Fracking: Let's heed these protesters' concerns
The provincial government would be wise to heed the protesters who rallied recently in front of Province House to express their concerns about hydraulic fracturing as a means of exploring natural gas. Islanders are fully dependent on groundwater, and government should always err on the side of caution when it comes to protecting it.
Across the country, environmental groups have been opposing hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - because it involves pumping a mixture of water and chemicals into the ground to help release natural gas, a process they say threatens groundwater. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia allow fracking, but none is taking place in this province, although two companies are looking for natural gas. Petroworth has the largest exploration permit with the rights to 440,000 acres of land.
One of the protesters at last week's rally in front of Province House - Jennifer O'Neill of the Sierra Club's Atlantic chapter - said the purpose of the event was to raise awareness about the process. That's good strategy. Even though no fracking is currently underway here, it's prudent to speak up about any concerns sooner rather than later.
Obviously our politicians are well aware of the controversy over fracking. Conservative Leader Olive Crane says she would ban it if her party forms the government after the next election, and Environment Minister Richard Brown has stressed that companies with exploration permits would still need approval to begin fracking - something the province wouldn't give until studies on the impact of the process are completed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Canadian government.
That's somewhat reassuring, but we have a further suggestion for the minister. Even if the U.S. Environmental Agency and the Canadian government give the process the OK, the province shouldn't automatically allow it in this province. Islanders have one source of drinking water and it comes from groundwater. Before government allows fracking here, it must be sure it poses no threat to this precious resource. If that assurance requires the province to engage its own expert to explore the unique geological and soil makeup of this province, then so be it.