Nova Scotia will introduce legislation to prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing for onshore shale gas this fall, Energy Minister Andrew Younger said Wednesday. 

The decision follows an independent panel review that recommended the government proceed slowly. Younger said the ban is not permanent, but would not say how long it will last. 

“There’s nothing that’s going to happen in five years or 10 years that we can point to,” he told CBC News. “We’re prepared to open this up if a community approaches us and is prepared to look at this.”

Younger said the public have "overwhelmingly expressed concern" about allowing hydraulic fracturing​, known as fracking. “And we need to respect that. We need to respect the trust the people have put in us,” he said.

Younger said if a community approaches the government with an interest in fracking, it would lead to a debate in the Legislature about allowing it in that community. 

“People need to not have this threat hanging over their head that there might be hydraulic fracturing and they wouldn’t be involved. This way, people will know before it’s allowed — if it’s ever allowed — there will be a full debate in the Legislature.”

He said it would not send out the message that Nova Scotia is closed for business. “We are very actively promoting our offshore development — that has very strong public support — and there’s a coal-bed methane project in Stellarton that has received excellent support.”

Barbara Pike of the Maritimes Energy Association said her members disagreed with the decision.

“I think the Nova Scotia public should understand that we need energy. We need natural gas. If we’re not going to get it locally, we’re going to get it somewhere.”

David Wheeler, president of Cape Breton University, headed up a panel that spent six months examining the contentious issue.

The independent panel recommended that hydraulic fracturing not be allowed in Nova Scotia until there is more research and a way is found to give local communities a say in the process.

The panel's three key recommendations are as follows:

  • Hydraulic fracturing should not proceed at the present time in Nova Scotia.
  • Independent research is needed to measure health, environment and economic impacts.
  • Nova Scotia should design and recognize a test for "community permission" with regards to hydraulic fracturing.

The report estimates that in a "lower- to medium-case" scenario — where 4,000 wells are drilled over a 40-year period — hydraulic fracturing could result in $1 billion in annual investment, generating between 750 and 1,500 direct jobs.