Makeup of Newfoundland and Labrador fracking panel catches NDP’s attention

St. John's East member questions the impartiality of one panelist

We’ve written before about the concerns some people in Newfoundland and Labrador have about the makeup of the fracking review panel that Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley announced in October.

Now the NDP Party is bugging the government about the panel’s makeup as well during the fall session of the Newfounland and Labrador House of Assembly.

During question period yesterday (Nov. 24), the NDP’s environment and conservation critic, George Murphy, asked Dalley (again) why the government didn’t appoint a public health professional to the five-person panel. Murphy also asked if the government was going to revisit its the issue and appoint a public health professional to the panel after all.

Dalley shot down that idea in this response to Murphy:

I have been very clear on numerous occasions about the panel, the make-up of the panel, how we looked at other jurisdictions, what we felt was in the best interest in terms of having a very productive panel, and all interests cannot be represented on the panel.

But Murphy didn’t stop there. He then asked Dalley whether one of the panel members – Maurice Dusseault, a professor of geological engineering with the University of Waterloo – was in a conflict of interest because Murphy says Dusseault has a patent to a drilling process. Because of that patent, Murphy thinks Dusseault has a vested interest in seeing drilling proceed, whether it’s in Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta or Timbuktu.

Dalley didn’t sound interested in dumping Dusseault from the panel, responding to Murphy’s query with this answer:

What I say to the member opposite is what is important here is that we have experts. Not Google experts, Mr. Speaker, experts to serve on the panel. Also, it is very important to keep in mind the panel will not make the decision whether we frack in this Province. That will be left to the government, Mr. Speaker, to make that decision on behalf of the people and what is in the best interests of the people of the Province.

The complaint when the panel members were announced in October was that the panelists were too industry-friendly and there was no representation from the environment and the health community.

That’s a legitimate concern when you’re dealing with an issue as controversial as hydraulic fracturing. But Dalley doesn’t sound interested in playing a game of shuffling panel members, so the concerns will go unheeded.

However, it’s highly likely those concerns won’t die down. Expect the panel’s alleged “pro-industry” makeup to be a theme throughout the review process.

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