Problem Uncertainty, Institutional Insularity, and Modes of Learning in Canadian Provincial Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation
This study uses policy learning frameworks to explain variation in processes of hydraulic fracturing regulatory development in Canadian provinces. Using a cross-case comparison of British Columbia and Nova Scotia, the article demonstrates that differences in problem uncertainty and institutional insularity in each province determined modes of technical, social, and political learning in each province. In British Columbia elected officials framed LNG as a safe, clean energy source generating economic benefits. These frames made it difficult for anti-fracking advocates to increase the salience of environmental risks and scientific uncertainty. Low problem uncertainty and high institutional insularity fostered processes of technical learning within the BC Oil and Gas Commission focused on single-issue regulations. In Nova Scotia, an external review provided an ad hoc institutional venue through which environmental advocates, residents, and experts could increase the salience of scientific uncertainty and dread environmental risks. These conditions fostered collective processes of social learning among anti-fracking advocates and political learning among elected officials, resulting in a ban.