Ecology Action Centre calling for extended moratorium
HALIFAX ‚Äď 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.
‚ÄúWhat 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‚Äôs what happens after in ruined roads and a damaged environment.‚ÄĚ
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‚Äôs located in shale deposits deep underground.
‚ÄúThe reason this is such an emotional issue is because it could impact our drinking water. We can‚Äôt 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,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThis 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.‚ÄĚ
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.
‚ÄúThis 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,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs all about protecting the health of Nova Scotians, their drinking water and the environment.
‚ÄúThe fracking fluid that is injected into the shale might reach surface water in less than 10 years,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúWhere 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‚Äôt have a good understanding of our drinking water in Nova Scotia.‚ÄĚ
The oil and gas companies have supported the province‚Äôs review of fracking, saying it will make sure they do things in the safest manner.
The Ecology Action Centre‚Äôs report is being submitted to the provincial review panel on hydraulic fracturing. The deadline for submissions is April 30.
Edwin Macdonald of St. Brendan‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúdistorts many well-established facts in order to draw conclusions that promote an anti-development agenda.‚ÄĚ
Macdonald said conclusions in the report are inconsistent with studies done by government, universities and NGOs.
‚ÄúWe 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.‚ÄĚ