Study into fracking nearing completion

Published on July 22, 2014
Dr. David Wheeler speaks to a group gathered at the Pictou County Wellness Centre about a study he's leading about hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking is a contentious issue.
While Dr. David Wheeler, President of Cape Breton University, prepared to talk about his findings from a government commissioned study into the topic in one of the upstairs rooms at the Pictou County Wellness Centre Monday, downstairs opponents to fracking were handing out information of their own.

The province commissioned an independent review of the effects of hydraulic fracturing last summer, which was mandated to include public consultations and a panel of experts.

From the time it was commissioned, there have been 238 submissions by people with information they believe should be taken into account.

A Corporate Research Associates study in 2013 found that 53 per cent of Nova Scotians oppose the development of hydraulic fracturing in the province with 39 supportive and 8 per cent undecided.

Some of the preliminary conclusions state the knowns and unknowns in regards to hydraulic fracturing.

Among the unknowns are the proven size of the resource and if industry will be interested in exploring for it aswell as the long term implications for climate change and wellbeing of future generations.

On the knowns of preliminary conclusions, the study states that the risks and impacts can be described in semi-quantitative or qualitative terms in most cases. It also states that regulatory frameworks exist or like can be developed to address aspects of the most significant 100 year risks assuming the knowledge base continues to develop toward supporting this goal.

The final draft of that will be presented to the government in August.

Among the recommendations that have arisen so far are these as stated in a power point presentation:

• Go carefully and deliberately – a significant period of learning and dialogue is required as a first step

• Foundational research required with communities re attitudes to risks and benefits

• foundational research needed to model social, environmental and economic scenarios versus the alternatives (i.e. coal and oil)

• Keep an open mind on technological developments and unfolding experience

• Do seismic testing and exploration only if/when community consent is in place

• Design monitoring, regulatory and enforcement needs (if we ever get that far)

• Design highly rigorous HIAs and EIAs (if we ever get that far)

• Design specific risk reduction and benefit sharing systems by population.

Mary Rigby, who was one of the ones passing out information about fracking downstairs said her biggest concern is with the potential risk to the water supply.

“Water is non refundable,” she said.

She believes it’s important to ask some questions before considering fracking further.

“Do we know what we’re doing and do we need it?” she asks.

She believes that people should look for more environmentally friendly fuel sources.