New Brunswick’s Liberal government drops the hammer on hydraulic fracturing

Well, it’s happened.

On Thursday morning, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant followed up on his election campaign promise to impose a moratorium on all forms of hydraulic fracturing.

As Gallant pointed out in the news conference, the moratorium won’t be lifted until five conditions are met. Those conditions include, as per the CBC New Brunswick story I’ve linked to above:

  • A “social licence” be established through consultations to lift the moratorium
  • Clear and credible information on the impacts on air, health and water so a regulatory regime can be developed
  • A plan to mitigate impacts on public infrastructure and address issues such as waste water disposal is established
  • A process is in place to fulfill the province’s obligation to consult with First Nations
  • A “proper royalty structure” is established to ensure benefits are maximized for New Brunswickers

Since his Liberal Party swept into office defeating David Alward’s Progressive Conservative’s, Gallant’s been talking up the ban. Those in favour of allowing fracking to continue were hoping Gallant would change his mind after he was safely in office. That did not happen.

Fracking is an extraction method used to get oil and natural gas from tight rock formations. It involves injecting a mixture of sand, chemicals, and water or some other substance into the rock under high pressure to fracture it, which allows the hydrocarbons to be transported to the surface.

It’s allowed oil and gas companies to produce gobs of oil and gas from basins like the Bakken in North Dakota that wouldn’t have been sucked out of the ground otherwise. Along the way it’s created a lot of jobs and wealth in these regions, but fracking is also extremely controversial because it’s been blamed for causing minor earthquakes and fouling drinking water.

There hasn’t been near the amount of fracking activity in New Brunswick that has occurred in North Dakota. Halifax-based Corridor Resources has been fracking and producing natural gas in the Sussex area for over a decade, and Contact Exploration Inc. and SWN Resources Canada have been poking around shale plays with the acreage they have in the province, but that’s about it.

However, the prospect of getting even a small piece of that action was enticing to Alward and some members of the province’s business community. Gallant’s Liberals weren’t as impressed.

The moratorium is bad news for the province’s onshore exploration prospects, which Corridor president and CEO Steve Moran made clear in a statement released on Thursday as the moratorium was announced.

Here a couple of the choice excerpts from Moran’s statement:

We have always maintained that a moratorium is not necessary for an industry that has operated responsibly and safely in this province. We do not believe it is necessary and do not support it. We expect that the Government of New Brunswick should want to fully understand the potential rewards of allowing the industry to proceed, while ensuring the risks are manageable and acceptable. We strongly recommend that they expeditiously investigate the merits of the industry, for the sake of our shareholders and the people and industry of New Brunswick.

And this:

The five conditions outlined today by the Government of New Brunswick, for lifting the temporary moratorium, are simply not clear enough. They do not provide a predictable path forward.

During a time of the year when we’re all supposed to be talking about joy, love and peace, those comments sounds like fighting words to me.

But has the fight already been lost by industry in New Brunswick?

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