Former Progressive Conservative MLA and cabinet minister Tony Huntjens is blasting the Alward government for its position on hydro-fracking and threatening to withdraw his support in the next election.
In a letter to the editor, published in the St. Croix Courier in St. Stephen on Jan. 27, Huntjens said the "practice of extracting resources from our earth is dangerous" and that the "toxic" chemicals used in the process will "without doubt, end up in our drinking water.
"The members of this government were once my colleagues…and I am totally ashamed today because of their decision on fracking to admit this and to see a government that only one year ago stood on the podium condemning the Liberals for not listening to the people as they tried to sell NB Power to Quebec," he wrote.
"You can bet your bottom dollar, come the next election, I will not be voting Liberal, for they allowed this practice to get started…, but I will also withdraw my support from the Conservative government that allows this to continue."
Alward's government has faced mounting criticism in the past year over shale gas exploration and the controversial use of the hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydro-fracking.
It's a process that involves exploration companies injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations so they can extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped.
Opponents of the shale gas industry have raised concerns about water contamination and the industrialization of rural areas.
'Other jurisdictions have placed a moratorium on this procedure and are taking the more cautious way with environmental impact studies done — before giving permission to the big gas companies from the USA.' —Tony Huntjens, former PC MLA
The procedure has been stopped in the State of New York, as well as the province of Quebec, wrote Huntjens, the former MLA for Charlotte-Campobello, who was first elected in 1999, but decided not to seek re-election in the 2010 election.
He resigned as minister of family and community services and the minister responsible for the advisory council on seniors in 2005 after dislcosing personal information about a person in the department's care.
"Other jurisdictions have placed a moratorium on this procedure and are taking the more cautious way with environmental impact studies done — before giving permission to the big gas companies from the USA."
In his letter, Huntjens urges New Brunswickers to write or call their MLAs and Premier David Alward to express their concerns about the process.
Alward and the minister of natural resources have consistently said the shale gas industry could provide huge economic benefits for the province, which is facing a debt of more than $10 billion and high unemployment.
But the premier has promised that those economic benefits would not come at the expense of the environment and repeated that pledge last week during his annual State of the Province speech.
Alward has said he wants to impose the continent’s toughest shale gas regulations on companies working in the province. He has committed to introducing an environmental protection plan this year that would cover industrial developments, including hydro-fracking.
In his letter, Huntjens said he remembers Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup standing in the legislature as the MLA for Kings, pleading for help for his constituents who lost their drinking water, which they blamed on seismic testing for a new potash mine in the area.
"I simply cannot understand this same person who is now responsible, not only to his constituents, but to all New Brunswickers for the supply of their drinking water, standing up in the legislature to support a far more dangerous procedure known as fracking," wrote Huntjens.