High-level shale gas study calls for moratorium on fracking > International News > News | Click Green

An independent report on fracking has recommended a temporary moratorium on the controversial process and says that communities should give permission before it can proceed.The interdisciplinary expert panel set up by the Nova Scotia regional government says the science of fracking is relatively unknown and therefore its introduction should be delayed in the Province until the science and its environmental effects are better understood.It recommends continuing scientific, economic and social modelling to test if hydraulic fracturing is the best answer to the Canadian province’s energy needs and makes more than 30 recommendations in cases where fracking is given the go-ahead.The Report’s conclusions are in stark contrast to the ‘dash for gas’ policy approach taken by the UK and the US governments.The Chair of the Panel, Professor David Wheeler, President of the Cape Breton University and former Pro Vice-Chancellor of Plymouth University, said the recommendations were ‘game changing’ and that governments ignore them ‘at their peril’.The Report, which took a year to complete, says that there is insufficient knowledge at the present time to describe how theoretical or actual risks and benefits may fall both in the short and the long term at the community level.Because of this shortfall, if any unconventional gas and oil development activity were to be permitted, adequate baseline monitoring would need to be instituted, effective regulations put in place and enforced, and formal Health, Social and Environmental Impact Assessments conducted following a precautionary approach.The panel received 238 submissions of evidence from citizens and interested parties. A topic which gave rise to significant concern was well integrity because of the possibility of methane emissions and the contamination of groundwater. However, the Panel concluded that it is a relatively straightforward task to establish good regulatory practices, quality control, and monitoring to ensure that potential sites are geologically understood, that wells are properly installed, and that well abandonment is done according to regulatory requirements.The scope of the Report included effects on groundwater – including both water quality and quantity issues; effects on surface water; impacts on land; management of additives to hydraulic fracturing fluids; waste management; site restoration; requirements for hydraulic fracturing design including chemicals used; and the engineered design, and financial security considerations that operators are required prior to conducting activity.It found that in the case of hydraulic fracturing and its associated activities and technologies, scientific observations are lacking in many areas. For example, there is no literature on methane gas toxicity from hydraulic fracturing because toxicologists consider the gas to be inert; there is no indication that it is a significant health hazard if methane is inhaled in small concentrations, therefore toxicologists do not study it. In other domains, results may be lacking because of neglect or a lack of awareness, or simply because negative or positive effects may take decades to emerge and be measured. The Report warns: “We need only reflect on the decades it took for the links between smoking and cancer to be accepted to understand the problem.“Scientists try to fill gaps in knowledge with rigorous study and publications so that society can continue to progress in matters of health and general welfare, but these studies take time and resources.

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