Mel Norton

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton supports the development of a shale gas industry and says the city has the support of surrounding communities. (CBC)

For the second time in a month, Saint John council used a special public meeting to promote the potential of the energy sector.

Particular attention is being paid to benefits that might accrue to New Brunswick from shale gas.

John Adams, senior vice-president of the consulting firm Stantec Ltd., spoke before council Monday night. Much of his presentation dealt with what he believes are the potential benefits of shale gas to New Brunswick.

Adams says if the west-to-east pipeline comes to Saint John it will drastically reduce the amount of oil arriving in the city by rail.

"[When] you start looking at it, the cost of rail will become prohibitive compared to the pipeline," he said.

"In other words, long story short, rail's going to have a real hard time to compete."

Adams says there is 20 Tcf (trillion cubic feet) of extractable shale gas in the province that is enough to supply the entire country for years.

"We could feed Canada's need for six, seven years," he said.

He also claims fracking for shale gas is safe for the environment if the industry is well regulated.

Council urging other communities to support exploration

Coun. David Merrithew wanted to know how Adams' shale gas message is being shared with the general public.

"Are you going on the road to do this, are you telling the rest of the population?" Merrithew said.

"Because fear is real, and there is a fear out there."

Saint John and the suburban town of Rothesay have already passed motions in support of shale gas exploration.  However Quispamsis passed a motion in 2012 opposing shale gas exploration within town limits.

Quispamsis Mayor Murray Driscoll said his council is against it because of concerns around residential water wells.

But last month, Saint John Mayor Mel Norton suggested that his city now has the town's support for its motion in support of the industry.

Norton was referring to a January vote at a meeting of the Fundy Regional Commission, in which he says Quispamsis voted in favour of shale gas exploration.

Economic consultant David Campbell told Saint John council late last month that it will have to speak up in favour of the industry and show leadership if it wants to see it move ahead.

Campbell said without the support of local governments it's unlikely there will ever be a shale gas industry in New Brunswick.

He said municipal politicians are closest to the people and shouldn't expect the provincial government to win the public over on its own.