TRURO – An emotional, and at times aggressive, community discussion brought the topic of fracking to life once again in Truro.
About 70 people attended a meeting at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre on Tuesday night for a discussion on the Nova Scotia hydraulic fracturing review, compiled by an expert panel and led by Cape Breton University president David Wheeler.
The independent review will not suggest to the government that a moratorium on fracking in Nova Scotia should continue.
However, “the panel is not saying this activity should proceed now in our province, nor are we saying it should necessarily proceed in the future,” Wheeler read from the report.
Wheeler said the government should “keep an open mind” and there’s a “period of learning” that needs to happen based on continued “evidence-based” research and “assessment of risks and benefits … at the community level.”
Later in the meeting Wheeler added, “we are not saying this should never be done because we don’t know.”
He said some of the unknowns include not having a proven size of the resource, not knowing if the industry “would want to do it here,” and lack of knowledge of life cycle impacts as well as evidence-based risks, benefits and long term implications.
Cheryl Maloney, a Shubenacadie East resident and president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, was not happy with the update.
“You guys failed. You say the science isn’t there ... the science is out there …,” Maloney said.
Before Wheeler finished the report, a number of people interrupted with questions and to state their frustration. During the two and a half hour gathering, tensions flared at times with people talking over each other and telling others to “shut up” a few times.
One man, who only wanted to be named as John from Shubenacadie, was frustrated the report was interrupted.
“I’m still undecided and I want to hear this,” he said.
That man later shared with the Truro Daily News that he sees both sides of the situation.
“The benefits are employment, royalties to the province, an opportunity for local businesses to get involved and prosperity,” he said.
“The risk is if the process is not done properly it could lead to environmental damage.”
The majority of those in attendance were adamant fracking should not be allowed in Nova Scotia.
“We want our trails, woods and water and that’s what’s going to go,” with fracking said Kennetcook’s Kathleen Donovan.
“I live in Stewiacke and it’s full of farmers. If the water is at risk the industry is gone,” added Ellen Durkee.
When asked by the public about safety issues, Wheeler said fracking is “clearly not a low-risk activity” and the panel has “not given it a clean bill of health.”
He reminded people the panel is not recommending action one way or the other and it’s up to the government to decide what happens next when the report is given to the Department of Energy next month.
“There are no guarantees,” Wheeler said.
“I don’t think we live in a province that (government) will crash this through. We need people to trust their government … we could have a government crash through and say, ‘it’s crown land’ but that’s why we have democracy,” he said, also insinuating, if fracking became reality, it could be “years and years in the future.”
When asked how many people showed support for fracking at the various meetings being held around the province, Wheeler said, “very few” and that “many are undecided.”
The report indicates prior public feedback suggested 53 per cent of Nova Scotians are opposed to fracking; 39 per cent support the initiative and eight per cent were undecided.