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Why a fracking ban was the right move for Nova Scotia

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Photo: Ari Moore/flickr

"Nova Scotia's shale potential will remain in the ground," harrumphed Financial Post columnist Terence Corcoran. Blame "growth-killing theories and activists." "The McNeil Liberals have nailed shut one more economic doorway," fretted Chronicle-Herald columnist Marilla Stephenson. "It's a sorry day for Nova Scotia," tut-tutted her editorial overlings. "Fear is trumping science," piled on the Toronto Sun's Brian Lilley... Lilley? Really? He of the climate-change denying, Stephen-Harper apologizing Sun standing tall for science? But I digress.

For me, the most intriguing aspect of last week's announcement the province will ban hydraulic fracking is how quickly the chattering classes lined up in lip-lock lockstep to attack the government for being too craven to stand up to its own voters, and Nova Scotians -- that's us -- for being too stupid to know what's best for us.

Hydraulic fracking -- shooting huge volumes of pressurized water, sand and assorted chemicals, some of them carcinogens, into layers of shale rock deep under the earth's surface in order to release trapped oil and gas -- is the energy industry's new Holy Grail.

On the upside, fracking promises easier, more efficient access to ever declining, non-renewable energy. On the downside, there's potential poisoned wells, contaminated air, maybe the odd man-made earthquake and, oh yes, the unknown. Not to forget the climate changes that come with the upside.

Contrary to federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver -- "the record is... unblemished" -- the jury is not yet "in" on fracking.

A Google search for fracking's past month's headlines:  University of Texas scientists report 30 per cent of wells above an active area of drilling contain unusually high levels of arsenic; scientists at Duke discover high levels of methane in wells near drilling in Pennsylvania and New York, plus radioactivity in a fracking discharge site.

Although I think there should be a revisit date on the ban -- will the science be clearer in five years? -- I'm happy our government isn't bowing to the development-at-any-cost crowd.

I'm currently reading Toms River, Dan Fagin's Pulitzer-prize-winning book about the poisoning of a New Jersey town by a huge chemical company while don't-worry-be-happy politicians and opinion leaders ignored mounting evidence of what was happening.

Are we stupid? Or just cautious?

Photo: Ari Moore/flickr

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