EDITORIAL: Slow down on fracking laws, Inverness1/24/2013
INVERNESS County councilís proposed bylaw to ban fracking is both beyond its jurisdiction and misguided.
Itís also moot. The province has a moratorium on fracking in place until next year.
As Service Nova Scotia Minister John MacDonell has rightly pointed out, mineral rights fall under provincial, not municipal, jurisdiction. Invernessís bylaw, should it be passed, would have no force.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extracting oil and gas from deep underground by pumping water, sand and some chemicals into shale formations, releasing stored hydrocarbons.
Inverness Warden Dean MacAulayís response, that their lawyers drafted the proposed bylaw based on provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which protect peopleís right to access safe drinking water, illustrates the countyís lack of clear thinking.
Though there is considerable controversy over the issue, there is currently no well-documented, widely accepted proof that fracking causes contamination of drinking water.
Due to the often heated debate on the question, two major studies ó one in the U.S. by the Environmental Protection Agency, one in Canada under an expert panel chosen by the well-respected Council of Canadian Academies ó are now underway to review frackingís impact on groundwater. Both are expected to release final reports in 2014.
Why Inverness would expect any court to rule fracking was a threat to peopleís right to safe drinking water without solid evidence, and while two major studies are ongoing into whether such a threat exists and, if so, to what extent, is perplexing.
Inverness is being presumptive, assuming the studiesí findings will be negative. Thatís a leap on which no bylaw should be based.
In the U.S., the EPA has already withdrawn preliminary findings linking fracking with groundwater contamination, saying chemicals found in some wells were naturally occurring.
Fracking, though now a hot topic, is not new. Fracking in vertical drill holes has been used worldwide for many decades. More recently, technology allowing horizontal drilling has opened up vast new underground reserves of oil and gas to fracking, mostly in the U.S., but that practice has been highly controversial.
Thatís not to say fracking represents no danger. Multiple stages in the process are being studied for potential to contaminate water.
Thatís why the province extended its moratorium, to await results of those studies. Inverness would do well to also be patient.
(The Chronicle Herald)