New Brunswick

Fracking will lead to more protests: Green leader

The leader of the New Brunswick Green Party is predicting more civil disobedience over hydro-fracking but the government does not view its support for the technique justifies a referendum.
There have been protests against exploring for shale gas in New Brunswick. This house is near Ludlow. (Susan King)

Green Party Leader Jack MacDougall is predicting more civil disobedience over hydro-fracking as tensions continue to escalate over the contentious mining practice.

Premier David Alward, however, is continuing to say that his government does not view its support for the process justifies a calling a referendum.

That refusal for a public vote on hydro-fracking is causing MacDougall to predict continued civic unrest.

The Green leader said Alward is "going to see an uprising" from First Nations and others.

"Yes, there's going to be civil disobedience. Not that I propose it or agree with it, but that's how angry people are with this issue, and it's reaching the boiling point," MacDougall said.

There have been a series of protests and roadblocks in recent weeks.

Roughly 1,000 people protested against hydro-fracking on the front lawn of the legislature earlier in August.

A group of people blocked vehicles owned by SWN Resources near Stanley that were involved with seismic testing from moving.

Green Party Leader Jack MacDougall is predicting ongoing civil disobedience over the issue of hydro-fracking. ((CBC))
The protest broke up after a few days and then many of those protesters took their demonstration to the Centennial Building, which is the Fredericton office centre where Alward's office is located. 

There have also been reports of seismic equipment being vandalized.

Tom Alexander, an official with SWN Resources, has said his company has had thousands of dollars of damage done to its equipment.

SWN Resources announced last Friday that it has cancelled the rest of its planned seismic testing  for this year.

The decision came because of concerns for the safety of its workers after its equipment was damaged. Alexander said the company will resume its testing next year.

Listen to CBC New Brunswick's political podcast discuss the issue of hydro-fracking.

Alward said he's disappointed by the company's decision, and concerned about the vandalism. "That is completely unacceptable."

But he doesn't expect  the vandalism and SWN's decision to stop the testing will have a major impact on shale gas exploration. "Some 80 per cent of the seismic testing has already been completed," so SWN can start evaluating the data, and the company  has said its crews will be back next year to continue testing in New Brunswick.

A man appeared in court Monday charged with theft of equipment used in seismic testing from SWN Resources.

No referendum

People who oppose shale gas exploration said they don't agree that the Progressive Conservative government has a "mandate" to allow hydro-fracking to occur in the province.

But Alward said he disagrees with that sentiment.

He said the Progressive Conservative 2010 election platform talked about encouraging gas exploration.

But activists said the platform document talking about "supporting the responsible expansion" of the gas sector didn't discuss hydro-fracking specifically.

"He didn't campaign on shale gas and hydro-fracking. He campaigned on a general statement about natural gas," said Jim Emberger.


Hydraulic fracturing, or "hydro-fracking," extracts petroleum using a pressurized mix of water and other substances injected into shale rock formations or coal beds.

The high pressure mix creates or widens fissures in the rock, so gas or oil can escape from pores and fractures.

Another part of the Progressive Conservative platform was to implement a referendum law, which it did earlier this year.

The Alward government said in the spring it would use its referendum law for "contentious" issues. The referendum law, however, requires a question to be instigated from the government and does not allow for a citizen-initiated process.

The premier said the election was a referendum from the people of New Brunswick, so the government doesn't need to hold another vote on the issue.

With the mounting protests across New Brunswick, the provincial government has been forced to make changes.

The Alward government has introduced new rules governing shale gas exploration and hydro-fracking. Among the changes, companies must now disclose chemicals that are used in the process and post a security bond to compensate communities if there are any damages.

The provincial government has also created a special committee of civil servants to work specifically on the natural gas file.

Several cabinet ministers and bureaucrats have also toured other states and provinces that are currently seeing hydro-fracking done in their jurisdictions to study their regulatory rules.

There is one hydro-fracking tests site already in New Brunswick.

Halifax-based Corridor Resources and Apache Canada had been working on a project in the Elgin area. 

But Apache pulled out of the southern New Brunswick project in June after disappointing results on two test wells.

Corridor Resources said in a statement at the time that the project is still in the early stages.

It also said the loss of Apache Canada as a partner is not halting the project.