might work in a perfect world, in the real world there is no guarantee that those conditions would in fact protect the integrity of the Suffield NWA. Now it’s up to Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Environment Minister Jim Prentice to exercise their precautionary duty to deny approval of EnCana’s expansion in the CFB Suffield NWA.”
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The Suffield Coalition comprises seven groups: Alberta Wilderness Association, Federation of Alberta Naturalists, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Nature Saskatchewan, Southern Alberta Group for the Environment, Grasslands Naturalists, and Nature Canada.