New Brunswick

Hydro-fracking discontent remains

The New Brunswick government's plan to offer landowners and communities a share of new natural gas revenues is not quieting the discontent of many hydro-fracking opponents.
Vicky Oland said she feels the provincial government's hydro-fracking reforms are a 'bribe' to landowners. ((CBC))
The New Brunswick government’s plan to offer landowners and communities a share of new natural gas revenues is not quieting the discontent of many hydro-fracking opponents.

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup announced several regulatory reforms to the natural gas industry last week that will force disclosure of chemicals used in the contentious hydro-fracking process, mandatory water testing and a security bond to compensate landowners if there are any accidents.

The provincial government is also planning to set up a system that allows communities to tap into some of the natural gas companies’ profits.

The proposals were aimed at tempering the growing protests surrounding the controversial mining practice.

However, Vicky Oland, a Taymouth resident, said she doesn't believe people will sell their land to make money.

"I think it's kind of surprising. Personally, I think it's a bribe, sorry," Oland said.

"I also don't think it's going to get them very far."

Hydro-fracking is a process where companies pump a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations.

That allows companies to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped.

The Quebec government issued a moratorium on hydro-fracking after receiving a lengthy report on the mining practice.

Fredericton Police removed protestors from a government-organized meeting to announce new hydro-fracking rules on June 24. ((CBC))
The New Brunswick government has opted to move in a different direction. Northrup and several cabinet colleagues and bureaucrats flew across the United States and Canada studying the different regulatory regimes put in place to govern the industry.

Economic Development Minister Paul Robichaud told a business group in Moncton last week that Arkansas was able to improve the state's education system greatly because of the cash infusion from the natural gas industry.

There are several companies in New Brunswick that are considering mining for shale gas.

Corridor Resources has already started test wells  in southern New Brunswick.

The New Brunswick government released its new hydro-fracking rules on June 24 in Fredericton. Several cabinet ministers were confronted by protestors, who were upset at the government's position on the mining technique.

Fredericton Police had to usher several protestors out of a closed-door meeting between government officials and groups invited by the government to the meeting.

Easing landowners' concerns

The province’s natural resources minister said it will likely be at least three years before New Brunswick starts producing shale gas.

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup said communities will be able to profit from natural gas exploration under the new rules. (CBC)
Northrup said he’s confident that by that time, government and industry will have answered the questions that are causing public concern.

Northrup said on Monday that he believes money may help ease landowners' concerns.

"We really want to get the royalties not only for the province but for the landowner himself. These pads are going to be on their land," he said.

"So we want to make sure that there's compensation for the landowner and … the community… We haven't finalized the royalty rates yet. We're looking at what they are out west."

Northrup said landowners will still be able to refuse to have drilling on their property.

"I've talked to industry at quite a length about this and if the landowner says no, then they move on to the next landowner.

"So at the end of the day, it's basically between industry and the landowners and if landowner says no, then no means no," he said.