‘To frack or not to frack - that is the question’

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Lenore Zann, MLA report

When it comes to the question of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and whether the province should extend the moratorium that our former NDP government put in place in 2012 - or if they should allow this type of energy extraction to take place in Nova Scotia- a decision by the current Liberal government should likely be forthcoming later this summer or fall.

Lenore Zann

Dr. David Wheeler, who headed up an independent study on the risks and benefits of the practice, told me at the public consultation held in Truro that he would be handing over the finished report on Aug. 15 to the current Minister of Energy Andrew Younger.

During the recent public meetings of the Wheeler Commission, more than a 1,000 people attended one location or another to hear what Wheeler was “recommending” for fracking in Nova Scotia. 

There are a couple of interesting, and relevant, direct quotes from the Nova Scotia NDP handbook regarding the principles of the party when it comes to decisions like this as it recommends that we adhere to the "precautionary principal" when it comes to the environment. It states the following approach should be taken:

"The production and distribution of goods and services shall be directed to meeting the social and individual needs of people within a framework that sustains the environment."

I attended two of these public consultations - one in Truro and the very last one in the First Nations community of Whycocomaugh - and at both meetings there were people who just wanted to learn about this form of energy extraction while many more were extremely passionate about voicing their concerns.

Several expressed disappointment when we were told the commission would not be recommending extending the moratorium. Wheeler explained the mandate of his job was not to recommend anything - but simply to research and present evidence on the pros and cons of fracking. He said after he hands in his report it will be up to the elected members to decide what to do.

An overwhelming majority of community participants in the meetings were in favour of extending the moratorium. Some suggested extending it for at least 10 years. Some called for an outright ban. People’s main concerns were:

· Impacts on our drinking water. 

· Impacts on health. 

Air pollutants associated with shale gas.

· Fugitive emissions of methane, a highly concentrated greenhouse gas that negatively impacts our climate by increasing global warming.

When it came to people's concern about our water supply many expressed their desire not to risk tampering with it as we have many small, interconnected watershed areas across the province. One such important watershed region is right here in Colchester County. This is also one of the regions that could be a contender for fracking sites. So when I asked, as MLA for this region, if Wheeler considered the process of fracking to be safe, he contended it has not been proven to be a completely flawless practice and the possibility of spills or leaks is real.

In my own opinion, keeping our water supply safe - meaning clean and potable - should definitely be a priority for any government.

I also attended the annual First Nations Assembly in Halifax this summer and spoke with many of our chiefs about their thoughts on fracking. Each chief I met told me unequivocally they are not fans of fracking.

Many people I've met in my travels this summer have expressed concern about the value of their properties and businesses decreasing if they live in areas near fracking operations. 
Still others are concerned about the price of their home insurance going up if they live in an area where fracking might take place.

As I go about my business in my community as an MLA and across the province this summer in my capacity as NDP critic for communities, culture and heritage, agriculture and environment, attending both official meetings and grass-roots protests, I have listened to the people and have heard what they have to say about their desire to live in a clean and pristine province where they can breathe fresh air and drink and swim in clean water. I have also heard from many people who are desperately looking for a job.

At the final public session on fracking in Wycocomaugh, Wheeler pointed out that for an income-strapped province like Nova Scotia, which is woefully in debt with many rural communities in need of jobs, if fracking is allowed, then over the next 30 years approximately 2,400 jobs may be created and revenue pumped into provincial coffers.

At that point a young man spoke up for the first time. He proceeded very calmly but emotionally to tell the room that although he works in the oil and gas industry out west and commutes home to Cape Breton, he would not want to see the same environmental conditions existing here at home. He said that he is telling all of his friends, "You may have a job for a while but if you can't swim in the rivers anymore or drink the water what's the point?"

In my humble opinion, what we really need to examine is how we can provide the same number of jobs (or more) as well as increase revenue for the province through renewable, sustainable forms of energy. Even some of the major corporations in the energy industry are now looking to a point in time when we no longer rely on fossil fuels.

Whatever the current Liberal government decides to do about fracking in the short or long term, it seems to me that even with the most restrictive regulations, all of the study in the world on risks and benefits cannot override the certainty many Nova Scotians feel that ending the moratorium and allowing hydraulic fracking to take place would devalue our province as a good place to live.

In fact our children seem to be leading the way in teaching their parents (and grandparents) of the direct connection between a healthy, sustainable environment and their own health and future. Since without an environment we don't really have an economy.

From what I'm hearing around the province this summer, there is a growing desire for all levels of government to get onboard the renewable energy train to take us to a better, safer future with clean water and air so that we can all enjoy Mother Nature's bounty for generations to come.

Lenore Zann is MLA for Truro - Bible Hill -Millbrook - Salmon River and NDP Environment Critic

Organizations: First Nations Assembly, Wheeler Commission, NDP

Geographic location: Truro, Nova Scotia, Colchester County Halifax Cape Breton Millbrook Salmon River

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Recent comments

  • Armstrong Fan
    August 23, 2014 - 12:44

    listen everybody, ccmv mp armstrong has publicly said he is all in favor of fracking everywhere in nova scotia except on north shore, ie tatamagouche area. its true, you can ask him about that. So, if its good for him, lets get on with it and get fracking....

    • Enviro Patrol
      August 25, 2014 - 12:46

      @ Armstong Fan... Fracking would be no more good for Armstrong and his family's health than it would for the health of the rest of NS families. Why does he not include North Shore...are there too many of his supporters that own cottages over there? ----Armstrong is beholding to Harper..--Harper is beholding to fossil fuel construction, pipeline and supply companies that financed him to power in Alberta.... Shell oil says the use of fossil fuel is all but out of the energy mix by 2040 (25 short years less than 17%) ...TEXAS has the fastest rate of new wind and solar power in North America and we know NA energy giants have their corporate HO in Houston so they are making plans to own a lot of clean tech.... So perhaps it would be better to focus on progressing NS with the MANY long term jobs to build and service Clean energy without the air pollution and the next COMING round of price hikes in oil and gas....Jamie Baillie campaigned on deferring renewables, so "conservative blue" makes me think of the oil sheen on a mud puddle...does Baillie not realize how fast commodity traders can make the price of oil go up if they get "the nod".... clean energy is now competitive and will keep prices stable...the true profit for society is stopping the air pollution that the World Health Organization reported Oct 2013 is a leading cause of cancer, in every region of the world...... If you want to say NO to pollution, say No to Fracking and let's buy-in with clean technology as fast as we did cell phones and notebooks and Big screen TVs...etc.... IN FACT Canadian Clean tech companies are "world market leaders" in much of the crucial tech solutions... Canada is being delayed due to lack of vision by Harper and his loyalties to fossil fuel polluters ...let the voters have another crack and do the right thing in 2015...Vote for clean air --please? ....all our children breathe the same air, so let's do it for them eh?...ain't that the true Canadian way? ...to help and to be leaders?

  • Charles
    August 18, 2014 - 13:47

    So why didn't the NDP you are all in love with put a moratorium in place on the disposal of fracking water??

    • Enviro Patrol
      August 19, 2014 - 15:03

      ...I can't speak for the NDP, but logic would have it something needed to be done with the fracking water in the Kennetcook ponds..and no it has not yet been dealt properly either.....but yes...it looks like government finally woke up and realized the problem which led to the NDP Moratorium and AIS being stopped from dumping it into the Windsor sewage treatment facility...and then it was election time....then the LIberals did good too and passed the act to stop any importation of fracking waste to AIS , which was already effectively stopped once AIS had no place to dispose of it .....all this should highlight we need to divest from fossil fuels and progress society with clean technologies like Wind and Solar and various storage methods for supply demand management...so if we have No Fracking it means no contamination of water and land, and no Fracking waste water to furhter pollute us....waiting now for a full BAN from the Liberals

  • chief wiggam
    August 18, 2014 - 08:41

    1st off nice article lenore. you raise a lot of very good points. i see you actually do care about what you preach. one point i saw was that you actually spoke with first nations. that was a smart thing to do. they now carry a VERY BIG STICK to oppose tracking or any other environmental concerns across Canada especially in Nova Scotia. since nova scotia is still theirs. it was never ceded over to anyone. that being said i wish you were liberal. hahaha then you might have a bigger voice. that being said, you are doing an admirable job. best wishes to you Lenore ,from me and the boys at the station.

  • Jen
    August 16, 2014 - 08:22

    Finally a politician with intelligence and forward thinking, there is hope❤

  • dave
    August 16, 2014 - 07:30

    lol - this mla talking about improving the economy - thats funny after the lies (wont raise taxes, balance the budget) and the mess her party created.

  • Enviro Patrol
    August 16, 2014 - 01:20

    ...well our MLA is correct about creating just as many or more jobs in renewable energy .while we worry about the very probable damage if fracking is allowed in Novas Scotia, the heart land of "corporate oil" in Texas is moving forward with clean technology...they are literally on pace to catch Germany and most of all new jobs in the energy industry are in clean technologies such as wind, solar....our MLA also is correct that the big energy (gas/oil) conglomerates have full intention keeping market share and build shareholder value in the energy sector worldwide as all countries have begun the transition to clean energy technologies ....smart-grid utilities, electric battery or fuel cells in cars, buses, trains, boats etc.......fossil fuel is pretty near out of the energy mix by 2040 says Shell Oil in it's outlook report published in 2013.... so fossil fuel and fracking is so yesterday...let's go to where the "jobs-puck" is going like the proud Canadians we are -- the Clean energy technology corner!!

  • Jim Harpell
    August 15, 2014 - 15:18

    Well written. Let's hope that people across the province contact their Liberal MLAs so that they personally get the Message which Dr. Wheeler got at the meetings.