Environmental and community costs of fracking far outweigh ‘exaggerated’ benefits, EAC report says

Harry Sullivan
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HALIFAX – Hydraulic fracking generates “short-term and weak” economic benefits compared to the “long-term” costs to communities and the environment, according to a recently released “comprehensive” report by the Ecology Action Centre (EAC).

“Fracking is such a new technology, with horizontal drilling and slickwater mixtures being developed only in the past decade,” said Jennifer West, a geoscience co-ordinator with the centre.

“We are just starting to see some of the impacts in other areas and it is not looking good,” she said. “This 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.”

The 42-page report makes up part of the EAC’s submission to the provincial review of fracking. The panel is accepting reports and letters from the public until April 30. 

“The fracking fluid that is injected into the shale might reach surface water in less than 10 years” West said. “Where groundwater has been contaminated by the oil and gas industry in the U.S., some regions have been too expensive to clean up and remain unusable. We know that natural gas can be found in drinking water near well sites, and we know that we don’t have a good understanding of our drinking water in Nova Scotia”

The report’s five authors focused on different aspects of hydraulic fracturing, including energy and economics, groundwater, transportation, wilderness and food.  Each section documents the most recent findings from areas where fracking is active and applies that experience to the Nova Scotia context, the centre said, in a news release.

“This report explains how the energy industry has exaggerated their claims of the size of the resource,” said energy co-ordinator Catherine Abreu. “Resources of shale have recently been downgraded by 85 per cent in the U.S. and by 80 per cent in Poland,” she said.

Abreu said new estimates suggest there might only be six years of gas in the U.S. at current rates of consumption and she questions the wisdom of using the technology “to get at the very last oil and gas resources” in Nova Scotia.

“It’s not the way forward, it’s the way backward,” she said.

The report also indicates that the impacts associated with fracking are widespread, ranging from adding to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, to contamination of air and drinking water and damages to rural roads from industrial trucking. And its authors contend that such costs “far outweigh the very few benefits,” which include an uncertain number of short-term jobs.

The full report is available online at the EAC website.

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, U.S., Poland

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