New Brunswick

Maliseet chief calls for hydro-fracking ban

The Grand Chief of the Maliseet Grand Council says the controversial mining process of hydro-fracking should not be allowed in New Brunswick over fears it could harm the water supply.
Harry LaPorte, the grand chief of the Maliseet First Nation, said he's concerned about the potential impact hydro-fracking could have on the province's water supply. ((CBC))
The Grand Chief of the Maliseet Grand Council says the controversial mining process of hydro-fracking should not be allowed in New Brunswick over fears it could harm the water supply.

Several companies are exploring potential natural gas deposits in New Brunswick and are using, or could use, the contentious extraction process to tap into those reserves.

Many New Brunswick communities and citizen organizations have cropped up to protest the hydro-fracking technique.

Chief Harry LaPorte said First Nations living along the St. John River honour the water as the source of all life. And he said hydro-fracking carries too much risk of endangering water supplies. The Maliseet Grand Council represents all six Maliseet First Nations.

"Hydro-fracking has a very, very good chance to leak into our water system. That's not only our drinking water but it's also our lakes, our rivers, our streams. And the chemicals that they put in, I'm told are very poisonous," LaPorte said.

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.

However, it is the shattering of the shale with the high-pressure water and chemicals that has many people concerned about the future of their water supplies.

A recent study from Duke University in North Carolina advised people living near hydro-fracking sites that they should have their well water tested.

The study found that people who lived less than a kilometre from gas wells had up to 17 times higher concentrations of methane in their drinking water. In some cases it was enough to be considered an explosion hazard.

But the researcher said he cannot say for sure it was a result from hydro-fracking.

The New Brunswick government is currently studying the regulatory regime that covers the mining process.

Quebec has already ordered a complete moratorium on hydro-fracking.

However, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup has repeatedly indicated the provincial government has no intention of putting in place a moratorium.

Instead, Northrup has been joined by Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney and Energy Minister Craig Leonard, along with other provincial officials, on tours of U.S. jurisdictions that allow hydro-fracking.

The provincial delegation has been studying what types of regulatory standards those state governments have imposed on the industry.

LaPorte: 'Stop it all'

Cecilia Brooks said many First Nations people have questions about the hydro-fracking process. ((CBC))
However, LaPorte said the provincial government should just say no to shale gas development.

"My position is just to stop it all: stop it all. Do we need it? Do we need the shale gas? Does other parts of the world need the shale gas?" he said.

"But at what expense are we willing to go through to supply other people with what we have here — if we have it here?"

LaPorte said Maliseet First Nations feel they have a duty to protect water resources and fracking for natural gas is just not worth the risk.

Cecilia Brooks, an official with the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick, said hydro-fracking has many First Nations people worried.

"They're very, very concerned and the biggest concern is that there's not enough answers to the questions. There's a lot of uncertainty. And before these questions are answered, we shouldn't proceed any further," Brooks said.