New Brunswick

Fracking opponent cautions against lifting moratorium

One of Canada's top experts on the impact of shale gas extraction on the environment says it's too soon for the province to lift the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.

John Cherry speaks at public lecture organized by Anti-Shale Gas Alliance in Fredericton

Dr. John Cherry is a groundwater contaminatione expert speaking in Fredericton Tuesday night. (CBC)

One of Canada's top experts on the impact of shale gas extraction on the environment says it's too soon for the province to lift its moratorium on hydraulic-fracturing, known as fracking.

John Cherry is a groundwater contamination expert at the University of Guelph. He was chair of the 2014 Council of Canadian Academies report, Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction in Canada.

Cherry has been invited by the anti-shale gas alliance to give a public lecture in Fredericton on Tuesday night. He also plans to make a presentation to the provincial commission studying whether to lift the moratorium on the industry.

Speaking to Information Morning Fredericton, Cherry says there's not enough scientific research yet to justify that move. 

There's no way the Canadian public has a reason to believe what they're told by government at any level on this topic.- Dr. John Cherry

"There hasn't been enough baseline monitoring, not enough research for governments to make a science-based opinion on that," he said.

"It would have been done in Germany, but then the Germans have banned fracking. It certainly isn't being done in the U.S. and not being done in Canada."

Hydraulic-fracturing is a method of extracting natural gas from shale rock formations beneath the earth's surface.

It involves injecting a mixture of sand, chemicals, and water or some other substance into the earth under high pressure to fracture the rock and capture natural gas that is otherwise not attainable.

Cherry says the main issue with respect to potential groundwater contamination is leaky gas. He says to extract the gas, holes are drilled down through many geological layers to puncture a gas bed. The puncture is then sealed with cement, which Cherry says is unstable.

"All oil and gas wells are prone to leaking because of cement deterioration … it can seep into groundwater and change groundwater chemistry. So, people like me see shale gas development as basically a very large scientific experiment."

Cherry says there is major disagreement in the scientific community about this issue, which he says in typical when it comes to "immature science."

He says he will be against fracking until the science is better.

"There are no government agencies in Canada that have the expertise focused on the problem, so there's no way, I think,that the Canadian public has a reason to believe what they're told by government at any level on this topic."

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