Nova Scotia

McNeil government's fracking ban remains a work in progress

A senior government official told a Nova Scotia legislature committee the McNeil government is working on fracking regulations, but there's no timeline in place.

Government official says province is working on fracking regulations, but no timeline is in place

Simon d'Entremont, deputy minister for the Department of Energy and Mines, says although there's no legislated moratorium on fracking, the oil and gas industry understands what is and isn't permitted in Nova Scotia. (Jean LaRoche/CBC)

Nova Scotia continues to have a moratorium on fracking in name only and there appears to be no plan to hurry the process along to ensure a law passed more than four years ago outlawing "high volume hydraulic fracturing" is brought into force.

Simon d'Entremont, deputy minister of the Department of Energy and Mines, and his colleague Sandy MacMullin, spent more than 90 minutes before a legislature committee Tuesday talking about the controversial practice of natural gas extraction, but never once said when a ban on fracking would be proclaimed.

Fracking is the high-pressure injection of material into well sites to crack rock and make it easier for oil and natural gas to flow to the surface. The practice has been criticized over environmental concerns.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, d'Entremont said the department was still working on the regulations, which include defining what should be banned.

"We're continue to do our research, our science looking at best practices, other jurisdictions and continue to talk to experts to continue to improve our knowledge," he said. "It always gets better and improves over time."

No fracking bill timeline

Asked if there was a timeline, d'Entremont said the government doesn't have a specific timeline it is working toward.

"The position of government is that we're not looking at hydraulic fracturing at this time and the moratorium remains in place," he said.

Province 'trying to have it both ways'

Although there's no legislated moratorium, d'Entremont told reporters the industry understands what is and isn't permitted in Nova Scotia.

"We have certainty for companies who want to know what they can and can't do and that certainty comes from the original position of government," said d'Entremont.

But that's not the way New Democrat MLA Lisa Roberts saw it. She described the Liberal government's position as deliberately indistinct.

Two officials from the Department of Energy and Mines spent more than 90 minutes before a legislature committee Tuesday. (Jean LaRoche/CBC)

"My sense is that this government doesn't like to close the door on any potential oil and gas development, and so they're trying to have it both ways," said Roberts.

She said the message to companies looking to explore for oil and gas seemed clear.

"We haven't proclaimed a law that actually makes the [fracking] moratorium official, and so come and talk to us," said Roberts.

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