Fracking panel unlikely to recommend continued moratorium

Community consent should come before approval, Wheeler

Andrew Wagstaff
Published on July 22, 2014

David Wheeler, who is leading the Nova Scotia Hydraulic Fracturing review, took part in a public consultation meeting at Amherst Town Hall on July 22. The report us expected to be in the provincial government’s hands next month.

Andrew Wagstaff - cumberlandnewsnow

AMHERST – The provincial government should have an independent review on hydraulic fracturing in its hands sometime next month, and a continuation of Nova Scotia’s moratorium on the practice is not likely to be found on its pages.

That was the message from David Wheeler, who is leading the review, and spoke to those gathered for a public consultation meeting at Amherst Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

“The panel will not be recommending a moratorium, I do not believe,” Wheeler told the crowd of about 50 people crowded into council chambers.

Continuing the moratorium will be a political decision, and the goal of the review is to help inform those decisions, he explained.

“This is a political choice we don’t believe, as a panel, that we have the power to make,” said Wheeler, president of Cape Breton University. “You are more than welcome to take our review, which puts in highly cautionary recommendations, and say to your MLAs that this looks and sounds like a moratorium.

“That’s your democratic right, but ultimately the provincial government has to make that call,” he added.

What he did reveal were several recommendations that will be in the report, all with the proviso that the review panel is “not saying this activity should proceed now in our province, nor are we saying it should necessarily proceed in the future.”

If foundational research proceeds far enough, and if communities welcome the prospect of fracking, the panel will recommend seismic testing and exploration “when full, prior and informed community consent is in place.”

Not everyone was convinced the panel would come out on the side of environmental protection, with many pleading with Wheeler to recommend continuation of the moratorium, which has been in place in Nova Scotia since 2012.

One of those was Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, who said it is premature to even discuss the science of fracking when Nova Scotians have not even been asked if they are willing to allow their water to be used for such a practice.

“We are against fracking, and fracking will never get the consent of aboriginal women,” she said. “It’s going to be a big battle for this government if it wants to end that moratorium.”

Wheeler revealed survey figures showing 53 per cent of Nova Scotians are opposed to hydraulic fracturing, 39 per cent are in favour, and eight per cent are undecided.

Twitter: @ADNandrew