Nova Scotia government commissions David Wheeler to conduct independent review of fracking, Forent Energy ‘interested’ in participating

Fracking opponents welcome review by Bruce Erskine, September 4, 2013, The Chronicle Herald
A coalition opposing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, welcomes an independent review of the practice in Nova Scotia — with reservations. “We see some positive elements with it,” Mark Tipperman, a member of the Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition, said Wednesday in an interview from Gaspereau, Kings County. “We’re pleased with the extended scope of the review.” But Tipperman said there has been no information about what the panel will look like, who will be represented and whether the public will be able to provide meaningful input into the process at all critical points.

The province announced last week that Cape Breton University president David Wheeler will head a panel that will review fracking, a controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale rock that critics say threatens the environment, and particularly groundwater. Tipperman said Wheeler has been given a blank cheque, and while the panel chief may make good choices, it would be instructive for the government to provide him, and the public, with more specific review guidelines on how the review will proceed. … The coalition said it was pleased that the review will consider what effects fracking will have on the environment, society, economy and human health. “This is an important step in ensuring that the wide range of concerns about fracking and unconventional gas extraction are evaluated before decisions are made,” said coalition member Jennifer West, groundwater co-ordinator with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax. The coalition said it was also encouraged by the province’s decision to empower the panel to consider all possible outcomes. The review will build on an internal government fracking review started in 2011. “This is a welcome step forward from the mandate of the internal review panel, which had the stated goal of adopting new regulations based on ‘best practices,’” said Barb Harris. … In a letter to government Wednesday, the coalition emphasized the need for a truly representative process that considers the widest range of issues. “We have some concerns about a projected completion date in 2014,” said Tipperman. “We hope that the panel is empowered to take all the time required to evaluate the issues thoroughly.”

The coalition also asked the government to clarify that no hydraulic fracturing will take place during the review, and that the government won’t grant any new leases for resource exploration or development that may involve fracturing during the review. Government spokesman Darcy MacRae said there will be no fracking allowed in the province pending the findings of the Wheeler review. “No hydraulic fracturing is happening in the province at this time and government will not approve any applications for hydraulic fracturing of shale [what about coalbed methane?] while public consultations and the review process are underway,” MacRae said Wednesday. [Emphasis added]

Energy firm ‘interested’ in fracking review plan by Bruce Erskine, August 28, 2013, The Chronicle Herald
Richard Wade welcomes an independent review of hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia. “I see getting resolution as a positive thing,” the president and chief executive officer of Forent Energy Ltd. said Wednesday in an interview from Calgary. The provincial government announced Wednesday that Cape Breton University president David Wheeler will head an independent review of hydraulic fracturing a controversial method used to extract natural gas from shale. The Wheeler review, which will explore the social, economic, environmental and health effects of fracking, will build on an internal government review of the practice that started in 2011. Since 2007, Forent has invested $10.7 million exploring for oil and gas on the Alton block in Colchester County. Wade said 30 per cent of the block is shale and that the government’s fracking review and effective moratorium have “certainly” had an impact on developing the property and attracting business partners. “The outcome of the review will be material in our ability to attract partners and bring shale gas resources to production,” he said. “I’m obviously quite interested in the review and would be happy to participate.

Wade acknowledged the opposition to the process of fracking, which is seen as a threat to groundwater, but he said its effects can be mitigated. “You can’t paint it with a broad brush.” In some cases, fracturing occurs naturally without the need for hydraulic pumping, he said. Forent announced Wednesday that its revenues from petroleum sales and operations increased to $264,000 for the first six months of this year from $218,000 for the same 2012 period. The company attributed the 21 per cent increase to higher natural gas prices and decreased royalty expenses. During the first six months this year, Forent said it spent $389,000 on operations associated with the Alton block and with its Montgomery block in southern Alberta. Forent completed the abandonment of its Alton No. 1 well in June, ensuring that the capital expended on the well qualified as flow-through expenditures for tax purposes. The company said it encountered several significant indications of natural gas while drilling the Alton well but determined it would not be able to produce economically. The well could be drilled again if warranted, Forent said. [Emphasis added]

N.S. government commissions independent review of fracking by Melanie Patten, August 28, 2013, The Canadian Press in CTV  News
The Nova Scotia government is pulling the plug on an internal review it launched two years ago into hydraulic fracturing in favour of what it says is a more comprehensive and independent study of the controversial practice. The review will be led by David Wheeler, the president of Cape Breton University and an expert on water quality and groundwater pollution. Energy Minister Charlie Parker said Wheeler will hold public consultations and assemble an advisory panel of experts to study the social, economic, environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

The government launched its own review in 2011, but Parker said Wednesday that Nova Scotians have been calling for an external study. “They want more independence and they want an expansion of the scope of the study,” he said. “So we’re not only looking at the technical aspects of hydraulic fracturing, but expanding it into the health impacts and the socio-economic impacts.” … The Nova Scotia government implemented a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing last year. At the same time, the NDP announced it would delay its fracking report, initially expected last spring, until mid-2014 to allow for more study. Parker said work from the internal review will be incorporated into Wheeler’s work, which is expected to begin this fall. “There’s a lot of good information there but we still don’t have enough information to make an informed decision,” said Parker. “We want to do the right thing. We’ve always said we want to gather the best possible information.” … Parker said the government is aiming to have the independent review completed next year. He said no applications for fracking will be considered during the review process. He estimated the cost of the independent review at $100,000. About $100,000 has already been spent on the internal study, he said. [Emphasis added]

Wheeler to head province’s hydraulic fracturing review by The Cape Breton Post, August 28, 2013
Cape Breton University president David Wheeler has been commissioned by the province to head an independent review of the effects of hydraulic fracturing. The review will see Wheeler consult with interested parties and technical experts on the social, economic, and environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, a technique that frees natural gas trapped in shale rock formations. It will also include public consultations and the creation of a panel of experts. “I am happy to serve the province in establishing what role, if any, hydraulic fracturing may play in Nova Scotia’s future energy security and what regulatory and social policies would facilitate or negate such developments,” said Wheeler in a press release. “Our panel will be rigorously independent and evidence-led, and I look forward to engaging with Nova Scotians again on setting the highest possible standards and ambitions for our province’s sustainable energy future.” Wheeler has been widely published in the field of water quality and health, including groundwater pollution control, and advised the World Health Organisation for many years on drinking water quality standards. He also oversaw similar policy efforts that helped create Efficiency Nova Scotia and the province’s 2010 Renewable Electricity Plan. “We’ve heard from Nova Scotians that they want to have their say and that the review should be independent of government; we’ve listened on both counts,” said Energy Minister Charlie. Parker. “Dr. Wheeler brings an unparalleled background to this important topic, and I’m very glad he has agreed to lead this review.” The independent review will be managed by the Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment at Cape Breton University. Wheeler will select members for the hydraulic fracturing advisory panel, which may include experts in fields ranging from environmental planning and oil and gas engineering to water quality and health. The panel may also seek input from other external experts and is expected to begin its work by early fall. In spring 2011, provincial staff began an internal hydraulic fracturing review, identifying potential environmental issues, how they are managed elsewhere and gathering industry best practices. This work will be given to Wheeler.

Cape Breton University appoints new president by The Canadian Press, January 14, 2013, CBC News
The school announced Monday that David Wheeler will take the job in April, taking over for John Harker. Wheeler was the dean of management at Dalhousie University from 2006 to 2009 and is the executive dean of business at the University of Plymouth. “His experience as an academic, a researcher and a corporate business manager combined with his years of international, sustainability and renewable energy expertise make him an excellent candidate to continue CBU’s evolution and growth,” the Cape Breton University Board of Governors said in a statement. … His appointment lasts for six years. [Emphasis added]

Nova Scotia government commissions independent review of fracking by The Canadian Press and Melanie Patten, The Canadian Press, August 28, 2013,
Fracking is also a hot-button issue in neighbouring New Brunswick, where opponents have staged high-profile protests against shale gas exploration. Earlier this year, the provincial government pushed ahead with dozens of new regulations governing the industry and aimed at protecting the environment and creating jobs. [Emphasis added]

For Occupational Safety and Health Research and Practice in the U.S. Oil and Gas Extraction Industry by NATIONAL OCCUPATIONAL RESEARCH AGENDA (NORA), October 2011
During 2003-2008, 648 oil and gas extraction workers were fatally injured on the job, resulting in an occupational fatality rate of 29.1 deaths per 100,000 workers – eight times higher than the rate for all U.S. workers.  Nearly half of all fatal events in the oil and gas extraction industry resulted from highway crashes (29%) and workers struck by objects and equipment (20%). Fatality data were compiled from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics…. [Emphasis added]

Above slide from Slide from Ernst Presentation UK / Ireland 2013 Frac Speaking Tour

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