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  December 18, 2014

Fracking Opponents Celebrate Key Victories in New Brunswick, Quebec and New York

Emma Lui of the Council of Canadians talks about the decisions against fracking in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec, while Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch talks about New York becoming the second US state to ban fracking
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Emma Lui is the national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. Emma is also a researcher on water issues, human rights, water privatization and corporate social responsibility. She has an M.A. in political economy and a B.A. in human rights and law from Carleton University.

Eric Weltman is Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch in New York. He has over 20 years of experience leading social justice campaigns and building progressive power. Eric has helped direct ground-breaking coalitions, organize high-visibility media events, write influential publications, and manage successful initiatives to pass legislation, fund programs, and elect candidates. He has taught urban politics at Suffolk University, and written for such publications as The American Prospect, In These Times, and Dollars & Sense. A native of New Jersey, Eric graduated from the University of Michigan and earned an M.A. in Urban & Environmental Policy from Tufts University.


JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

Opponents of the controversial drilling technique hydraulic fracturing are celebrating several key victories this week. On Thursday, the province of New Brunswick, Canada, announced a moratorium against the practice. And this follows decisions earlier in the week against fracking in the state of New York and the province of Quebec, Canada. Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground to free grass trapped in shale rock, but studies have linked it to health, environmental, and water risks.

Well, now joining us to discuss this are two guests.

From New York City we're joined by Eric Weiltman. He's a senior organizer Food & Water Watch in New York.

And joining us from Ottawa, Ontario, is Emma Lui. She is the national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians.

Thank you both for joining us.

So let's start with what's happening in Canada. There's just some breaking news out of New Brunswick, and this followed news earlier in the week that Quebec had made a key decision against the process of fracking. Can you give us the latest?

EMMA LUI, NATIONAL WATER CAMPAIGNER, COUNCIL OF CANADIANS: Sure. So, I mean, this is great news that's coming out of both provinces. Quebec released a report, a long-awaited report about risks of fracking that found that fracking, the benefits, were actually--would not outweigh the risk to communities, to public health and the environment, and equally in New Brunswick there was a piece of legislation that that was introduced today that would implement a moratorium on fracking in New Brunswick. So just some fantastic news, and really just showing the power of communities and people, and really happy to hear that, really happy to see that governments are listening to people.

NOOR: And, Eric, I want to turn to you. I was in New York when this controversy around fracking was started, and I was reporting on some of the first organizing around there in New York City and across New York State. And so this fight in New York has really come a long way. Can you give us an update about what's the latest on the ground?

ERIC WELTMAN, SENIOR ORGANIZER, FOOD & WATER WATCH: Absolutely. Well, Food & Water Watch is part of a tremendous and immensely powerful grassroots movement against fracking in New York. It started roughly five years ago and has grown in tremendous strength and diversity and vibrancy. Food & Water Watch as part of a coalition called New Yorkers Against Fracking, which at this point is over 250 organizations. And we've been mobilizing for years, putting pressure on Governor Cuomo, who was ultimately the decision-maker in this battle. And as was noted yesterday afternoon, Food & Water Watch and our allies across the state triumphed against the power and the wealth and the influence of the oil and gas industry. And this is a tremendous victory and one that we think will reverberate across the nation and in fact the world.

NOOR: And I want to turn back to you, Emma. So we know Stephen Harper. He's not exactly an enemy of the oil and gas lobby. He's pushing pipelines across Canada. So talk about the larger ramifications for energy extraction in Canada itself and what these decisions in Quebec and New Brunswick might mean for the rest of the country.

LUI: Well, we're really hoping that these decisions are going to prompt the federal government to take action on fracking. So the federal government in Canada has largely remained silent on fracking and really passing the decisions off to the provinces. So, while provinces are responsible for permits such as water and drilling, the federal government really has a leadership role to play in terms of water stewardship. They have responsibility over First Nations communities, where much of the fracking is happening. We're seeing some plans in Atlantic Canada where, even though there's a moratorium in much of Atlantic Canada on fracking, there's still the problem of fracking wastewater that needs to be dealt with from previous fracking projects. And that's really a matter for the federal government to deal with. So we're really hoping that this prompts some action at the federal level.

In the past few years, we have seen the federal government pass atrocious legislation that really guts a lot of our environmental legislation, some legislation that changed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, that eliminated, essentially eliminated 3,000 environmental assessments, some of which were fracking, many of which are oil and gas projects.

So we have a federal election coming up next year, and I think that people are really attuned to the impacts of oil and gas drilling, particularly fracking, and so really hope that this prompts a movement at the national level.

The only places that are continuing with this dangerous practice is Western Canada and the Prairies right now. And so, much of eastern Canada has ruled out this practice. The north is considering it, although there's also lots of opposition there. So we're really seeing much of the country move away from fracking and really hope that the federal government steps in and actually does something about it.

NOOR: And, Eric, I want to end with you. So now New York has joined the state of Vermont to ban fracking, to take steps on that line, but it's still a key part of President Obama's overall strategy. And fracking is going full swing in places like Pennsylvania and Texas, and there's whole communities that have been devastated by this, especially out in the Midwest. What are going to be the next steps if this trend, what's happening in New York, is going to be part of larger trend?

WELTMAN: Well, Food & Water Watch thinks that this is going to go in at least three areas. First of all, we're likewise fighting fracking waste from coming in from states like Pennsylvania. Here in New York City we're pushing for a fracking waste ban. We're also continuing to fight fracking infrastructure, pipelines, compressor stations, LNG terminals here in New York and across the nation. So we're going to be pushing Governor Cuomo to stop the Port Ambrose LNG liquefied natural gas facility, which we believe would export fracked natural gas overseas. We're going to be pushing for a national ban on fracking on federal lands. That's something that Food & Water Watch and our allies in Americans Against Fracking are going to be pushing for. And we're going to be carrying the battle to the other states, like, as you mentioned, Pennsylvania, California. Food & Water Watch is working with grassroots allies across the country who are really taking a tremendous amount of inspiration from this victory here in New York against the tremendous clout and influence and wealth of the oil and gas industry.

NOOR: Well, I want to thank you both for joining us, and we're going to certainly keep following this very important story. Eric Weltman, senior organizer for Food & Water Watch in New York, and from Ottawa, Ontario, Emma Lui, national water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. Thank you both for joining us.

Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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