Port Hawkesbury Paper aligns with pro-fracking lobby in Guysborough County

NOTE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed quotes to Craig McInnis, an employee of Port Hawkesbury Paper. We have removed his name from the story, and are in the process of revising the story. We regret the incorrect quote attribution and offer our apologies to Mr. McInnis. 


Port Hawkesbury Paper, while facing criticism about its clearcutting practices, is aligning itself with the pro-fracking elements within the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MoDG) Council.

On March 7 officials associated with Port Hawkesbury Paper appeared before Council to deliver a report on the company’s forestry practices, prompted in part, by recent media stories regarding their company’s alleged, clear-cutting of old growth trees in the Loon Lake area of Guysborough County.

“Commercial forestry is much like fracking, given that the public had limited knowledge or understanding of either industries.” Craig McInnis, manager Port Hawkesbury Paper.

Before addressing concerns around their harvesting practices, it was stated that commercial forestry was much like fracking, given that the public had limited knowledge or understanding of either industries.

The official then went on to praise the MoDG for its motion and correspondence with the province in favour of lifting the unofficial fracking moratorium. saying that he saw this Council as “being leaders in this debate”. With that comment, it would appear Port Hawkesbury Paper, with its current questionable clear-cutting practices, has now aligned itself with the pro-fracking Guysborough Council and the mining industry in general.

In response to the municipality’s pro-fracking stance Guysborough District 3 constituents recently organized a town-hall style meeting with their council member Neil DeCoff. The meeting provided a forum to ask the councillor specific questions about fracking; including its impact on the environment, climate change and health risks associated with the mining process.


As the discussion continues, several municipal politicians have mentioned their lack of expertise. Amherst Mayor David Kogon said recently, “Not being an engineer or a geological scientist, I am not very knowledgeable about the dangers.” County warden for Oxford Mayor, Patricia Stewart, had similar thoughts, stating that weighing the dangers versus the opportunities offered by fracking are beyond the expertise of their council and staff.

Not all municpal politicians feel they lack expertise though.

“People are so afraid of this (fracking) — for the life of me, I don’t understand. Let’s try one well and see how it goes before we close the door outright on it.” Vernon Pitts, Warden of Guysborough County

Vernon Pitts, Warden of Guysbourough County, recently said, “People are so afraid of this (fracking) — for the life of me, I don’t understand. Let’s try one well and see how it goes before we close the door outright on it.” His comments echo those of his Council members and CAO Barry Carroll, who had originally presented the idea of supporting fracking at a Council meeting. Councillor Neil DeCoff, part of the unanimous vote in favour of fracking, told his town hall constituents he felt the practice was safe.

All of which flies in the face of numerous independent reports and studies to the contrary. The cover-up over the dangers fracking brings to communities seems overwhelming. It is disturbingly apparent that Warden Pitts and Guysborough Councillors, including Neil DeCoff, did little to acquaint themselves with any of the aspects of this reputedly dangerous gas extraction technique.

But some municipalities in Nova Scotia have understood the inherent problems that fracking brings to communities. In May of 2013, the Municipality of the County of Inverness introduced a by-law prohibiting fracking in this Cape Breton county. Section 4 of that by-law made it clear-

 4) AND WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada has made clear that Life, Liberty, and Security of Person are distinct and separate rights and has ruled in past cases that the particular and universal right to Security of Person embraces an individual’s health and well being

Jonathan Langdon, an associate professor at St. F.X. University, in a recent Op Ed piece in The Chronicle Herald, talked about both the dangers of methane gas; a by-product of fracking, and the lack of industry regulation:

 “Considering methane is a greenhouse gas “roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide” according to Princeton University, this level of under- or misreporting is extremely worrying and puts into question the idea that this industry can be effectively regulated.

 “All evidence continues to point to two conclusions: the real negative impacts of fracking persists and that this industry is extremely difficult to regulate.

 “Either one of these pieces of information on its own would be enough to invoke the precautionary principle.

 “Taken together, along with the clear lack of social license, one can only conclude that the legislated ban on fracking must remain.”

 And so the debate continues. One side of the debate, those against fracking, talk about safety, protecting the environment, a sustainable economy, and caring for their communities. The other side, supporting fracking, also talks about communities, but emphasize the need for economic growth through jobs in this industry.

It remains to be seen if the provincial government will shift in its position and re-open the fracking debate. But it should be remembered that municipal councils, no matter where they are in Nova Scotia, need to listen to their constituents and be proactive on their behalf. It is called democracy.


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  1. It’s the same old story that plagues Guysborough County and other rural areas of NS. Those with the reins of power are so firmly rooted in the ‘old’ way of doing things and in maintaining their own positions on council that they can’t let facts get in the way of their convictions. Although the only conviction I can see evidenced here is to sell off our resources at bargain basement prices and consequences be damned. Never mind the fact that Guysborough County is unlikely to see any fracking activity, as possible reserves are minimal to nil. I doubt companies would be interested. You don’t do just “one well” – a fracking program is a major commitment of time and resources. The lack of knowledge in Mr. Pitts’ statement makes me cringe. Has he read anything about the fracking issue? The list of provinces, states and countries that are banning fracking is growing. Has MoDG access to any groundbreaking research that has proven that fracking has no effects on the environment? Oh, but they have the endorsement of Port Hawksbury Paper… that’s an unbiased and totally scientifically based opinion. An industry whose existence relies on indiscriminate decimation of our forests. Not to say that mining and forestry cannot be conducted responsibly and create good employment opportunities. But the very process of fracking carries inherent and irreversible risks. We are already committed to a process that will strip us of most of our forested land in order to supply NS Power with an abominably inefficient method of creating power, so that they can claim to be using ‘green’ energy. Should we continue that line of thinking and risk destroying our water resources and contribute further to the greenhouse gas problem that we are supposedly trying to alleviate? Or maybe we could think for the future and look for creative ways to support employment in sustainable and stable ways.

  2. Thanks Alex, good article and good to know. Since PHP refers to an “unofficial moratorium on fracking” and doesn’t seem to know that fracking is banned by law, after passage of Bill 6, an amendment to the Petroleum Resources Act, one might wonder how reliable the rest of their information is.

    1. The final clause of the legislation pertaining to the fracking moratorium states “This Act comes into force on such day as the Governor in Council orders and declares by proclamation.” (https://nslegislature.ca/legc/bills/62nd_2nd/1st_read/b006.htm)

      If you check the actual Petroleum Resources Act currently on the books you will note that the amendments pertaining to a fracking moratorium are not part of it, because it was never proclaimed. (https://nslegislature.ca/sites/default/files/legc/statutes/petrol.htm)

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