It's 'irresponsible and indefensible' to grant lifetime rights for oil and gas exploration in N.W.T., WWF-Canada says

TORONTO, Sept. 23, 2016 /CNW/- David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada, is available to comment on news that oil and gas companies could be granted lifetime rights to explore a nearly 4,000-square-kilometre swath of the Canadian Arctic with the goal of developing hydraulic fracking.

The area at issue is the Central Mackenzie River Valley in the Northwest Territories, home to woodland caribou, grizzly bears and other wildlife. The river, one of Canada's largest and wildest, already faces high threat levels from pollution, specifically from pipelines, and moderate threats due to habitat loss and climate change, according to WWF-Canada's Watershed Report for the region. Resource exploration risks threatening species and habitats, and the people that depend on them.

Statement from David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada:
"Granting exploration and other development rights for a lifetime is irresponsible and indefensible in today's world with a rapidly changing environment and species already on the move to adapt to climate change. Such significant discovery licences should not be granted for an indefinite period of time under the N.W.T. Petroleum Resources Act, nor the Canadian Petroleum Resources Act, which the territorial Act substantially mirrors."

"This alarming development speaks to the need to modernize Canada's Arctic oil and gas management to ensure it upholds 21st-century world-class environmental standards. For too long we have granted exploration and development rights without prior environmental assessment, without sufficient data to assess the health of freshwater resources, resulting in resource allocation and development decisions that are not based on science and evidence, and so can't serve the full interest of the public."

"Indefinite licences should either be abolished entirely or the relevant Acts should be amended to apply term limits and allow licences to be revoked if unexercised rights interfere with the public good. Indefinite rights can be an impediment to competing uses, even when they are not exercised."

"Exploration and development rights of any time period — from a single day to indefinite — should not be permitted without first undergoing a comprehensive regional environmental assessment that takes into account cumulative effects of other existing and potential developments in the region and connected watersheds."

Because the N.W.T. Petroleum Resource Act mirrors the Canadian Petroleum Resources Act, WWF-Canada recommends:

  • The CPRA be amended to require the consideration of environmental and social issues, including the requirement to conduct an environmental impact assessment and a commitment to negotiate benefits sharing and obtain the consent of Indigenous communities, before an exploration licence is granted.
  • That oil and gas development be removed as the default priority of the CPRA and instead allow alternative priorities, such as environmental and social, to have equal consideration.


About World Wildlife Fund Canada
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more info visit


For further information: For interview requests or further information, please contact Sarah MacWhirter, senior manager, strategic communications, 416-347-1894,


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