New Brunswick

Fracking moratorium may not protect environment, writer says

An environmental writer says New Brunswick's planned moritorium on shale gas fracking may not protect the environment as planned.

Well drilling for natural gas, which will still be allowed, can contaminate water, says Andrew Revkin

An environmental writer calls New Brunswick's planned moratorium on shale gas fracking "ironic."

Andrew Revkin, an award-winning science reporter and creator of the New York Times blog, Dot Earth, says the Gallant government's plan to put fracking on hold may be too late and may not protect the province as planned.

Shale gas companies will be allowed to continue seismic testing and well drilling under the moratorium. (CBC)
That's because the main cause of pollution is still allowed, he said.

"In New Brunswick, the [well] drilling is still allowed, even though the hydraulic fracturing of the wells isn't. What's a little ironic is that in most of the instances in the States where there has been water contamination, it's from the drilling, not the fracking," Revkin said.

"If you create a well, the actual vertical tube that goes down like a straw deep into the ground, that can be the source of the water contamination. There's very little evidence that that fracturing process way down below has any perils attached to it for pollution."

Premier Brian Gallant has said a 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, Gallant has said.

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.

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

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