Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Putting fracking cart before horse not helpful

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The Nova Scotia Municipality of Cumberland has fired what it believes is a pre-emptive strike it hopes will encourage government to put the brakes on future attempts to use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to get at shale gas reserves believed to be sitting under the area.

As much as the county wants to make its feelings known on the subject, it is putting the cart before the horse, considering the province's review of the practice won't be completed before mid-2014. By that time there's a strong possibility the province, and everyone else for that matter, may have forgotten the county has taken its stance.

We also cannot forget a county resolution is unlikely to have any influence over how the government decides to proceed, other than to remind it this is how the municipality and its residents feel.

The jury is still out on the use of fracking to access gas trapped in rock deep under the surface. There have been plenty of examples of fracked wells causing all sorts of problems in the United States and anyone who has seen the Gasland documentary is certain to become an immediate opponent of anything to do with pumping large volumes of water and chemicals underground at high pressure to fracture the rock and free trapped gas.

It's also something the gas industry prefers not to talk about in this country, other than to say fracking is a proven practice that has been safely used for generations in other areas of the country.

When you're talking about the safety of the water supply, the environment and wildlife, however, it's pretty hard to convince skeptics fracking is not without risk.

When the government placed a hold on fracking a couple of years ago it said it wanted to take the time to listen to the industry, see what's taking place in other jurisdictions and hear public concerns. When it extended that review last year, the province said it wants to take the time to collect as much information on the subject as it can to make the most informed decision possible.

There are legitimate concerns in Cumberland County regarding fracking and those questions need to be answered before any wells are drilled. It's incumbent upon stakeholders, however, to provide input and allow the government's review to take its course in the hope it's based on facts and science as opposed to rumour and speculation.

-- The Amherst Daily News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 14, 2013 A11

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