A recently released report on the potential of shale gas development in Nova Scotia has already renewed the political debate that could once again polarize Nova Scotians.
Despite the fact we have a legislated fracking ban in place in this province, the oil and gas industry and those who support them are using the economic potential of developing the resource to sway public opinion.
Admittedly, promises of an economic windfall for our region can be a tempting proposition.
The newly released onshore petroleum atlas from the Department of Energy shows that natural gas resources in the province are worth between US$20 billion andUS$60 billion.
Much of the identified shale gas, estimated at 4.3 trillion cubic feet, is located in the Windsor-Kennetcook and Cumberland sub-basins.
What is really at issue here is the process of extracting that resource. People opposed to shale gas development (and there are many) are concerned about the potential environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydro-fracking.
The process involves injecting water, chemicals and sand into the earth at high pressure to fracture shale rock to release the natural gas within it. Opponents are justifiably concerned about the harm it can create for groundwater supplies. There have been environmental horror stories we certainly don’t want to see repeated in this region.
Drilling operations were halted in Arkansas after a rash of earthquakes were reported in the area where the drilling was taking place. We have heard the reports of poisoned water courses and contaminated drinking water. I read one report which points out that over a 20-year timescale, shale gas has a higher greenhouse gas footprint than coal and oil. That's because of the conveniently forgotten role of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, which is released during shale gas fracking.
Nova Scotia already has a 2014 report from a panel led by David Wheeler indicating much more study is needed to determine the health, environmental, economic and community impact of fracking before endorsing the practice.
The only political party that seems anxious to end the ban on fracking in this province is the Progressive Conservative Party. Our own MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is of the opinion that such exploration activity could prove to be the opportunity that could lift Cumberland County “out of poverty.” She told Cumberland News Now earlier this week she feels it’s time “to be brave and learn from other areas” about the technology that can be used to extract resources safely and responsibly.
Quite frankly, I think the scientific evidence that has already been produced leaves little doubt that the risks of such extraction methods far outweigh the long-term benefits. As a nation and province already committed to reducing our carbon foot-print and moving away from fossil fuels, why are we even debating this issue in 2018? If we believe the future growth of our economy, particularly in Cumberland County, is in renewable energy, then it is time to put an end to thoughts of tapping the potential of onshore shale gas.
Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.