Responding to concerns expressed by citizens, the government of Nova Scotia has begun a year-long review of environmental issues associated with hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking).

The review, which will be conducted jointly by the province’s departments of Energy and Environment, is expected to be finished early next year.

“We have listened to the concerns of Nova Scotians over drinking water and protecting their communities,” said Energy Minister Charlie Parker. “Given that we do not currently have any applications for the use of hydraulic fracturing of shales, nor do we anticipate any this year, this is a good time for us to do this work.”

A team of senior technical and policy staff from the two departments will work to identify potential environmental issues, determine how they are managed in other jurisdictions and identify industry best practices. The team will look at the reviews of other jurisdictions across Canada and the United States and bring in outside experts in certain subject areas.

At the conclusion of the review, which will examine hydrofracking’s potential effects on groundwater, the use and effects on surface water, impacts on land, waste management, management of fracking fluids and other issues, the team will make recommendations to improve regulations where necessary, the departments said. Public comments will be sought both during and after the review.

Elmworth Energy, the Canadian subsidiary of Calgary-based Triangle Petroleum Corp., signed the first onshore shale gas development lease in Nova Scotia two years ago (see Daily GPI, April 17, 2009). The company, which had focused its exploration efforts on a frontier natural gas shale basin in the province, obtained a 10-year production lease for both conventional gas and oil in the Windsor block, including prospective shale gas in both the Windsor and Horton plays.

In 2007 Canaccord Adams energy analyst Irene Haas said the gas shale plays in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia “could be ahead of the pack” in terms of new shale field potential in North America (see Daily GPI, Oct. 4, 2007).

Nearly half a million wells have been fracked in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, according to the government of Nova Scotia.

Last month Quebec announced that hydrofracking could continue there for exploration purposes only, after the release of a much anticipated report that recommended a two-year strategic environmental assessment on shale gas (see Shale Daily, March 10). Jacques Dupont, an environment associate deputy minister with the Quebec government, told NGI’s Shale Daily that drilling would remain permissible in the province, but companies would need to go through an approval process to do so.