Nova Scotia to ban fracking

BRUCE ERSKINE, The Chronicle Herald, September 3, 2014

There will be no fracking in Nova Scotia.

Energy Minister Andrew Younger announced Wednesday that the Liberal government plans to introduce legislation in the fall prohibiting hydraulic fracturing in shale oil and gas projects in the province.

“Nova Scotians have indicated that by a wide margin they are concerned about hydraulic fracturing and they do not want it as part of onshore development of shales in Nova Scotia at this time,” Younger said during a news conference, to the loud applause of environmentalists in attendance.

“Nova Scotians have put their trust in our government, that we will listen to the concerns and not allow a process that most Nova Scotians are just simply not comfortable with at this time.”

The decision follows the recent release of a report by a panel, led by Cape Breton University president David Wheeler, that concluded the province wasn’t able to make fully informed decisions for or against the development of unconventional gas and oil resources by hydraulic fracturing without further research.

“This is neither a permanent nor a time-limited ban,” the minister said. “Instead, our government recognizes that the availability and understanding of the science of hydraulic fracturing in shale will evolve one way or the other.

“Our decision will allow the Nova Scotia legislature to have an opportunity for debate and comment should a decision to allow hydraulic fracturing in shale formations be allowed in our province at some future date.”

The legislation will replace a moratorium on fracking imposed by the previous NDP government out of concerns about its impact on the environment, which Younger called a policy statement without any force.

“To my mind the legislation is the essence of public accountability and transparency.”

Jennifer West, geoscience co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, applauded the government’s decision to ban fracking.

“I think it’s a really good step forward,” she said after Younger’s announcement. “It really shows that Mr.Younger was listening to the people of Nova Scotia throughout this process, that he was reading their submissions, that he was really reading the Wheeler report very thoroughly and really had a good sense of how complex this issue is.

“We’re happy with this announcement and we look forward to seeing what the legislation actually spells out.”

The Council of Canadians, which would prefer an outright ban on fracking, was also pleased with Younger’s announcement.

“Residents showed up to the public town hall meetings in huge numbers to show their opposition to fracking,” said Angela Giles, the council’s Atlantic regional organizer. “It’s great that governments are actually listening to people.”

Barbara Pike, chief executive officer with the Maritimes Energy Association, which represents businesses that provide goods and services to the eastern energy sector, was disappointed with the government’s decision.

Pike noted that the Wheeler report estimated that fracking could boost the regional economy by $1 billion a year and said banning it would mean Nova Scotians will have to pay higher energy costs.

She also questioned whether an overwhelming number of Nova Scotians had expressed concerns about fracking, rather than a small but very vocal group opposed to the controversial extraction process.

Paul Barnes, Atlantic Canada manager for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the government ignored industry experts and regulators in western Canada, where he said fracking has been done safely for decades, in making its decision to ban it.

Barnes said the decision to ban fracking could have an impact on on-shore petroleum investment in Nova Scotia.

“There may be some lost opportunities,” he said.

Younger said the exact economic benefits of fracking can’t be fully know without allowing the process, which has both environmental and social costs.

But he said the government remains committed to a wide range of energy developments, including offshore petroleum developments, onshore coal-bed methane developments and tidal energy projects