Land and water ‘worth way more than oil’

Land and water ‘worth way more than oil’ by Ryan Van Horne, June 26, 2012, Cape Breton Post
MacDonald realizes that economic development is important for the community, but says resource extraction is not the kind Lake Ainslie needs. “It generally leaves communities worse off,” MacDonald said. “We don’t want to be that community.” MacDonald, whose family has been in Lake Ainslie for eight generations, is a member of the Margaree Environmental Association that is asking a judge to quash Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau’s green light of Petroworth Resources Inc.’s permit to drill for oil near Nova Scotia’s largest freshwater lake. In December, Belliveau rejected the Margaree Environmental Association’s appeal of the approval. “The minister erred in rubber-stamping the decision of staff to approve the drilling,” said Brian Peters, co-chair of the Margaree Environmental Association. MacDonald said the community’s vision centres around the value of the land and the water. “It has an agrarian history and it has a very strong agrarian future. That water is extremely clean. You can dip your cup and drink that water,” MacDonald said. “That purity is worth something these days, worth way more than oil.” Industrial development would ruin this, even if there wasn’t an accident, MacDonald said. It doesn’t matter how many assurances are provided that it will be done cleanly and safely. “It’s a dirty business and it does not belong in our community.” Today’s court challenge before Justice John Murphy will centre around what is a watercourse. The Margaree Environmental Association says the proposed drilling site is within 100 metres of a brook, but the government has not recognized that watercourse. The definition of a watercourse is a brook, stream or artificially constructed water channel and resident Robert Parkins says there is definitely one close to the drill site. “I don’t care what you call it,” Parkins said. “You can call it a drain, you can call it a stream, you can call it a brook. It is a waterbody that is flowing into the wetlands and flowing into a lake.” Another issue is the absence of Environment Department regulations on how close oil wells can be drilled to homes or water wells. Neal Livingston, co-chair of the Margaree Environmental Association, says there should be regulations about this, and the fact that there aren’t shows the provincial government isn’t doing its part to protect human health and the environment. Petroworth is not a party to today’s case, but they have much at stake. Neal Mednick, president of Petroworth, had no comment Tuesday when asked to comment on the case. “I’ll respectfully decline,” Mednick said. Earlier this month, the company applied to the Energy Department to extend its exploration agreement. “That request is being processed by the department and a decision has not been made,” said Tracy Barron, an Energy Department spokeswoman.

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