NS Wheeler Report on Fracking: Do Not Proceed At This Time

28 08 2014

You can access a PDF of the Wheeler Report on Fracking here.

“The health of the people is the highest law.” Cicero (106 – 43 BC) [quote from cover page of report]

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 deal with the key questions of Public Health Protection, Socio-Economic and Social Ecological Impacts on Communities and Water Resource Impacts. In each case we note that risks and benefits of development would be variable according to social, demographic, and geographic factors. Although none of the potential negative impacts could be defined as catastrophic, there remain many outstanding questions requiring further research to fully elucidate effects on populations and ecosystems.

There is insufficient knowledge at the present time to describe how theoretical or actual risks and benefits may fall both in the short and the long term at the community level. And thus before any unconventional gas and oil development activity were to be permitted in the Province, adequate baseline monitoring would need to be instituted, effective regulations put in place (and enforced), and formal health, social and environmental impact assessments conducted following a precautionary approach. Subject to the above, and of course to the consent of any affected communities, we believe that challenges associated with the industry could be addressed through the design of appropriate regulatory regimes, risk management, and mitigation systems and indeed benefit distribution policies.

Consequently, we advocate a precautionary approach and make the following top level recommendations:

  • Based on the analysis described in this report a significant period of learning and dialogue is now required at both provincial and community levels, and thus hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of unconventional gas and oil development should not proceed at the present time in Nova Scotia.
  • Independently conducted research of a scientific and public participatory nature is required to model economic, social, environmental, and community health impacts of all forms of energy production and use – including any prospect of unconventional gas and oil development in Nova Scotia – at both provincial and community levels.
  • Nova Scotia should design and recognize the test of a community permission to proceed before exploration occurs for the purpose of using hydraulic fracturing in the development of unconventional gas and oil resources.

We strongly suggest that whatever time is needed for each of these steps that it should be taken, without any sense of deadline-setting or impatience by any actor. Some might interpret this as a “go slow” approach or even a de facto moratorium. However, we are not proposing a moratorium or any other political device e.g. a referendum, although we note that both have been proposed. Instead we encourage Nova Scotia municipalities, Aboriginal governments, and communities to spend whatever time is necessary learning about these issues, keeping an open mind on future developments, and research and engaging with the possibilities as well as

the risks of this activity. We express the hope that this report is used as a basis for the informed debate which must now commence in Nova Scotia. And we note that time and effort must be devoted specifically to allow the Mi’kmaw community to deliberate and conclude their discussions respecting the recommendations in this report.

Finally, if at some point in the future communities and the Province wish to proceed with unconventional gas and oil development, we make 32 general and specific recommendations to safeguard community health, local economies, ecosystem health, and the environment.

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