Nova Scotia plans to introduce legislation to ban fracking this fall, Energy Minister Andrew Younger announced Wednesday.
Younger told the CBC the ban won’t be permanent, but he didn’t have a timeline for when it might be lifted. Instead, he said if a community in Nova Scotia showed interest in allowing fracking, the government would consider lifting the ban. Up until now, Younger said, the Nova Scotian public has “overwhelmingly expressed concern” in fracking, and that government leaders “need to respect that.”
“We need to respect the trust the people have put in us,” he said.
The ban would apply to high-volume, onshore fracking for shale gas, but wouldn’t apply to offshore gas production. Nova Scotia’s onshore fracking potential comes from the Horton Bluff Shale, which has an estimated 3.4 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas. The ban comes after an independent review panel spent six months researching the pros and cons of fracking in Nova Scotia. The panel recommended in August that fracking shouldn’t occur in Nova Scotia until more research is done on the practice’s impact on health, the environment and Nova Scotia’s economy. The panel also recommended that the province work with cities, towns, First Nations groups, and local organizers to get their opinions on fracking when making a decision to allow the practice.
Younger said that this report, coupled with letters he’s gotten from citizens against fracking helped inform his decision to introduce the legislation.
“People need to not have this threat hanging over their head that there might be hydraulic fracturing and they wouldn’t be involved,” he said. “This way, people will know before it’s allowed — if it’s ever allowed — there will be a full debate in the Legislature.”
Last October, members of First Nations tribes gathered in protest over a planned shale gas project in New Brunswick, a province that neighbors Nova Scotia. The protests turned violent when members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived with fire hoses and pepper spray to break up the roadblock the protesters had created. More than 40 people were arrested during the protest.
“We don’t want shale gas here,” former chief Susan Levi-Peters told the Globe and Mail. “We have been asking for consultations for three years now and nothing has happened. Instead they just put our people in jail.”
Younger said the decision to introduce the fracking ban legislation came after receiving input from aboriginal leaders in Nova Scotia, and that the protests also played a role in the decision.
Nova Scotia’s decision comes a few weeks after Québec and Ontario announced that they planned to “reinvigorate and strengthen the relationship” the two provinces have on issues such as climate change. The provinces said they plan to create a mandate to “update and strengthen bilateral environmental co-operation agreements, with a priority on climate change issues.”
Much like in the U.S. with state-level authorities, regulation of fracking in Canada is largely left up to each province. A report from May found that current federal regulations might not be enough to protect Canadians from the dangers of fracking, but the Harper government, which has scaled back Canada’s environmental laws while in office, said it didn’t have plans to take regulatory power away from the states.
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