Nova Scotia

Fracking ban legislation knocked by some environmentalists

The proposed law to put a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is getting a rough ride from some environmentalists.

Province moving ahead with legislation banning high-volume hydraulic fracturing with exception

Fracking is a process that forces pressurized water and chemicals into layers of rock to release trapped oil and natural gas. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

The proposed law to put a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is getting a rough ride from some environmentalists.

"I feel betrayed by my government," says Evelien VanderKloet, who isn't sugar coating her disappointment with the bill.

"The legislation that's been produced is insulting. It overrides the lack of social license to frack and it tells us that we should accept a watered down version of a prohibition. And I just think that we can do so much better than this."

The Dalhousie University student attended the public meetings that led to this proposed law and she thinks what's being proposed falls well short of a ban.

Nova Scotia is moving ahead with legislation that would ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing for onshore oil and gas, but the proposed law also includes an exemption that would allow fracking for testing and research purposes.

Energy Minister Andrew Younger insists the exemption in the Petroleum Resources Act does not provide a loophole for the shale gas industry.

VanderKloet says what's needed is an airtight ban on all hydraulic fracturing, including any testing or research. She says that ban should only be lifted after a province-wide vote.

"This ban may only be overturned by a provincial referendum and actually calling on the people to find out what they want," says VanderKloet.

The Ecology Action Centre isn't going that far, but the group's Catherine Abreu says the bill should be strengthened and communities should get a say before any testing goes ahead.

"Where the minister considers such an exemption, the minister must engage in prior informed and meaningful consultation with the community where testing and research is to take place to ensure community consent to the process," she says.

Abreu says if a community says no, the government should respect that decision and look elsewhere to allow testing.

Hydraulic fracturing, or "hydro-fracking," is a form of natural gas extraction in which a pressurized mix of water and other substances is injected into shale rock formations or coal beds to release trapped natural gas. A fluid mixture of water and chemicals is injected under high pressure deep underground, creating or widening fissures in the rock. Then, sand or another solid, often ceramic beads, is pumped in to keep the fissures propped open so that methane gas can escape from pores and fractures in the rock.