Craig Leonard defends shale gas advisory board appointment
Maurice Dusseault holds patents on fracking, raising questions of potential bias
Energy Minister Craig Leonard is defending an appointment to the province's scientific advisory board on energy issues.
He contends Maurice Dusseault, a professor at the University of Waterloo, is ideal for the New Brunswick Energy Institute, which is looking at the possible development of a shale gas industry in the province.
Some people have criticized Dusseault's appointment to the seven-member board, citing potential bias because he holds patents on certain methods of hydraulic fracturing — the process used to extract natural gas.
But Leonard said Dusseault also has years of crucial experience in the field, which will help the provincial government come up with stringent regulations for hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydro-fracking.
"That's a key part of where their expertise comes from, they have been in the field, they understand what is taking place and so I think it's critical to have that expertise there and that's why he is on the advisory committee," Leonard said.
"It's one thing to have theories about things and read studies about it, but to get out on the ground, to actually see the operations, to be involved in the operations, that's expertise that you just can't pick up anywhere else. It's what experience is all about," he said.
If the institute studies issues related to one of Dusseault's patents, he will be expected to declare a conflict of interest, Leonard added.
Dusseault conducts research in petroleum geomechanics, new heavy oil production methods, mining, storage and deep waste disposal, according to the institute's website.
His research comprises carbon dioxide sequestration, shale gas geomechanics, leaking of old wells and hydraulic fracturing, it states.
The energy institute was created as an independent body by the provincial government with a mandate to examine the science surrounding emerging energy possibilities.
It is studying the potential impact of the shale gas industry on groundwater. Some shale gas opponents have raised concerns that hydro-fracking could harm groundwater supplies.
Hydro-fracking involves injecting water, chemicals and sand into the earth at high pressure to fracture shale rock to release the natural gas within.
David Besner, a professional chemical engineer and a former assistant deputy minister in the provincial government, was appointed the chair of the institute in April.
Besner had been acting as the interim chair since last October, when Louis LaPierre resigned after his academic credentials were called into question.