Hydraulic fracturing would destroy Nova Scotia

Hydraulic fracturing would destroy Nova Scotia by Bill Power, The Chronicle Herald, June 26, 2011

Jessica Ernst, a 54-year-old oil patch consultant, alleges that EnCana broke multiple provincial laws and regulations and contaminated a shallow aquifer with natural gas and toxic industry-related chemicals.(Jeff McIntosh / CP)

One of Canada’s better-known opponents of hydraulic fracturing said Saturday that the drilling process and the industry it would spawn would destroy Nova Scotia. Jessica Ernst rose to prominence among environmentalists in April after launching a $33-million lawsuit against Encana, the Alberta government and the province’s energy regulator over groundwater contamination inked to coal-bed methane drilling.

“Nova Scotia’s fishing, agriculture and tourism industries would not mix well with the influx of oil and gas companies that would occur if fracturing was permitted,” Ernst said in an interview from her home in Rosebud, Alta.

She said hydraulic fracturing has contaminated wells in Rosebud and other central Alberta communities and has no place in Nova Scotia.

“Even in Alberta, where we have the geographic vastness to support the industry and the process, there have been so many problems,” she said. “There are so many wonderful little rural communities in Nova Scotia. It’s inconceivable that government or regulators would allow fracturing to occur there.”

The Nova Scotia government has just released the final scope and technical comments for its technical and policy review of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is a process of blasting fluid or gas underground to break up rock to force out natural gas. No fracking is presently underway in Nova Scotia.

But fears of fracking have been abundant in the Lake Ainslie area of Cape Breton, where PetroWorth Resources Inc. of Toronto has applied to the province to drill a 1,200-metre well on a 155,000-hectare property just west of the lake. The company indicated recently that unfounded fracking fears have muddled the permitting process on the project.

Nova Scotia’s fracking review is supposed to be completed by early next year. The province said Friday that the focus of its review has been expanded, based on input from Nova Scotians and the review committee.

Ernst said all Nova Scotians should pay close attention to the province’s review of fracking and make sure it carefully considers not just the immediate issues related to the technology and environment but also the entire range of socio-economic issues involved. “Nova Scotia does not want to be a little Alberta,” she said. “Consider the social and development problems occurring in a place like Fort McMurray as a result of the oil and gas industries.

“Hydraulic fracturing would destroy Nova Scotia.”

Energy Minister Charlie Parker said the review will focus on the science and management of the environmental impact of the fracking technique. “This work is being done when there is no hydraulic fracturing in this province and none anticipated,” he said in a news release.

Some hydraulic fracturing was undertaken in the Kennetcook area in 2008 and no environmental problems were reported.

The province’s review team, a group from the Environment and Energy departments, will look at practices in other jurisdictions and existing rules and regulations. Outside experts will also be consulted. Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau said the review has been widened to include a review of fracking in all oil and gas operations, public disclosure of additives used in the process, and possible submission of engineered fracturing designs.

Ernst, who has not proven her allegations in court, said she has watched closely as Nova Scotia has started to review hydraulic fracturing, and she advises vigilance.

“I’ve filed my lawsuit (in Alberta) and now wait for statements of defence,” she said. “It will be before the courts for many years, but of course the damage is already done.” [Emphasis added]

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