Nova Scotia is not ready for fracking

Independent review panel recommends Nova Scotia maintain its fracking moratorium.

by: Obert Madondo  | Published Mon, Sept 1, 2014

Photo: Council of Canadians/FLICKR

Photo: Council of Canadians/FLICKR

In August, 2013, the government of Nova Scotia commissioned an independent panel to examine the impact of hydraulic fracturing in the development of the province’s onshore oil and gas resources. The feedback is wonderful.

After reviewing “the social, economic, environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing,” the Nova Scotia Independent Review Panel on Hydraulic Fracturing has concluded that the province is not read for fracking.

“We conclude that the province is not able to make fully informed decisions either for or against the development of unconventional gas and oil resources by hydraulic fracturing at the present time,” said the panel’s final report, submitted to the government last Thursday.

“Although none of the potential negative impacts could be defined as catastrophic, there remain many outstanding questions requiring further research to fully elucidate effects on populations and ecosystems.”

The commission was led by Cape Breton University president David Wheeler.

Nova Scotia imposed a moratorium in fracking in 2012. A 2013 survey found that 69 per cent of Nova Scotians supported a continuation of the moratorium.

The independent panel’s conclusions confirm those of several reports issued by the Council of Canadians in the last couple of years, warning that Canadian governments knew too little about fracking’s long-term impact on public health and the environment to fully embrace it as a key method of exploiting Canada’s vast gas and oil resources.

The Council of Canadians welcomed the independent panel’s decision.

“Nova Scotia is showing leadership when it comes to protecting water from fracking,” said Emma Lui, water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. “We urge the province to implement the panel’s recommendations.”

In an press release the Council of Canadians said:

The Council of Canadian Academies released a report in May cautioning that governments do not know enough about fracking safety and potential problems such as well leaks, chemical effects and long-term impacts. Many communities have been warning that fracking endangers water sources and public health, and is a factor in climate change.

With millions of litres of fracking wastewater that it is unable to safely dispose of, Nova Scotia has firsthand experience with the difficulties of disposing of wastewater from fracking.

The Atlantic provinces are a hotbed of fracking activity. Community opposition continues to grow in Prince Edward Island as well as in Newfoundland Labrador where the province is preparing to conduct its own independent review.

“We hope the federal government and other provinces draw lessons from Nova Scotia’s review and implement a ban on fracking,” said Angela Giles, Atlantic regional organizer with the Council of Canadians.

On the way forward, the independent panel emphasized the need for the active public involvement:

“We conclude that having citizens and communities involved in the risk-assessment and decision-making processes regarding unconventional gas and oil development would be an important first step co-generating the knowledge that may help to unlock and mitigate potential problems before they occur while increasing trust amongst stakeholders,” said the report.

“We strongly suggest that whatever time is needed for each of these steps, that it should be taken, without any sense of deadline-setting or impatience by any actor. Some might interpret this as a ‘go slow’ approach or even a de facto moratorium. However, we are not proposing a moratorium or any other political device. Instead we encourage Nova Scotia municipalities, aboriginal governments and communities to spend whatever time is necessary learning about these issues, keeping an open mind on future developments and research, and engaging with the possibilities as well as the risks of this activity.”

All the submissions, presentations and documents for the review are available online at www.cbu.ca/hfstudy.

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.