Yesterday’s Guardian, sometime giving you editorial waffles with your breakfast, has the temerity to chastise the Standing Committee for not being decisive.
(italics and bolding are mine)
Committee opts to delay decision on deep-water wells
Published on April 09, 2014
Recommendation to keep moratorium in place shirks responsibility on issue
The recommendation from a legislature standing committee that the moratorium on deep-water wells should remain in place while further investigation and public hearings continue, leaves more questions than answers. The key issue remains unresolved and the committee seems befuddled on what to do next.
The request from the P.E.I. Potato Board to lift the 10-year moratorium on deep-water wells has resulted in months of intense debate, letter writing and opinion submissions. The committee held lengthy hearings where individuals and groups, both for and against, were passionate in presenting viewpoints and arguments.
But there is no information from the committee about additional hearings. There is no timeline for an answer. Such an important question requires action or at least a plan. Instead, the committee presented a stopgap recommendation. It seems the committee is anxious to put the controversial question aside and is reluctant to deal with the issue.
If the committee cannot produce an answer, then perhaps itʼs time to assemble an independent commission to review submissions, analyze the best data available and deliver a scientifically supported recommendation.
Members of the public had packed the committee hearings in almost unprecedented numbers. They want an answer as well. Instead the committee is suggesting that government develop a Water Act. Such legislation is long overdue, but also raises the questions: Will this further delay an answer on wells or is this a completely separate issue? A Water Act should give direction on how we use and protect our water supply but it could also derail the whole deep-water well issue for a year or even longer.
At some point, we have to make a decision and it better be the right one. If the issue is too complex for committee members to handle, let the science talk. Is there sufficient groundwater to supply additional deep-water wells and is there sufficient recharge to replenish the water used? Environment data indicates the answers to both are yes. Many have called for a review of that data. An independent commission can provide that.
The kind reader will overlook that a professional publication did not remember that “data” is plural, but the logic behind their argument is weak and looks a bit biased. Many presenters clearly pointed out that the Department of Environment’s declaration that there is sufficient recharge is based on flawed interpretation of incomplete research. Why are they in such a rush? The Committee never said it couldn’t reach a decision; it said its work is not done. The demand that the moratorium be lifted exactly duplicates language from someone on the Potato Board in one of the first articles about this issue.
The editorial does recommend an independent commission, which could look at the wells issue and concept of a sustainable water act.
Here is another commentary on the subject:
Green Party calls for Public Commission of Inquiry on Water Resources
(from a Facebook posting April 9, 2014)
With the release of the standing committee’s report on high-capacity wells on Friday, there was a deep sense of relief felt by the huge number of Islanders who had expressed concerns about the potential lifting of the moratorium.
“A great number of people and organisations had spent hundreds of hours compiling submissions to the standing committee telling them that we have insufficient information to make a decision with potentially profound and irreversible outcomes,” said Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Green Party of Prince Edward Island. “I am relieved and pleased that the committee has recommended to maintain the moratorium at this time. The wording of the report, however suggests that when the submissions which were postponed by the recent storms are heard, a different recommendation could be made.”
A less ambiguous recommendation from the committee was that the government develop a Water Act for Prince Edward Island. The Green Party and some other groups specifically called for this in their presentations to the committee, and are delighted that this has been recommended so forcefully in the report.
“An obvious first step towards this end would be a Public Commission of Inquiry, to assess research already done, consult with Islanders in their communities from tip to tip, call expert witnesses and perhaps advocate for more research to be done,” continued Bevan-Baker. “We have had Royal Commissions on land ownership and use but never a comparable one on water resources. Its findings would be used to inform the Water Act, which would include a water policy for the Island. Such a process would provide invaluable information not only for a fully informed decision on such issues as high-capacity wells, but to guide us in how to protect the quality and quantity of this precious and irreplaceable resource into the future.”
Bevan-Baker suggests that Nova Scotia’s “Water for Life” act could be a useful template from which PEI could start the work to develop our own Water Act, which would be unique and tailored to our particular geological and hydrological situation.
The high capacity well issue was featured in the most recent (March 31, 2014) magazine called Water Canada, which is described as “The Complete Water Magazine…Water Canada is an influencer, a networker, and a newsmaker. Our editors and researchers know the industry. More importantly, we know the people implementing plans and projects on the frontlines. Thousands of readers turn to Water Canada for exclusive, insightful content that speaks to Canada’s water expertise, connects the country’s decision-makers, and promotes better water management and stewardship of our most important natural resource.”
A pretty good take on the issue, which perhaps The Guardian editors should read, especially the last paragraph:
“Environment Minister Janice Sherry has said the provincial government will not make a decision on deep-well irrigation and the moratorium will not be lifted until there is further proof that such practices would not diminish the quantity or quality of Prince Edward Island’s groundwater.”