Nova Scotia government acts quickly to introduce fracking ban legislation

Energy minister decides to heed review panel's recommendation

That didn’t take long.

After receiving an independent review panel’s report last week recommending that hydraulic fracturing should not be allowed in Nova Scotia “at this time”, provincial energy minister Andrew Younger announced on Wednesday (Sept. 3) that the Liberal government will introduce legislation to ban fracking onshore.

In a press release announcing the decision, Younger said:

Nova Scotians have overwhelmingly expressed concern about allowing high volume hydraulic fracturing to be a part of onshore shale gas in this province at this time.

As we wrote last week at this blog, this was a predictable move by the government. Fracking is a contentious topic, and to allow it after getting a report from a review panel recommending it shouldn’t be allowed would be an exercise in bad optics. The Liberal government would be accused of not listening to its people and putting development ahead of the environment.

But before anyone applauds Younger and the governing Liberals for putting the environment ahead of big business for once, it’s important to remember the government can also afford to do this.

No one’s been pining to explore for shale gas in Nova Scotia in quite some time. The real petroleum prize for the province lies in the offshore, where Shell and BP have conducted seismic work and will likely drill some exploration wells in the next couple of years.

If the situation were reversed – say interest in its offshore potential was zero but there were several companies chomping at the bit to frack for shale gas and oil in Nova Scotia – Younger’s decision might have been a lot different.

As a slight aside, I wouldn’t mind being a fly on the wall in the office of Derrick Dalley right now. As Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of natural resources, Dalley brought in a fracking moratoriam late in 2013 and the province is going to hold a fracking review of its own.

How will what happened in Nova Scotia shape how Newfoundland and Labrador handles its own fracking review?

I’m sure Dalley and his staffers have been following the Nova Scotia review and taking notes. The fact Nova Scotia’s government is choosing to ignore the potential economic benefits onshore shale gas exploration and development could bring to the province – at a time when it could use some economic activity – could be instructive to Dalley and his department.

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