Against frack­ing

Process more a bust than a boom for prov­ince

Truro Daily News - - Fracking - BY MICHAEL BRAD­FIELD

Frack­ing – what are the risks for Nova Sco­tians?

The re­newed in­ter­est in frack­ing raises the trade-off be­tween jobs and the health of peo­ple and of the en­vi­ron­ment. We need re­ward­ing, safe, and sat­is­fy­ing jobs but at what risk to our own or oth­ers’ well-be­ing or to the en­vi­ron­ment which sus­tains life?

Frack­ing is an in­ef­fec­tive way to cre­ate jobs. It is cap­i­tal in­ten­sive; frack­ing uses a lot of ex­pen­sive, com­plex equip­ment rel­a­tive to the jobs cre­ated. This com­plex­ity means ma­chin­ery and ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers will be im­ported from other re­gions and coun­tries. Just be­cause a Nova Sco­tian works in the tar sands does not mean they can get a frack­ing job here. More­over, frack­ing puts ex­ist­ing in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing farm­ing and tourism, at risk. In ad­di­tion, the work­ers move around the re­gion as the stage of pro­duc­tion goes from ex­plo­ration to de­vel­op­ment to op­er­a­tion to de­com­mis­sion­ing. Frack­ing is a prime ex­am­ple of the boom/bust econ­omy, cre­at­ing an eco­nomic roller­coaster for the lo­cal peo­ple.

The Nova Sco­tia “At­las” of nat­u­ral gas re­serves spec­u­lates that frack­ing might sig­nif­i­cantly boost the prov­ince’s rev­enues through roy­al­ties, and in­di­rectly as those new jobs lead to in­creased in­comes and spend­ing, in­creas­ing both in­come and sales tax rev­enues.

The At­las’ roy­alty es­ti­mates as­sume there will be no roy­alty ‘hol­i­days’ or other con­ces­sions, yet in Nova Sco­tia each lease has a two-year hol­i­day (two years of pro­duc­tion with­out pay­ing roy­al­ties). As frack­ing wells pro­duce more than 85 per cent of their out­put in their first year, very lit­tle of the pro­duc­tion will be sub­ject to roy­al­ties. And those im­ported work­ers send much of their in­come back home to their fam­i­lies.

We must also con­sider the costs im­posed by frack­ing. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties face a ma­jor chal­lenge im­prov­ing and main­tain­ing their roads to han­dle the heavy trucks mak­ing lit­er­ally hun­dreds of trips per day, haul­ing wa­ter and chemicals to well sites and toxic wastew­a­ter back out. Un­solved is the prob­lem of treat­ing that waste wa­ter. Ac­ci­dents cause spills at the site and along the roads, and other en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age. In ad­di­tion, a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in work­ers will put pres­sure on lo­cal ser­vices for health, schools, ac­com­mo­da­tions, etc.

There are also sig­nif­i­cant costs to the prov­ince. Be­fore any frack­ing oc­curs, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment must de­velop a reg­u­la­tory regime and gather base­line data on wa­ter and air qual­ity and on so­cial con­di­tions, such as un­em­ploy­ment and wage lev­els, to be able to as­sess the im­pacts of frack­ing on the com­mu­nity and the en­vi­ron­ment. There are on­go­ing costs for mon­i­tor­ing and lit­i­ga­tion to en­force the reg­u­la­tions and to deal with leak­ing well­heads long af­ter their own­ers dis­ap­pear.

As hap­pens in other ju­ris­dic­tions, frack­ing com­pa­nies may de­mand sub­si­dies and con­ces­sions from lo­cal and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments, es­pe­cially now with low nat­u­ral gas prices and de­creased de­mand.

We must also take a broader per­spec­tive in terms of green­house gases. Meth­ane is 85 times more dam­ag­ing than car­bon diox­ide. The in­creased leak­age of fracked gas, from well-head to dis­tri­bu­tion to the con­sumer, is al­ready caus­ing alarm as it adds to green­house gases.

How much are Nova Sco­tians will­ing to risk to gain the lim­ited ben­e­fits of frack­ing?

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