A moratorium on all forms of hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick is being put in place by Brian Gallant's government.

The bill to impose the moratorium is to be introduced in the legislature on Thursday afternoon.

"We have been clear from day one that we will impose a moratorium until risks to the environment, health and water are understood," said Gallant.

Gallant told a news conference the moratorium will be applied to hydraulic fracturing through any means, regardless of whether the process uses water, propane or another substance to extract natural gas from shale rock beneath the earth's surface.

The moratorium won't be lifted until five conditions are met, said Gallant.

Those conditions include:

  • A "social licence" be established through consultations to lift the moratorium;
  • Clear and credible information on the impacts on air, health and water so a regulatory regime can be developed;
  • A plan to mitigate impacts on public infrastructure and address issues such as waste water disposal is established;
  • A process is in place to fulfill the province's obligation to consult with First Nations;
  • A "proper royalty structure" is established to ensure benefits are maximized for New Brunswickers.

Gallant said there will be no `grandfathering' of projects already underway that allows fracking to take place outside of the moratorium.

Jean-Guy Leclair, general manager of PotashCorp New Brunswick said in a release his company would have to consider its options.

"What PotashCorp needs is access to a secure, stable supply of natural gas, regardless of the source," the release read. "If this moratorium removes a source of supply, we will have to review what it means for our operations. It could have a serious impact on our costs."

Leclair said it would be premature to talk about what their options are.

Shale gas companies will be permitted to continue with exploration activities such as seismic testing or drilling wells. But they will not be permitted to frack those test wells while the moratorium is in place.

Gallant had stated earlier the moratorium bill would be introduced in the legislature before Christmas. The last sitting day before Christmas for the legislature is expected to be Friday or next Tuesday.

Gallant has long promised a moratorium that would prohibit hydraulic fracturing to produce shale gas until more is known about any potential risks to people's health, the water supply and the environment.

The moratorium announcement drew praise from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.

“We’re proud of Premier Brian Gallant and his cabinet for standing firm to protect water and clean air,” said Stephanie Merrill, the environmental organization's freshwater protection program co-ordinator.

“Placing a moratorium on shale gas development shows that premier Gallant is serious about protecting the environment, particularly our water."

The moratorium was a key plank in the campaign platform that lifted Gallant's Liberals to victory in the provincial election in September.

It was held out in contrast to the Progressive Conservative promise to pursue shale gas development and the development of other natural resources to create jobs.

Hydraulic-fracturing is a method of extracting natural gas from shale rock formations beneath the earth's surface.

It involves injecting a mixture of sand, chemicals, and water or some other stance into the earth under high pressure to fracture the rock and capture natural gas that is otherwise not attainable.

Opponents fear the process could endanger the groundwater supply and potentially have other harmful environmental effects.