Fracking public responses 'well informed,' report finds
238 submissions from the public analyzed, compared with existing scientific research
The latest discussion paper on fracking in the province says the majority of Nova Scotians who offered opinions on hydraulic fracturing want the province to ban or maintain a moratorium on the industry.
Ian Mauro, the lead author of the paper and a geography professor at the University of Winnipeg, analyzed 238 submissions from the public and compared them with existing scientific research on fracking.
Of those, 92 per cent said they supported a moratorium or ban, while 0.5 per cent were against such prohibitions.
"A critical finding is that 238 citizens interacting with the panel were well informed and much of their socio-environmental concerns are substantiated by the available literature," Mauro wrote.
"While the 238 submissions are not necessarily representative of Nova Scotians generally, they provided detailed accounts of the types of concerns that exist among the public, and demonstrate that many citizens are engaged in this issue and want to play an active."
David Wheeler, the president of Cape Breton University and the chair of a panel looking at the controversial method of oil and gas extraction, said this is the first time voices of ordinary Nova Scotians were included in discussions about fracking.
"What the paper does is to in a sense, it legitimates many of the concerns that ordinary Nova Scotians are bringing forward and to say that there are risks that need to be managed if this technology ever goes forward in our province," he said.
"Therefore, how we take it forward — if we ever do — needs to be very cautiously and with a sense of ensuring public health and environmental protection are foremost."
Feedback gathered between October, May
Mauro looked at Nova Scotians' reactions to several potential environmental risks of fracking including water, waste and cleanup, climate change and increased potential for earthquakes.
The report pointed to a lack of peer-reviewed data about environmental issues and said given the public's response, the province should proceed slowly and carefully as it considers whether to proceed with fracking.
"Each of these issues — whether it's climate change issues, whether it's water quality issues, whether it's health issues — we have to weigh and try to explain to ordinary Nova Scotians whether those risks are large, small, theoretical, known, unknown," said Wheeler.
"That will be the purpose of our paper that we produce at the end of the month."
The discussion paper was based on feedback gathered between October 2013 and April 2014 and will be used to form the basis of a chapter in a report to be produced by Wheeler and his panel.
"We have to get a better sense of what the risks are," said Wheeler.
"Then we have to set those risks against the potential economic benefits because in other papers we've been pointing out that there are potential economic benefits from this technology and indeed there are potential health and community benefits."
With files from The Canadian Press