Poll: 53% in N.S. oppose fracking

4/11/2013

Nova Scotians are almost evenly divided on fracking, says a new poll.

A recent Corporate Research Associates Inc. survey found that 53 per cent of residents oppose hydraulic fracturing even if the province had adequate regulations in place to protect the environment.

Another 39 per cent have no problem with the controversial extraction method, which is used in shale gas exploration, while the remaining eight per cent were undecided.

Don Mills, chief executive officer of Corporate Research Associates, said Wednesday the results show it will be a challenge for government and the industry to promote shale gas development in the province.

“This has become an emotional issue, rather than a rational discussion,” Mills said in an interview. “At some point, we have to get back to a rational discussion.”

Fracking uses large volumes of water and chemicals to fracture layers of rock and release trapped oil and gas. Opponents say the process could be harmful to groundwater, a claim the industry denies.

Acceptance of fracking was highest in Halifax Regional Municipality, at 43 per cent. Forty per cent of Cape Breton residents had no problem with the practice, while 35 per cent of mainland residents agreed.

Residents also had mixed views based on age, with 47 per cent of people in the 35-to-54 age group saying fracking is acceptable. In comparison, 41 per cent of Nova Scotians ages 18 to 34 said they agreed with the practice, while 30 per cent of those age 55 and over had the same view.

A 2011 poll in New Brunswick had similar results, although the question was worded differently, Mills said.

That province recently introduced new regulations for shale gas exploration.

A reviewing of fracking is underway in Nova Scotia, with the results expected in mid-2014. In the meantime, the government won’t approve the process to be used in the province.

Mills said it is difficult to have a debate about a potential shale gas industry when so many people say they oppose fracking even if adequate regulations are in place.

“The problem we have in this region is that we have no history of hydro-fracking. This is something that has happened for decades in other jurisdictions.”

The director of the Sierra Club of Canada’s Atlantic chapter said the poll results show Nova Scotians don’t think shale gas development is worth the risk.

“To me, this means people simply do not believe that fracking can be done in a way that protects the environment,” Gretchen Fitzgerald said in an email.

Fitzgerald said she thinks the poll would have found even greater opposition to fracking if the question hadn’t asked respondents to assume the province had stringent regulations in place.

She said she expects fracking to be an issue during the upcoming provincial election.

The telephone poll was conducted with 400 Nova Scotians from Feb. 7 to Feb. 20. The results have a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points, 95 times out of 100.

(The Chronicle Herald)