Nova Scotia talks fracking

Just say NO!! to fracking in Nova ScotiaOn Monday, June 17th, there was a meeting at Kings College in Halifax. Dr. John Cherry spoke about whether or not Nova Scotia should experiment with fracking. Cherry was focused on the many scientific uncertainties that still exist around fracking, and the need for substantial research to be done before any province embarks on development of shale gas.  “The science concerning most of the important impact questions is very immature,” Cherry states. “The research needed to address these questions has still not begun in any substantial way.” He suggested that since there is lack of scientific evidence, how can anyone claim to be an expert?

For that matter, what makes Dr. Cherry an expert and why should anyone listen to him?

The Council of Canadian Academies bio of him shows his impressive résumé and he is one of the foremost experts in his field. It shows he “holds geological engineering degrees from the University of Saskatchewan and University of California Berkley, and earned a PhD in geology with specialization in hydrogeology from the University of Illinois.”

He claims British Columbia has a law that fracking will not take place within 200 meters of residential dwellings, but they have recorded contamination leaking from hundreds of thousands of wells in Canada as far away as one mile. A new report from Penn State, shows contamination was discovered one to three kilometers (0.6 to 1.8 miles) from the source. Something like this would be devastating to the communities along the shoreline of the Cobequid Bay in Nova Scotia.

As it is, there is a moratorium on fracking in Nova Scotia. This doesn’t cover fracking for exploratory operations or research, just larger scale projects. It also doesn’t stop Jamie Baillie, Progressive Conservative MLA for Cumberland South, from hammering away at Premier Stephen McNeil on his stance. In a debate on April 30th, 2015, this exchange took place:

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

Oral Questions Put by Members to Ministers
 Jamie Baillie  Progressive Conservative MLA for Cumberland South 
My question is for the Premier. Mr. Speaker, last year when the Liberals banned hydraulic fracturing, they did it without even knowing what it was. Documents obtained by the PC caucus under the freedom of information Act show that the Department of Energy staff frantically spent last December travelling the continent trying to find a definition of high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier, why did he ban this new way of creating jobs when his own department doesn’t even know what he has done?

 Stephen McNeil  Liberal MLA for Annapolis 

I want to thank the good people at Energy who work on behalf of all of us, Mr. Speaker, the exciting opportunities off the coast of Nova Scotia. We have seen major investments – BP and Shell – and those are all positive things to the province.

As the honourable member would know, the commission went around about fracking without providing any long-term solution on how we deal with the fracking waste in this province. As he knows, as all members of this House should, we have fracking waste existing in this province today that we can’t get rid of. We think it’s prudent on behalf of government, before we venture down that road of creating more of an environmental issue in this province, that we know how to deal with it.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, this government is continuing to move forward to work with the private sector, to consult with Nova Scotians, and I want to remind the honourable member that in this province there is a duty to consult with the First Nations and that has not happened to date.

 Jamie Baillie  Progressive Conservative MLA for Cumberland South 
Mr. Speaker, instead of just thanking the people who want to create jobs and opportunities in this province, why not give them the tools to actually go and create new jobs, particularly in rural areas? The Premier has listed off a number of challenges: of course you’re supposed to consult with First Nations and of course we have to find a way to deal with the waste water, but where that government sees reasons to say no to new jobs, we see challenges to overcome so Nova Scotia can become a more prosperous place. That is the difference between them and us.

Mr. Speaker, the Energy Department’s staff went to Alberta, B.C., New York State, and many other places. All they had to do was ask Phil Knoll of Halifax what he thought, and he would have said that a ban makes no sense – I’ll table that. As the Premier of a province so desperate for jobs, how can he possibly justify creating a ban on new ways to create jobs not even knowing what the ban actually is?

Again, I want to tell him about the positive things we’re seeing in this province in the Energy Department. The offshore activity that’s taking place, $2 billion is being invested in this province by two companies, and that’s good news for the people of this Province of Nova Scotia. We’re seeing positive signs around LNG, both at Goldboro and Bear Head. We’re seeing foreign countries wanting to invest in this province and that’s good news. We’re seeing the resource sector all across rural Nova Scotia being engaged and seeing the opportunities to create good jobs in this province.

What our government has said, Mr. Speaker, is we will take the appropriate time and the time required to ensure that we protect the environment and we know how to deal with the fracking waste in this province if we’re to proceed. What we further said, before we proceed, we believe that issue should be brought back to the floor of the Legislature.

 Jamie Baillie  Progressive Conservative MLA for Cumberland South 

Mr. Speaker, the Premier is right about one thing: this province is full of opportunities but what it has is a government that bans some of the new ways of creating jobs instead of going about the hard work of finding a way to make it happen. For all this opportunity the fact remains that 18,400 rural Nova Scotians lost their jobs in the last four years. They want to see a government that finds a way forward, not putting roadblocks in their path. How can the people of Nova Scotia – those 18,400 – trust this government to promote jobs when they messed up the jobs in the film industry and they are banning a new one in onshore gas?

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to thank those in Screen Nova Scotia who came to work with our government to find a solution that works for taxpayers as well as for the industry to ensure those jobs continue to grow. I want to thank BP and Shell for continuing to believe in this province. As world oil prices drop, they continue to know where they should invest and that is here off the coast of Nova Scotia. I also want to thank those who are investing in Bear Head, in Goldboro, investing in LNG plants here in Nova Scotia. Those are all positive signs, not to mention we’re seeing an investment by Cline in Glace Bay – those are positive signs, good jobs in rural Nova Scotia. If the honourable member doesn’t believe in supporting rural communities, stand up and say so instead of standing up and giving the political rhetoric he has been doing for the last 18 years.

If you would like to view this discussion in its original context, you can click here.

Of particular interest in that dialogue is where the Premier says, “…we have fracking waste existing in this province today that we can’t get rid of. We think it’s prudent on behalf of government, before we venture down that road of creating more of an environmental issue in this province, that we know how to deal with it.”

The words “more of an environmental issue” go uncontested in the discussion so it’s clear both party leaders understand that it is an environmental issue. They haven’t denied it, but they may later.

Recent examples of environmental issues with fracking

There won’t be any federal assistance for the citizens who oppose it. MP, Scott Armstrong said in an email two months ago, “Although the federal government develops the laws governing pollution, it is the province that administers the various Environmental Acts.” It’s clear to see that they will not over rule whatever is decided in this province. There isn’t much they could offer anyway. According to Dr. John Cherry, the federal government has little, to no scientific data or research of fracking. Although he stated there are 10’s of thousands of leaking wells in North America, it’s usually the companies that squelch complaints by buying out affected homes owners and making the victims sign non-disclosure agreements. In most cases this works well for the companies, except for the case of Jessica Ernst who filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Alberta Environment and energy company Encana Corp. in 2007. She alleges fracking on her land northeast of Calgary released hazardous amounts of chemicals into her well and that her concerns were not properly investigated.

Dr. John Cherry is the author of Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in CanadaDr. John Cherry is the author of Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada. From the description of the report, it says:

“The North American energy landscape is undergoing dramatic change. Unconventional oil and gas resources are fuelling an energy boom that is having profound economic, environmental, and social impacts across much of the continent, including Canada. At the forefront of this change is shale gas, which has been characterized as a “game changer” because it is abundant, often close to major markets, and relatively inexpensive to produce. Understanding potential impacts is critical for policy makers as they consider how best to manage this resource.

This report comes at the request of Environment Canada, which asked the Council to assemble a multidisciplinary expert panel to consider the state of knowledge of potential environmental impacts from the exploration, extraction, and development of Canada’s shale gas resources. The Council’s report presents a comprehensive examination of shale gas development in Canada. It does not, however, determine the safety, nor the economic benefits, of development. It reviews the use of new and conventional technologies in shale gas extraction, and examines several issues of concern including potential impacts on surface water and groundwater, greenhouse gas emissions, cumulative land disturbance, and human health. The report also outlines approaches for monitoring and research, as well as mitigation and management strategies.”

The report is available for free in pdf format. It’s 292 pages and goes into a lot of detail. The download is from the Council of Canadian Academies website and you can download it by clicking here.

If you were busy and didn’t get a chance to go to the meeting or watch it as it was live-streamed online you can watch the presentation below. There is quite a bit of echo at first; some of it gets cleared up a few minutes from the start. (Note: If you’re reading this post in an email message, you will have to click through to the website to see the video)

You can see why it’s important to maintain a moratorium on fracking in Nova Scotia. The science or lack of, could result in devastating consequences to Nova Scotia and it’s comforting to know that we are not alone. There is a website that keeps a list of all the bans on fracking worldwide. You can see it here.

Despite Premier Stephen McNeil’s insistence to maintain the moratorium for now, he’s keen on the outlook for LNG projects, which could be just as devastating if not more so. To learn more about it, please see Art MacKay’s report, LNG Accidents and Risks: A few things you need to know about your neighbourhood LNG terminal. It’s 266 pages, and will leave no question unanswered as to the safety of it. You can download it in pdf format or read it online here: