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Cumberland County council gives fracking a hard second look

Drivers and their tanker trucks, capable of hauling water and fracking liquid, line up near a natural gas burn off flame and storage tanks in Williston, N.D., in 2014. - Charles Rex Arbogast
Drivers and their tanker trucks, capable of hauling water and fracking liquid, line up near a natural gas burn off flame and storage tanks in Williston, N.D., in 2014. - Charles Rex Arbogast - The Associated Press

As it turns out — fracking’s not a dead issue.

At least, it’s not in Cumberland County.

After attending a debate held in Pugwash, the county’s municipal council plans on revisiting the merits of hydraulic fracturing.

“In my opinion, I think the province has to have another look at this,” said Allison Gillis, county warden.

“I believe there is a feeling that the fracturing process is safer than people initially thought.”

According to the province’s Onshore Petroleum Atlas, Cumberland County sits on top of nearly three-trillion cubic feet of shale gas. To further explore those reserves and access the gas would require hydraulic fracturing — a controversial method whereby large amounts of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground to fracture rock deposits.

Meanwhile the county has a median annual income, according to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census figures, of $2,400 less than the rest of the province and an unemployment rate of 11.4 per cent (Nova Scotia’s is about 10 per cent).

Gillis said he and his council will set aside time at upcoming meetings to discuss the merits and risks of fracking further.

“Given the economic restraint and financial issues faced not just in Cumberland County but throughout the province, maybe it’s time we gave it another look,” said Gillis.

The province passed legislation banning fracking in 2014.

However, in February, Premier Stephen McNeil told the Halifax Chamber of Commerce that his government would be willing to revisit the technology if there was community support.

What that form of community buy-in would be required hasn’t been made clear by the provincial government.

And though Cumberland County council plans to start discussing it, there are many strongly opposed to it within its own borders.

Some of those people offered up their concerns during a recent debate in Pugwash, sponsored by the Six Rivers Chamber of Commerce, between two economists on the issue of fracking.

Those concerns included that it could result in contamination of people’s wells, the release of greenhouse gas emissions and the industrialization of the county.

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