Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Don't Frack With Rural Nova Scotia

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

As a resident of rural Nova Scotia, I am relieved the government plans to prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing for gas in our province. 
Granted, it means low-volume hydraulic fracturing is still possible if and when the moratorium is lifted but at least the government is showing some caution. 
I’m relieved because I am tired of companies and politicians waltzing around touting “the economy” as the reason to allow any development that promises jobs and profit regardless of the impact on those of us who live in rural areas.
Is it fair to say it appears those who live in the city, including most of our decision-makers, support “fracking”? It’s going to happen far away from their homes and gardens, and they want lower power bills.  
But those of us who live in the country, where our trees are being cut down but not replanted, where wind turbines are going up unnecessarily near residences, where many of us use well water for drinking and cooking and washing, we oppose “fracking” because what we cherish about our way of life could be ruined.
We are not bumpkins afraid of progress, we are not simple folk who don’t understand the way the world works. We are farmers and artists and labourers and teachers and small business owners and retirees who love living in the country and who have spoken out to defend what we love.
It’s rather shocking that the government listened. 
One reason I oppose “fracking” is that I have lost faith in our elected officials to protect us, our families and our communities from the profit-driven standard operating procedures of large corporations. A company “accidentally” dumps toxins into a nearby river and is fined a few hundred dollars; a company threatens to leave the province if it doesn’t get tax breaks and forgivable loans; a company ignores requests to clean up the smokestacks polluting the air for 500 square kilometres. 
But because it’s all about “the economy”, anything that creates jobs and pays taxes is a-okay. If it’s bad for the environment, if it’s bad for a neighbourhood, if it’s bad for small business or for farmers – well, it’s good for the economy and it creates jobs and pay taxes so the government turns a blind eye to broken rules. 
I don’t want rural Nova Scotia to be collateral damage. 
One of the most publicized impacts on an area around a fracking well is tap water that catches on fire but my other reason for opposing fracking is a lesser known impact but one that is equally as scary and just as important: Our roads and our infrastructure can’t handle the increased truck traffic. 
Allow me to quote from an Associated Press article about fracking in West Virginia published last May: “Fracking a single well can involve thousands of tons of sand, thousands of gallons of chemicals, and millions of gallons of water, all which arrive by truck. That doesn’t include the trucks needed for equipment, drilling and the oil/gas itself, not to mention the workers coming and going, the building of pipelines, compressor stations, mining for sand, and other related infrastructure. Multiply these by hundreds of wells across a region and you end up with some big problems, especially when this involves windy, country or mountainous roads.”
Exactly the kinds of roads we have in Nova Scotia, and right here in Cumberland County. That dramatic increase in traffic through our communities puts all of us at risk on the roads.
No matter what promises are made about improving roads and installing traffic lights, you know the work will begin and the trucks will arrive long before a tender even goes out.
There is always a cost, and a choice, when it comes to the economy and jobs. Until someone shows us a responsible method for extracting gas (now there’s a real pipe dream), I’d rather pay more for energy and live in a safe, healthy rural community. 

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