Fracking in Nova Scotia should be put on hold to allow for more study: expert by Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press, July 25, 2014, Winnepeg Free Press
Hydraulic fracturing should not proceed in Nova Scotia until a broader public discussion is held and more research is completed, says the head of an expert panel reviewing the industry’s potential in the province. David Wheeler, president of Cape Breton University, said Friday the province needs more time to get up to speed with the rapidly expanding unconventional oil and gas industry.
“We need more research in a couple of particular areas before anyone could take a view on whether this is a good or a bad idea in any part of the province,” Wheeler said in an interview.
“We are also saying that we need a period of learning and dialogue, hopefully informed by the report that we’re about to launch.”
Nova Scotia imposed a two-year moratorium on fracking in 2012 as public concern grew over the potential for high-volume fracking to contaminate groundwater and foul the air — concerns the industry says are unfounded. The province’s former NDP government imposed the moratorium in the shadow of political strife in New Brunswick, where groups opposed to fracking have blocked roads and staged large demonstrations. The New Democrats committed to setting up an independent review panel in August 2013, two months before they were swept from power by the Liberals. The panel is expected to release a final report with recommendations next month.
Wheeler’s comments Friday, which stunned some environmentalists, came after a series of stormy public meetings attracted more than 1,000 people, most of them opposed to fracking. “It got lively at times,” Wheeler said. “Cleary, the vast majority who attended the meetings, probably 90 per cent plus, would be against it.”
Jennifer West, spokeswoman for the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, said it appears the meetings left a big impression on Wheeler.
“He was not prepared for how vehemently opposed the communities would be to fracking,” said West. “In Tatamagouche, people stood up and yelled in his face. … It’s caused him to think a little more differently about it.”
West said Wheeler’s statements Friday are not reflected in the 10 discussion papers the panel has released in the past two months, suggesting that most of them paint a much rosier picture of the industry. Still, West said even if the panel isn’t moved by the public outrage at the meetings, the provincial government is sure to sit up and take notice.
Energy Minister Andrew Younger said he expected opponents to make the most noise at the meetings, but he also said he’s concerned that the prolonged debate over the issue is creating a public backlash. “It’s become emotionally charged because of some of the stuff that has happened in the States and New Brunswick,” he said in an interview. “What I’ve learned from the New Brunswick model and from the history here is that I have a responsibility to show people we are listening to them. … I’m concerned about how this issue is tearing certain communities apart.”
Wheeler stressed the panel will not advise the government on what to do about the moratorium, saying that is a political decision. However, he said if the government lifts the moratorium while at the same time agreeing to conduct more research and public talks, “that would not be consistent” with what he has in mind. Wheeler went further, suggesting that no seismic testing or exploratory drilling should be allowed without the consent of surrounding communities. “And we’re saying communities are not in a position to give permission to proceed because there’s not enough knowledge,” he said. “We’re a long way away from that.”
An industry spokesman said Wheeler’s call for a go-slow approach reflects the fact that Nova Scotia has virtually no experience with hydraulic fracturing.
“The citizens of Nova Scotia are learning so much through this process that (Wheeler) must have felt it’s going to take longer to go through that process,” said Dan Allan, executive vice-president of the Calgary-based Canadian Society of Unconventional Resources. Allan said the province should take its time, but he warned that the 10-year moratorium some environmental groups are looking for would be overkill. “If this is the position (of the province) 10 years from now, I’d say they are probably not really listening to the facts.” [Emphasis added]
Plenty of opposition at fracking panel meeting by Gordon Delaney, July 24, 2014, The Chronicle Herald
A protest sign is seen outside a meeting hall in Windsor during Thursday night’s public meeting on hydraulic fracturing. (GORDON DELANEY / Valley Bureau)
WINDSOR — They came armed with signs, pamphlets and even protest songs. Some came hungry for information, but most came to express their opposition.
Almost 300 people filled the Hants County War Memorial Community Centre on Thursday night for one of the province’s final public consultation meetings on hydraulic fracturing.
The meeting started off with songs by the Raging Grannies activist group, warning about society’s “addiction to energy use” and the hazards of global warning.
Outside the building and along the walls inside the gymnasium were signs delivering varying messages but mostly the message “No Fracking Way.” A petition to Premier Stephen McNeil was circulated through the crowd.
David Wheeler, the Cape Breton University president who is chairman of the Nova Scotia Expert Panel on Hydraulic Fracturing, repeated his message that the consultation meetings are more academic than political.
“This is not a political process,” he told the gathering. “The political process starts the day we hand our report over to the government.
“The panel is not making a political decision. But it will make recommendations to government that will help it make the political decision.”
Fracking is a “very divisive issue,” Wheeler said. The room broke into applause when he added that the panel’s polling indicates most people are against the contentious method of natural gas extraction.
The crowd also applauded when he reiterated the panel is not saying fracking should be allowed. But he said there needs to be time for consideration and debate.
He added the province would not develop a large-scale hydraulic fracturing industry without community permission based on in-depth research and studies.
“We are a long way from that … at least 10 years.”
Fracking is the procedure of injecting water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to release and capture gas. The previous NDP government implemented a moratorium on fracking in the province pending further research and study.
The Ecology Action Centre has expressed concern the panel will recommend lifting the moratorium.
Wheeler has said the panel will not tell the government what to do with the moratorium. He said a decision needs to be based on evidence-based research and an assessment of risks and benefits.
Duncan Keppie, a geologist, interrupted the chairman’s presentation to say he didn’t think the panel process is objective. He said some information in discussion papers the panel has released was prepared by the gas industry.
He also challenged potential gas reserve estimates cited by the panel.
One woman said people are reconnecting with the land and don’t want it destroyed for economic gain. She said industry has no control over the damage it will do, despite regulations.
Marilyn Cameron, chairwoman of the No Farms No Food group in Kings County, said the potential gas reserves are beneath Nova Scotia farmland that supports a $657-million-a-year industry employing 58,000 people.
“We have heavily invested in agriculture here, to help farmers grow more food. We want to keep our farms,” Cameron said.
“Nobody wants fracked food,” she said to applause.
“That’s why we’re saying that community permission is a prerequisite for anything happening … in what is essentially a huge industrial activity,” Wheeler responded. [Are there any laws in Nova Scotia or Canada that say communities have the right to say no to fracing? Are Dr. Wheeler’s words enforceable?]
The majority of people at the meeting were clearly against the activity, expressing concerns over air and water quality and health impacts. One speaker warned that any political party that lifts the moratorium would be committing political suicide.
David Meister, a sixth-generation farmer from New Ross, said he is worried about surface issues around natural gas wells. He added that this province has had a poor history with regulation and industry transparency.
Tyler Smith, who recently moved to Ellershouse, Hants County, from Halifax, said he is worried about what could happen to his water quality “because a private company wants to make some money.”
The crowd responded enthusiastically when Wolfville lawyer Mark Tipperman suggested the Liberals step up and impose an outright ban on fracking.
The panel expects to present its report to government in mid-August. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Fractures made by CNRL … not only connected to natural fractures in the area, but also cracked their way through several non-targeted formations.
These industry-induced fractures then penetrated ‘generally impermeable shales’ and passed through groundwater before erupting to surface more than 500 metres from the original targeted zone …
… “Uncontrollable enabling conditions” for the incident included the tendency for hydraulic fractures to move vertically in one formation and then to connect to natural fractures and faults in the next. The report suggested that neither industry nor the provincial regulator sufficiently understand all the operational risks and geological hazards …
… the technical review, written by four engineers with more than 120 years of experience in the industry, argues that industry activity can connect to natural fractures, impact groundwater, fracture beyond target zones, and induce uncontrollable reactions underground.
The review also contradicts industry claims that “the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing are very small due to government regulations and advanced technology.”
Why are Nova Scotians not demanding that frac patent holder Dr. Maurice Dusseault be removed from the frac panel, his paper where he pushes the Alberta Regulator as model be struck, and a formal apology issued to the public?
Ronalie Campbell • 6 days ago
Andrew Nikiforuk, Canada’s only probing journalist, has written another incredible article on Canada’s top scientist with hydraulic fracturing research, Maurice Dusseault.
I found the most interesting statement being the last line in Andrew’s article:
He (meaning Dusseault) also serves as a science advisor to the Alberta government on issues such as cap rock integrity and holds a total of 10 engineering patents.
At a hearing with a local oil company and government official present, the oil rep blurted out “it wasn’t us, it was Encana, CNRL, and all those others before us that blew the cap rock to hell.”
Gee wonder was the government listening then? We are still waiting on that decision. They said it will be several weeks yet….wonder why???
Who is listening to the scientists and is anyone acting once they hear the truth???
Thanks Andrew for another investigative puzzle piece. You are a gem in this world of cover up.
An Alberta government lawyer argued in court this week that Jessica Ernst’s lawsuit on hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination should be struck down on the grounds that it would open a floodgate of litigation against the province.
“There could be millions or billions of dollars worth of damages,” argued Crown counsel Neil Boyle.