Summary of Sierra Club Atlantic's Annual Gathering September 6 & 7th on Prince Edward Island

Another successful ACC AGA was held on PEI, including a special evening entitled 'PEI Needs Clean Water - Come Join the Movement to Protect It!' Focusing on protecting Prince Edward Island’s precious waters, a panel discussion was led by: Don Mazer from the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed Association, Andrew Lush from 'Don't Frack PEI',and Irene Novaczek science advisor to 'Save Our Seas and Shores- PEI'.

Over fifty people attended the evening, which highlighted key threats to clean, abundant water, including the lifeblood of the Islands fisheries, tourism, and aquaculture industries, the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

"I was very impressed by the commitment and passion of Islanders on these issues," stated Chapter Chairperson Emma Hebb. "We wanted to host this meeting to raise awareness and give chances for people to take action to protect their water. I was thrilled to see so many folks are up to meeting the challenges we face."

"We know these waters are already at risk from pollution and climate change, which has given rise to oceanic dead zones across the globe, " said Dr. Irene Novaczek in her presentation. "The Department of Fisheries and Oceans' own research identifies the Gulf as a vital ecosystem that can't withstand the threat of oil and gas development. Unfortunately, Newfoundland's petroleum board and the federal government are ignoring science and have not even performed and arms- length assessment of the impacts of oil and gas on the Gulf - including PEI."

Novaczek cited a model created by the company wishing to drill in the Gulf, Corridor Resources, as completely inadequate and pointed out that the Quebec government has protected the upper reaches of the Gulf from oil and gas development. "We know fish don't recognize political boundaries, the counterclockwise currents in the Gulf don't recognize political boundaries - and spills in the Gulf will carry oil and toxins around the entire ecosystem, including the shores of PEI." She also indicated that exploratory drilling is one of the riskiest stages of oil development, but thanks to changed in federal environmental assessment laws, no assessment is required for exploratory drilling or seismic blasting, which can harm whales and other sea life.

Andrew Lush of Don't Frack PEI presented on the risks of hydraulic fracturing - also know as fracking - to PEI's waters and fisheries. "Fracking a single well can entail using 20 million litters of water, which is only slightly less that the water used by the entire city of Charlottetown on any given day," he stated, "And the chemicals used in fracking, things like naphthaline, toluene and benzene - all of which are carcinogens - stay in the ground, a threat to our water for decades to come."
"We have had productive meetings with MPs and the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of PEI, but when we met with the provincial government, we received information that was generated by the fracking industry itself."
The document the province sent to the Don't Frack PEI group downplayed the risks of fracking and did not list the most toxic substances used in fracking, according to Lush. "It is unacceptable for the government to accept industry propaganda as gospel and pass it on to citizens. They need to look at arms-length science on this issue," added Lush, "Through our research, we know about the threats of fracking, and we also know there are solutions to our energy needs that do not involve fracking and that would bring energy security and decrease energy costs through efficiency. As a result, our group promotes a platform of wind, water, sun - energy for the long run. "

Don Mazer of the Winter River - Tracadie Bay Watershed Association explained that water consumption from the Winter River watershed was far exceeding recharge rates and was causing stream beds to dry up and fish die-offs.
Mazer's presentation led to a heated debate regarding the Charlottetown municipality's priorities regarding water conservation, and Councillors present informed the audience that action on the water shortage issue would be presented at the next meeting of the Council's Committee of the Whole.

"This was a wonderful evening, both in terms of turnout and the passion of those speaking and taking part," according to Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of Sierra Club Atlantic, "With the help of tonight's participants and our members, we will be helping raise the profile of these critical issues in the coming months. Overall a great kickoff to another year of action and education for Sierra Club Atlantic!"

(Don't Frack PEI held a public meeting on Tuesday, September 17, at 7PM, at the Murphy's Community Centre, featuring St. Francis Xavier University professor of political science Peter Clancy, activist Eliza Knockwood, and singer Teresa Doyle.)

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