Islanders must keep pressure on their local governments if they hope to see a permanent ban on the controversial practice of fracking, activists from Nova Scotia’s Inverness County told Islanders this week.
More than 30 Islanders attended the information session hosted by the Council of Canadians at Murphy’s Community Centre to hear how residents of the Cape Breton county banded together to fight off oil companies from fracking in the area.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves fracturing a rock layer with pressurized fluid to break up gas-containing rock formations. Those concerned over the practice have pointed to the secret “recipe” of chemicals contained in the fluid, as well as the possibility of compromising the province’s aquifer.
While the practice isn't taking place in P.E.I. now, an area near Green Gables was fracked in 2007, which resulted in a broken pipe spilling radioactive material. Three companies, PetroWorth, Corridor Resources Inc. and BP Canada Energy Company, all have permits for gas exploration. However, the province is waiting for more information on the relatively new practice before granting permission to frack.
Leo Broderick, of the Council of Canadians, said there are many Islanders concerned over the possibility of the practice occurring again in the future.
"We wanted to have people come in who are actually fighting the real possibility of oil drilling and fracking in their neighbourhoods,” said Broderick. “That’s why we invited people to come from Inverness County.”
Inverness County was the first Nova Scotia community to call for a ban on fracking in the province. The municipality also has a bylaw prohibiting fracking in its area now entering its second reading.
Anne Levesque, of the Inverness County chapter of the Council of Canadians, described how a small grassroots movement of citizens in Lake Ainslee sharing information has fought off PetroWorth from fracking in the area.
“Lake Ainslie is a very small community,” said Levesque. “We began to have information sessions around the lake… they were not very well attended.”
“But I think in retrospect, even though they weren’t well-attended, word leaked out.”
Other individuals from Inverness County who spoke at the meeting Monday included residents Johanna Padelt, David Martin and Angela Giles, Atlantic Regional organizer for the Council of Canadians.
The small Lake Ainslie movement soon struck a chord with the public, and another information session saw more than 200 in attendance, including local politicians.
From there, the group began to make alliances with other community groups, including the Lake Ainslie Development Association, elders from the Waycobah First Nations, and the Lake Ainslie Salmon Association.
This also led to a petition for the province to ban the practice through all of Nova Scotia.
“After the collaboration, we were still all working on the issue but on different fronts,” said Levesque, adding that this was when the idea of a community bylaw was first brought up.
That bylaw is now entering its second reading.
Levesque added that the group had cause to celebrate only a few weeks ago, when prospective foreign partners for PetroWorth announced they had “cold feet” because of a protest held by the Waycobah First Nations group.
“They decided they didn’t want to participate (in fracking the area),” said Levesque. “So that was another win.
“I just want to wish you good luck in P.E.I.”
Broderick said his hopes are to get enough individuals and groups on P.E.I. to agree there is a possibility of fracking in the province and to call for a permanent ban.
“We would like to form a province-wide, broad-based, diverse P.E.I. anti-fracking coalition, where we would put pressure on the provincial government to declare there be an absolutely permanent moratorium on fracking and oil drilling in the province,” said Broderick, who added that there will be another meeting on the issue sometime after the holidays.