The politics of fracking

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Commentary with Geoff deGannes

An expert panel reviewing the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing in this province will be releasing its report this month, but for all intents and purposes we already know what they will likely be reporting to the Liberal Government.  

David Wheeler, the President of Cape Breton University and the head of the panel concluded late last month that hydraulic fracturing should not proceed in Nova Scotia until a broader public discussion is held and more research is completed.    

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.  That moratorium isn’t likely to be lifted anytime soon as a growing lobby of opponents to fracking continue to apply the pressure.   Wheeler and his panel can certainly attest to the opposition sentiments they heard expressed during some stormy sessions on their recent tour of the province.  

Even the man who pioneered hydraulic fracturing in this province is conceding that the politicians aren’t likely to give the green light to his industry.  Peter Hill, chairman of Denver-based Triangle Petroleum, told the CBC earlier this month the industry could spur Nova Scotia's stalled economy and reduce its reliance on polluting, coal-fired plants, but he believes fear-mongering by outspoken critics has spooked the province's politicians.  

He believes there’s a level of emotion around the province that is too difficult to dampen down.   Triangle Petroleum drilled several test wells in central Nova Scotia in 2007 and 2008, but only three involved hydraulic fracturing, a process that forces pressurized water and chemicals into layers of rock to release trapped oil and natural gas.

Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq are also expected to strongly influence the provincial government’s final decision on the issue. The Native Council of Nova Scotia has made it clear in no uncertain terms that the people they represent “oppose the practice of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in Nova Scotia. “

With strong land rights among Canada’s First Nations, it’s a near certainty that Mi’kmaq would legally need to be consulted in some depth if Nova Scotia authorities wanted to give a green light to the controversial method of oil and gas extraction.

The Alward PC Government in New Brunswick has faced the anti-fracking lobby head on and is defiantly moving forward in support of the industry. However, with a provincial election on the go, the governing party may pay a heavy political price for its position. If the Tory government does fall over this issue, Nova Scotia’s Mc Neil Government likely won’t hesitate in shelving any further discussion of hydraulic fracturing.  


Geoff deGannes is a past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.  



Organizations: Cape Breton University, Triangle Petroleum, CBC Native Council of Nova Scotia First Nations Alward PC Government Tantramar Radio Society

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Canada, New Brunswick

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