Fracking could come with high cost for rural areas

Darrell Cole
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Ecology Action Centre calling for extended moratorium

HALIFAX – Rural areas such as Cumberland County could lose much more than they would ever gain should hydraulic fracturing be permitted in Nova Scotia, says the geoscience co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre.

Jennifer West says a report by the centre on the impacts of fracking on rural communities show the need for an extended 10-year moratorium on the controversial practice of pumping large amounts of water and chemicals underground to fracture deposits of shale gas.

“What we found is that in other areas where fracking occurs in rural states or provinces they have really experienced the boom and bust cycle. Yes, there is some small, short-term economic activity as drilling starts, but it’s what happens after in ruined roads and a damaged environment.”

Fracking has been on hold in Nova Scotia for several years while the province gathers input from the community and industry stakeholders. The review period is supposed to end sometime later this year at which time the province will either allow fracking or extend its moratorium.

West is hoping reports such as the one completed by the Ecology Action Centre will show the need for caution when it comes to protecting the environment against getting access to the gas that’s located in shale deposits deep underground.

“The reason this is such an emotional issue is because it could impact our drinking water. We can’t live without our water. Industry knows that in the first year drilling seven per cent of wells fail, they leak. Every activity has a known level of loss or failure. Over 30 years, 60 per cent of their wells will fail,” she said. “This industry is very different from conventional oil and gas which uses one well to drill down or a couple of wells. The unconventional oil and gas industry needs to use technology over a much broader area. They need to drill a lot more wells.”

She also believes Nova Scotians and Canadians need to do a better job preserving the oil and gas supplies they have as opposed to looking for ways to harvest other sources of energy that are harder to get at without compromising the environment.

West said some forms of fracking are relatively new and some of the impacts of the newer techniques are just beginning to be felt. She said the results are not good.

“This report is the first comprehensive look at the potential impacts of fracking on Nova Scotia and makes a strong case that fracking will not promote economic development as promised or help us meet our energy and greenhouse gas targets,” West said.

She said the report also shows that energy industry has exaggerated the resource, adding a lot of risk is being placed on the environment for not much return.

At the end of the day, she said, it’s all about protecting the health of Nova Scotians, their drinking water and the environment.

“The fracking fluid that is injected into the shale might reach surface water in less than 10 years,” she said. “Where groundwater has been contaminated by the oil and gas industry in the United States, some regional have been too expensive to clean up and remain unstable. We know that natural gas can be found in drinking water near well sites and we know that we don’t have a good understanding of our drinking water in Nova Scotia.”

The oil and gas companies have supported the province’s review of fracking, saying it will make sure they do things in the safest manner.

The Ecology Action Centre’s report is being submitted to the provincial review panel on hydraulic fracturing. The deadline for submissions is April 30.

Edwin Macdonald of St. Brendan’s Exploration Ltd. said his company supports the work being done by the provincially-appointed panel and while the Ecology Action Centre report does raise some questions the panel needs to address, he said the report “distorts many well-established facts in order to draw conclusions that promote an anti-development agenda.”

Macdonald said conclusions in the report are inconsistent with studies done by government, universities and NGOs.

“We will rely on Dr. Wheeler and the expert panel to research the facts and make responsible recommendations to the government so the best interests of all Nova Scotians may be served.”

Twitter: @ADNdarrell


Organizations: Ecology Action Centre, Exploration

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Cumberland County, Nova Scotians United States

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Recent comments

    May 22, 2014 - 11:10

    Jennifer West from the Ecology Action Center is playing with the facts. She was on CBC news claiming 40 percent of fracking wells fail, when in reality it's more like 0.01%. This “forty percent of fracking wells fail” meme was started by anti-natural gas activist Tony Ingraffea who claimed he had “industry documents” proving astronomical failure rates. The meme got picked up by film director Josh Fox ("Gasland") and Yoko Ono, and now Jennifer West. And these “industry documents” that the anti-fracking fundamentalists would have us believe are the Holy Grail of anti-shale activism? The main source is a decade-old article in Oilfield Review examining what’s known as sustained casing pressure, or SCP. There is indeed a graph on the second page detailing that, over a 30 year time span, 60 percent of wells will be affected by SCP. But what’s listed in the caption – and what no activist ever mentions: the graph refers to offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The caption also states clearly: “These data do not include wells in land locations.” So the entire basis for claiming “half of all shale wells leak” is data that refer neither to shale wells nor leaks. Jennifer West makes such a ridiculous claim, what is wrong with these anti-fracking–fundamentalists? How do they even tie their shoes in the morning? Does Jennifer West from the Ecology Action Center assume I live in a box without access to the outside world or a computer or the ability to think for myself and do even just 5 seconds of research to see if their claims have any basis in reality? Jennifer West, if you want to save the environment, put on an orange vest and go pick up litter on the side of the road instead of trying to block economic development projects in a poverty-stricken province, dying for lack of good jobs and revenue.