New Brunswick

Elsipogtog seeks shale injunction, warns of 'radical elements'

The number of protesters, SWN Resources employees and police officers along Highway 11 in Kent County is on the rise, as seismic testing continues in the area.

One arrest made as SWN Resources continues exploration work in Kent County

The Elsipogtog First Nation is seeking a court injunction to suspend all exploration by SWN Resources, and warns “outside radical elements” are converging on the area where the latest work is being done.

The band says in a court application filed Thursday afternoon there’s a real risk of a repeat to clashes between police and protesters near Rexton last month.

This comes as anti-shale gas protests erupted along Highway 11 near Laketon on Thursday, with a blockade closing at least part of the roadway for some of the day. The road had reopened by early evening, according to the RCMP.

Officers also arrested a 46-year-old woman and accuse her of assaulting an officer and resisting arrest. Police also say they are investigating reports of vandalism, including damage to trucks and equipment.

RCMP have closed Highway 11 in Laketon "for public safety" due to anti-shale gas protests in the area. (Google Maps)

Despite the demonstrations, the resumption of seismic testing is getting support from New Brunswick Energy Minister Craig Leonard.

"Basically they've been able to get, from what I understand, some work done today," he said. "And yet there are protesters out there.

"As we've said all along we hope that protests remains peaceful and lawful. Hopefully SWN will be able to get their work done in the allotted time that they're looking at."

The notice by the band was filed in the Court of Queen's Bench in Fredericton. It names the Attorney General of New Brunswick, the Minister of Energy and Mines, SWN Resources Canada Inc, and the Assembly of First Nations' Chiefs in New Brunswick as respondents.

The application is asking — on what it calls "an extremely urgent basis" — to have an order suspending all SWN operations under oil and gas licences.

Tension building

It says that's required to preserve the peace and rights of the First Nation. It says the exploration by SWN is illegal and unconstitutional because it violates aboriginal and treaty rights.

"On the other hand, there is credible evidence that outside radical elements are converging in significant numbers on New Brunswick [in] the vicinity of the shale gas exploration work that the respondents SWN proposes to recommence," the application says.

Tension is building in Kent County again as opponents to shale gas exploration and development set up a new camp on Highway 11 near the community of Laketon.

A number of protesters, SWN Resources employees and RCMP officers were on the scene Thursday morning and into the afternoon.

SWN Resources has begun the next phase of exploration and on Wednesday more than 30 protesters had gathered.

There was also a strong police presence with 20 police cars in the area.

Protester David Goodswimmer, of Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, said on Wednesday they were going to wait for the seismic trucks to pass, and when they did they would not stand back and watch.

"We're going to do everything in our power to either stop it or prevent it from happening," Goodswimmer said.

Workers from SWN Resources Canada removed geophones used in seismic testing from near the new protest camp set up by opponents of shale gas exploration and development.

"Some of us are willing to go to jail, some more than others, and I've even heard around the fires, 'I'm even willing to die for my land.'"

Other protesters, including Judd Poulette of Cape Breton, stressed the demonstration would be peaceful.

"We can't really do much about it … We all promised peaceful protests. That's all I can say."

SWN Resources employees had been laying geophone lines used in their testing, but late Wednesday afternoon they removed all of the equipment that was near the new camp.

RCMP officers also visited the site and tried to talk with some of the protesters, who told officers they were upset about what was going on.

Several weeks of shale gas protests and highway barricades near Rexton ended on Oct. 17 with a violent clash between protesters and RCMP.

Dozens of protesters were arrested in that altercation and six police vehicles were destroyed by fire.