Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup fields questions from reporters Wednesday. ((Susan King/CBC))

The New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources has filed a complaint against Windsor Energy Inc. with the RCMP for allegedly violating the Oil and Natural Gas Act.

The Calgary-based company is accused of directing a contracted company to conduct geophysical exploration within the boundaries of the town of Sussex without the town's permission, according to a statement issued Wednesday by Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup.

"An investigation by the department concluded that on Monday, Oct. 17, geophysical testing involving the use of truck-mounted vibration equipment was conducted along a highway inside the town's boundaries," he said.

'As this matter is now before the RCMP for investigation, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on this specific case.' —Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup

Under regulation 86-191 of the Oil and Natural Gas Act, a municipality's written permission is required before geophysical activity can be conducted inside the boundaries of an incorporated municipality.

"As this matter is now before the RCMP for investigation, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on this specific case," said Northrup, whose riding includes Sussex.

The investigation could take months, Northrup told reporters during a news conference Wednesday.

"It's not delaying anything at all. It is regulation, the regulation has been broken, so we feel very strongly that the RCMP will do their best," he said.

"I have a lot of confidence in the RCMP and the justice system and they'll work with the Crown prosecutor to get all of the information together to see if there's actions to be taken.

"It may take months to complete, but we feel at the end of the day this is the right way to do it," said Northrup.

"Everything has been kind of put on hold for the next little while with all the companies. They won't be doing any more seismic work, they won't be doing any exploration. Everything's been taken back to their head offices that they've done this year, so we don't expect any more work until March or April of next year so if it takes two or three months for the RCMP to investigate it and get back to us, then we have the time to do it."

As it stands, Windsor Energy has completed its testing for the year, but has permits that would allow it to keep testing into the spring.

Northrup has previously said it is clear Windsor Energy broke the rules and did so intentionally.


The contractor, Seismotion, has said its crews arrived in Sussex two days ahead of schedule and decided not to wait for town consent. ((CBC))

Its contractor, Seismotion, originally asked for town approval to do tests within the community, and councillors arranged a special meeting in October, just ahead of the company's scheduled arrival, the department found.

But when Seismotion crews arrived in Sussex two days ahead of schedule, the company decided not to wait for town consent.

The department's investigation was launched after it received complaints about the testing, including a unanimous letter from Sussex council, asking the government to take action against the company.

That investigation illustrated the need for stronger regulations for the emerging industry, Northrup has said.

In Wednesday's statement, Northrup said: "New Brunswickers can be assured that all companies exploring for or developing oil and natural gas reserves in our province are expected to observe our laws and that we will ensure these laws are upheld.

"The rules we have in place and those now being developed to strengthen our regulatory framework are intended to protect our people and our environment, and must be respected."

Earlier this week, Northrup vowed he would take "strong action" against the company. "We feel that Windsor Energy has gone against us and has gone against the people of New Brunswick," he said Monday during the province's annual conference for the mining and petroleum industry in Fredericton.

In the written statement, Northrup acknowledged that he had received a written apology from Khalid Amin, Windsor Energy's president and chief executive officer. Amin has also apologized to Sussex council and the town's residents, Northrup said.

Sussex Mayor Ralph Carr previously told CBC News he had called Amin, asking him to apologize, but Amin turned him down.