New Brunswick

Hampton blocks shale gas testing in town

Hampton councillors voted to block seismic testing in town limits on Tuesday night after roughly 70 residents held a peaceful protest against shale gas exploration hours before the council meeting.
Trucks associated with seismic testing were lined up on the side of the road near Hampton on Tuesday. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

Hampton councillors voted to block seismic testing in town limits on Tuesday night after roughly 70 residents held a peaceful protest against shale gas exploration hours before the council meeting.

The southern New Brunswick town became the latest community to face opposition to shale gas exploration from its citizens.

The afternoon protest against allowing Windsor Energy to perform seismic testing within the town’s limits came just hours before town council was set to vote on the contentious issue.

The town council ended up voting to block seismic testing within its limits.

Several protesters are calling the protest a success.

"People still do have a little bit of influence in this province," said Carl Wolpin, a protester.

Wolpin said he's been assured by agents of Windsor Energy that the company won't be testing within town limits.

"I mean that is a victory for the people … for today. Who knows what Windsor's going to do tomorrow," he said.

But some of the protesters don’t want to simply stop at blocking the controversial practice of shale gas exploration within their town’s limits.

Almost 70 people joined a protest against shale gas exploration in Hampton on Tuesday.(Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)
Chris Rendell, another protester, said he doesn’t want to see shale gas exploration anywhere in the province.

"Our position is that this exploitative resource extraction mentality is a thing of the past and we've got to come up with better ideas than that," Rendell said.

"We can't trade our health, our clean air, our clean water, and our environment for jobs because the jobs are short term and our health is long-term."

Mario Levesque, the president of SeisMotion, a contractor hired by Windsor Energy to do the testing, confirmed before the protest and before council voted on the issue that they weren't planning to go into the town.

"We had some other requests before for other testing, but we [have a] lack of time right now for the equipment," Levesque said.

Levesque said the company has to get the equipment back to a Calgary-based company soon and wouldn't have had time to go into town.

For now, he said, the company plans to continue testing along the highway toward Sussex.

Growing protests

There have been a growing number of protests against shale gas exploration for the last year in the province.

SWN Resources Canada had some of its equipment blocked by demonstrators near Stanley in August. The largest anti-shale gas rally was at the legislature in the summer when roughly 1,000 protesters amassed in Fredericton.

Premier David Alward has said he believes the industry is important to the province, but he has committed to imposing the toughest standards on the continent on companies operating in New Brunswick.

He's also said New Brunswickers need to embrace the industry as part of a new approach to boosting the economy.

The provincial government has not been able to evaluate how lucrative the industry could be, so it says it would like to see companies test in various areas.

The division within the province over the issue of shale gas has materialized in different ways in the last month.

Corporate Research Associates released a survey in September showed people in Moncton and Saint John are more comfortable with traditional natural gas exploration but are more concerned about shale gas exploration or the potential use of hydraulic fracturing, or hydro-fracking.

The issue is also dividing municipal politicians.

Members of the Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick voted 22-to-18 against banning hydro-fracking at a meeting in October.