Commission report worrisome

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To the editor,

The Wheeler Commission is travelling the province later this month and I plan to attend the public meeting at Tatamagouche Centre, July 21 at 6:30 p.m.

And here is why. After reading the Commission’s discussion paper on the Community Impact of Fracking, I am left with frustration.  The paper lists potentially devastating negative impacts yet concludes that “should Nova Scotia move forward with unconventional oil and gas development, we recommend ... an independent, long-term social ecological monitoring program.”


The discussion paper's own impact list is overwhelming. The negatives far outnumber the positives and include: “Actual benefits are often less than anticipated; increased public spending on roads; drives prices up leaving some people unable to afford their homes, increases homelessness; can increase stress; change people’s patterns of interactions; decreases community cohesion; change character of community; increase in social problems (substance abuse, crime, etc.); decrease quality of life; decrease in mental and physical health; lower standard of living for some; strains community services and organizations; traffic; noise; air pollution; road damage.” (Table 1, Page 16)


Saltscape Magazine featured the North Shore last year with the headline: Quality of life attracts quality people who create a quality community: Is Tatamagouche NS the model for our ailing rural towns and villages?”  Why would we knowingly allow this area to be put at risk of such negative impacts by fracking?


The paper’s author acknowledges that 53 per cent of Nova Scotians oppose hydraulic fracturing even with adequate regulations to protect the environment. However, she goes on to state that communities’ response to energy development has been shown to follow a “fairly predictable path” characterized by four stages: enthusiasm, uncertainty; panic, “as people begin to understand the true magnitude of impact on their community;” and adaptation. Only later does she suggest there may be an additional category of “opposition.”  Nowhere does she clarify how those of us in opposition – the majority of Nova Scotians - may reach the stage of enthusiasm. Perhaps we go directly to panic. 


Overall, what is most worrisome is the approach of acknowledging enormous negative impacts yet ignoring them in terms of any recommendations. Our risk of a “decrease in quality of life” or potential “decrease in mental and physical health,” our risk of a “lower standard of living” and “decrease in community cohesion” seem to be but items in a table, named and then ignored.


Much of the paper is concerned with developing a “Human Ecosystem Framework” for monitoring and research should fracking proceed. Nowhere does the author directly address the reality of the negative impacts. Nor she does ask the obvious question: with the risk of such negative impacts, how could the commission possibly recommend that fracking proceed in Nova Scotia?


The Wheeler Commission will be at Tatamagouche Centre July 21, 6:30 p.m. and at Amherst and Truro July 22. I hope everyone concerned will be there as well.


Wilf Bean


Organizations: Community Impact, Wheeler Commission, Tatamagouche Centre

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Nova Scotians, North Shore

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