Shale gas reports continue to fuel debate

Two reports released earlier this week on the development of shale gas in New Brunswick continue to fuel debate on the contentious industry.

Anti-frackers say both reports support their position

Shale gas opponents respond to two reports on the controversial industry 1:45

Two reports released earlier this week on the development of shale gas in New Brunswick continue to fuel debate on the contentious industry.

Anti-frackers say the studies by biologist Louis LaPierre, and the province's chief medical health officer Dr. Eilish Cleary support their position.

But petroleum producers describe the reports as being too general and broad in scope to know what impact they might have.

Stephen Gilbert says the reports support what his group, the Taymouth Community Association, and other anti-fracking groups have been saying all along. (CBC)

LaPierre and Cleary both cautioned the provincial government about moving too quickly with shale gas development.

"Essentially, we see it as a confirmation of what we have been saying," said Stephen Gilbert, a member of the anti-fracking group called the Taymouth Community Association, located in a quiet rural community just north of Fredericton.

"Our position is: this is not the time that we want to be, as a province, to be going full force into this industry," he said.

Gilbert contends there's not enough research on the health and environmental impacts of shale gas and is encouraged by Cleary's findings.

"In her very thorough review of the  literature, it was very difficult to draw hard and fast conclusions on how one might proceed with this very safely," he said.

No call for ban

Paul Barnes, of the Canadian Petroleum Producers Association, says it's too early to speculate what impact the reports might have on the industry. (CBC)

Still, Paul Barnes, the manager of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers for Atlantic Canada, notes neither report calls for a moratorium on shale gas development.

"We are supportive of the fact that they don't call for a moratorium," he said.

"Until we see, as an industry, the specifics that may come from them in the form of regulations, it's hard to tell whether it will affect the investment climate in New Brunswick or not."

Gilbert, however, said he's not surprised Cleary did not call for a moratorium.

"My understanding is she didn't feel she was being called upon to advise the government whether this should be banned, or there should be a moratorium, or there should be a go ahead," he said.

Reports under review

The Alward government has not stated its position on the reports.

Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard says the government will have a response "sometime soon."

Leonard has also said the reports will both be reviewed before the provincial government acts on any of the recommendations.

The provincial government hired LaPierre to hold nine public meetings to seek input on the provincial government’s proposed 116 regulatory changes.

Cleary undertook her own review of the contentious industry, focusing on the possible health impacts.

Opponents to the shale gas industry say the hydro-fracking process can cause water and air pollution.

Hydro-fracking is a process where exploration companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations. That process allows companies to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped.