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Saturday 19 August 2017
19 August 2017 - NEWS UPDATE
Green Living

Former Plymouth Business School head to lead Canadian fracking inquiry

The former head of Plymouth Business School is to carry out a review of fracking for the Nova Scotia Government.

Wheeler

Dr David Wheeler

Dr David Wheeler, now president of Cape Breton University, is to oversee a comprehensive review of the controversial practice.

Nova Scotia Energy Minister Charlie Parker said Wheeler will hold public consultations and assemble an advisory panel of experts to study the social, economic, environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

The Canadian government launched its own review in 2011, but Parker said that Nova Scotians have been calling for an external study.

"They want more independence and they want an expansion of the scope of the study," he said.

"So we're not only looking at the technical aspects of hydraulic fracturing, but expanding it into the health impacts and the socio-economic impacts."

Prof Wheeler will be assisted by an expert on water quality and groundwater pollution.

Fracking involves extracting natural gas trapped in shale rock through the use of chemically treated water and sand into a well bore.

Critics say the process could compromise groundwater, but the energy industry says fracking is safe and does not harm the environment.

The Nova Scotia government implemented a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing last year. At the same time, the National Democratic Party (NDP) announced it would delay its fracking report, initially expected last spring, until mid-2014 to allow for more study.

Parker said work from the internal review will be incorporated into Wheeler's work, which is expected to begin this autumn.

"There's a lot of good information there but we still don't have enough information to make an informed decision," said Parker. "We want to do the right thing. We've always said we want to gather the best possible information."

The Opposition Liberals called for an independent review of fracking in 2011 and accused the NDP of bowing to mounting public pressure ahead of a provincial election.

"They have shown absolutely no leadership on concerns about fracking in our province," energy critic Andrew Younger said in a statement.

Parker said the government is aiming to have the independent review completed next year. He said no applications for fracking will be considered during the review process.

Fracking is also high on the agenda in neighbouring New Brunswick, where opponents have staged high-profile protests against shale gas exploration.

Earlier this year, the provincial government pushed ahead with dozens of new regulations governing the industry and aimed at protecting the environment and creating jobs. That came after that province's chief medical officer of health issued a report in October 2012 warning that New Brunswick's infrastructure and legislation weren't strong enough to ensure public health is protected should the shale gas industry be expanded.

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