Published June 14, 2015 – 3:54pm
John Cherry, a groundwater contamination specialist and the lead author of a 2014 Council of Canadian Academies report on fracking, told The Chronicle Herald that if Ottawa is going to encourage fracking, it needs to start funding research that will give Canadians a clearer understanding of the environmental ramifications.
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Cherry said the science regarding almost every important question about the impacts of fracking is extremely limited.
He will be holding a talk at the University of King’s College in Halifax on Monday titled Hydraulic Fracturing: Should Nova Scotia Experiment?
“Right now, it’s not possible to determine whether the impacts will be significant or not,” Cherry said.
“We don’t even know at the present time how to even go about proper monitoring because there’s so little experience with it.”
He said he believes any province that has not embarked on fracking initiatives should hold off until more information about the potential effects is available.
“There’s no rush to go ahead with shale gas development. It’s not like we’re short of energy.”
Several years ago, the federal government asked the Council of Canadian Academies to examine shale gas extraction, and in May of last year, the 260-page report Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada was released. The main finding of the panel of 14 experts that authored the document was that much more study is needed. The report highlights many gaps in research that prevent the scientific community from being able to dub hydraulic fracturing safe.
This fall, Nova Scotia joined the long list of regions worldwide that have banned fracking over environmental concerns, although it has been slow in producing any concrete regulations.
The federal government has been supportive of fracking initiatives. In September, Joe Oliver, then the federal natural resources minister, criticized Nova Scotia’s ban, calling it a missed economic opportunity.
But Cherry said Ottawa’s sweeping support of fracking is irresponsible.
“If they believe the provinces should be developing this resource, then it’s their mandate and obligation to put substantial research money into studying the environmental impacts of fracking.”
He noted that although the findings contained in his panel’s report emphasized the need for further investigation, the government has still not undertaken any initiatives to fund research.
Although Nova Scotia has banned high-volume fracking for now, Cherry said it’s important to keep the conversation going.
“All government bans only last as long as the government in power. There’s still a great economic interest by government and industry to go ahead with fracking.”
His talk is free and open to the public. It will take place at 7 p.m. at the university’s new academic building.
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