5 Communities that Pushed Back Against Fracking - and Won

In 2017, the Ontario government made an amendment to the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act that has the potential to open the door to fracking in the province of Ontario. The Council of Canadians reports that the language around the amendment - specifically, this sentence: "and of projects that involve the injection of substances into underground geological formations" (AKA fracking) - raises the most concerns. MPP Peter Tabuns remarked in a letter at the time:

If the government does not intend these changes to apply to high-volume hydraulic fracturing, the easiest way to avoid misinterpretation would be to expressly provide that this permitting authority does not apply to fracking.

But, on May 17, 2017 the government passed Bill 127 without clarifying whether or not this Schedule applies to fracking.

It might feel impossible to stand up to giant oil and gas companies who have their sights set on fracking up the land and water right beneath your feet. But the stakes for protecting the environment and clean drinking water are high - and the message we can send back to the Government through such push back is priceless. You can join the conversation on March 22 during our FREE World Water Day event where we will screen two films featuring communities who have pushed back against fracking followed by a panel discussion with MPP for Toronto-Danforth Peter Tabuns, Filmmaker Jane Hammond and Tara Seucharan of The Council of Canadians. Register online to reserve your free ticket. 

Here are 5 communities who have fought back against fracking in their home town - and won. In all cases, one recurring theme flows through each community's concern: the protection of water.


1) New Brunswick, Canada: December 2014

In 2013, Texas-based SWN Resources arrived in New Brunswick, Canada to explore for natural gas in a  region known for its forestry, farming and fishing industries - both commercial and small-scale subsistence operations that rural communities depend on. In response, a multicultural group of unlikely warriors–including members of the Mi’kmaq Elsipogtog First Nation, French-speaking Acadians and white, English-speaking families–set up a series of road blockades, preventing exploration. After months of resistance, their efforts not only halted drilling; they elected a new government and won an indefinite moratorium on fracking in the province in 2016.

Water Warriors (2017), a film that documents the community's struggle and victory in New Brunswick, will have its Toronto premiere during our free event on World Water Day (March 22). More details available here

The fight to stop fracking is a story of resistance powered by love—for the water, for our communities and generations to come, for the better world that we’re working so hard to build. In just 22 short, thundering minutes, Water Warriors will leave you immersed in that story, seeing anew all that surrounds you.
— Naomi Klein

2) Quebec: May 2013

Citing public concerns over health and damage to the environment, the Quebec government tabled a bill in May of 2013 that would put a five year moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing in a region rich in shale gas deposits - the farming regions of the St Lawrence Lowlands. There are concerns that Bill 106, passed in December of 2016, will once again open the door to oil and gas exploration along with fracking. However, the recent show of public force from the tiny township of Ristigouche Sud-Est shows that the people are still standing their ground.

This township of 157 people on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula took a different approach than New Brunswick when an oil and gas exploration company tried to move in in 2011: they passed a bylaw in 2013 that set out a 2km no-drill zone around its water supply. Giant profit-driven corporations being what they are, Gastem, the oil and gas company, wasn't about to pull up its drills and go home. They served the town a lawsuit claiming residents had created an illegal bylaw to prevent the project from moving forward.

Four nail-biting years later, Judge Nicole Tremblay of the superior court of Quebec ruled that Ristigouche Sud-Est was within its rights to protect its water supply

Far from being adopted in an untimely and hasty manner, the bylaw was the result of a serious effort to address the concerns and demands of Ristigouche’s citizens. Public interest, the collective well-being of the community and the safety of residents must be weighed for all projects introduced into a municipality.

Considering the tax base in Ristigouche is just 84 people, this is a remarkable accomplishment and a historic ruling,  setting an important precedent for municipalities as they seek to secure a healthy environment for their residents.


3) New York State: December 2014 

When people come together and call for what’s right, we can win against great odds, and Governor Cuomo’s bold decision paves the way for activists in other states to win their own bans.
— foodandwaterwatch.org

A group of anti-fracking activists confronted the financial weight and political influence of the oil and gas industry in New York head on through exceptional grassroots organizing tactics, showing up religiously to political events and rallies to make their voices heard by politicians - specifically Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration. And on December 17th, 2014 after years of relentless organizing, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a statewide ban on fracking in New York. 


This ban was the result of an extremely well-organized approach, beginning with the creation of a coalition called New Yorkers Against Fracking (NYAF), which served to unify over 250 national, state and grassroots organizations. Dr. Sandra Steingraber, noted biologist and author who helped found NYAF, referred to it as the movement's 'megaphone,' amplifying the anti-fracking voices of local communities across municipalities and mobilizing people for specific actions (such as bus trips to rallies). The coalition allowed a diverse group of people across the state to collaborate and coordinate tactics and messaging: "resources were both maximized and put to more effective use because everything from letters to the editor and op-ed pieces to rallies, call-in days and petition drives were planned together."  

NYAF also created and promoted a network of key fracking opponents - health professionals, businesses, local elected officials, chefs and faith leaders - in order to highlight fracking’s impacts on health, the economy, and other concerns. This was crucial as the science around the health risks became a major factor in the resulted moratorium followed by eventual the ban


4) Nova Scotia - 2014

Triangle Petroleum held rights for the exploration and development of shale gas in 192,000 hectares of Windsor Block in Nova Scotia, calling for 680 wells to be developed from 2009 to 2018. Geologist Jennifer West joined forces with the Ecology Action Centre to form the Nova Scotia Fracking and Resource Action Coalition (NOFRAC) in 2010 to educate the public and apply pressure to politicians to demand a ban on fracking.

What the coalition of watershed stewardship groups, NGOs and community groups discovered over a two-year research process was that Triangle Petroleum had drilled five exploration wells - three of which had used fracking - without much community consultation and little to no information provided about the risks of fracking. They also discovered that the Government had approved controversial wastewater disposal methods involving "freezing a pond of formation water and fracking fluid in the winter and then letting the water drain into the woods and groundwater when the pond thawed." Chemicals were used in the fracking process that had serious health and environmental implications. 

NOFRAC organized online petitions, public rallies, letter-writing campaigns and lobbyied MLAs at local constituency offices. The Halifax Media Co-op picked up the story and generated a buzz across the province. As a result of this, the NDP government launched a one-year internal review of fracking in 2011 which later turned into an external independent review.

The greatest and most consistent concern that people had was around water—drinking water, water for crops and livestock, and water for generations to come.
— Jennifer West

Part of this review involved 11 public consultations. To get the public to attend these information sessions, NOFRAC met with several Halifax-based organizations - including the Council of Canadians - to come up with a full-blown grassroots marketing campaign that came to be known as The League of Ladies. Clever and humorous radio spots, ads, posters, banners, a toolkit, t-shirts and social media blasts resulted in 1500 Nova Scotians turning up to the consultations - and the review panel was shocked by how well-informed they were about the issue. 

On September 30, the Government introduced a moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing through an amendment to Nova Scotia's Petroleum Resources Act. The moratorium does not extend to research and testing and does not include fracking in coal bed methane. NOFRAC has since joined forces with Fossil Free 2030 to continue to apply pressure and broaden the reach of the ban. 


5) Yukon Territory - 2012

Long before many of us were thinking about fracking as an environmental issue, the Yukon achieved a moratorium on fracking back in 2012. The Yukon Government proposed changes to the Oil and Gas Act that would repeal the Liard First Nations right to veto any further oil and gas development and the threat that the territory could be facing hydraulic fracturing was looming. Yukoners Concerned About Oil & Gas formed and led the campaign to bring the community out to public hearings, collect signatures for petitions, organize rallies and send letters to the editor. Due to the show of force in such a small territory, the Government was forced to listen.   

We want to ensure we keep our seven rivers clean, for recreation and tourism, for the pristine wilderness, and for safe drinking water for the future.
— Yukon Council of Canadians representative

Join the Conversation on March 22!

Celebrate World Water Day 2018 with us at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema with FREE film screenings followed by a panel discussion

We have two special films lined up – the Toronto premiere of Water Warriors and the North American premiere of A Fractured State – both of which feature communities who rally against oil and gas companies to protect their water.

Together they provide a timely look at fracking and protecting drinking water, especially in light of recent changes to Ontario's Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Act. Timing is everything,  before companies stake claims; we need to follow the lead of Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and New York State, which have all banned fracking in their jurisdictions.