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New Brunswick Liberal Leader Victor Boudreau is calling on the government to place a moratorium on shale gas exploration. ((CBC))

The Opposition Liberals called on the New Brunswick government Wednesday to put a moratorium on shale gas activities until stricter regulations and oversight are put into place.

Liberal Leader Victor Boudreau said the decision to call for a moratorium came after hearing widespread concerns from New Brunswick residents over the implications of shale gas exploration and drilling in the province.

"Over the past few months, we've been consulting with our constituents, conservation groups, industry, experts, and various stakeholders to gather more information on shale gas exploration and mining practices," Boudreau said in a release.

"We've listened and share their concerns and agree that there is insufficient regulatory oversight, monitoring and enforcement of shale gas activities to ensure that New Brunswick landowners and the environment are adequately protected."

A moratorium would ensure that damage to property, water supplies and the environment would be prevented until regulatory measures and the supporting staff is in place, he said.

Shale gas development is done through a process known in the industry as hydraulic fracturing, or hydro-fracking, where companies pump a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations.

That allows companies to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped.

"The need for the proper oversight in this process is just as important as having regulations in place to ensure the safety of New Brunswickers," Boudreau said.

"You can have the best regulations in the world, but unless the proper staff is in place to ensure the regulations are followed, then they are not worth the paper they are written on.

"When it comes to developing our natural resources — first, we must do no harm to our environment. We're not confident that the Alward government shares that sentiment."

Quebec and Nova Scotia have placed moratoriums on future development until stricter regulations are in place.