New Brunswick

More anti-shale gas protesters arrested in Kent County

Three people were arrested for mischief at an anti-shale gas protest in Kent County on Sunday, while another three people were arrested for alleged damage to equipment owned by SWN Resources Canada.

3 arrested for mischief, 3 arrested for alleged damage to SWN Resources Canada equipment

Three people were arrested for mischief at an anti-shale gas protest in Kent County on Sunday, while another three people were arrested for alleged damage to equipment owned by SWN Resources Canada.

A small group was demonstrating peacefully and lawfully along Highway 126 during the afternoon, but then some other people arrived with their faces covered and started demonstrating on the road, blocking the lawful work being done by the company, said RCMP Cpl. Chantal Farrah.

SWN Resources Canada is conducting seismic testing in the area to determine if it is economically feasible to set up a gas industry in the region.

After a few warnings, officers arrested a 21-year-old man from Caraquet and two 20-year-old women, from Moncton and Nova Scotia, for mischief, said Farrah. All three have been released with court dates pending, she said.

Meanwhile, three other people were arrested nearby for alleged damage to equipment that occurred some time between Saturday and Sunday, said Farrah.

The three men — a 22-year-old from Moncton, 26-year-old from Grand-Ance and a 21-year-old from Caraquet — have also been released to face charges at a later date.

Farrah could not confirm whether they were involved in the protest.

She also declined to discuss the nature of the alleged damage, citing the ongoing investigation.

Too close to equipment

There have been a number of arrests in the past week in connection with protests over seismic testing along Highway 126.

"The police, we respect and support everyone’s right to peacefully and lawfully demonstrate. So you know, be heard, be seen," said Farrah.

"Our presence at sites of the various demonstrations is not to discourage that, but to always encourage people to make sure it's lawful, safe, and done peacefully."

But one of the people at Sunday's demonstration, Rish McGlynn, said three of the protesters were arrested because they were not keeping far enough away from the equipment.

"I clarified with the police officers that it was about 150 feet, which was the length of one and a half telephone poles. We looked and we were being told with their arms out, corralling us, telling us to go, to move," McGlynn told CBC News.

McGlynn said she saw three people arrested at about 4 p.m., but she plans to return to the site to protest as long as the trucks are there.

A SWN official confirmed on Monday that equipment was damaged.

"We can confirm equipment was stolen and damaged. As we have reported the matter to the RCMP for investigation,we will not discuss further," said Tracey Stephenson in a statement.

Regional chief urges education, caution

Meanwhile, Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Roger Augustine says each First Nations community in New Brunswick has to come to its own conclusion about shale gas exploration.

The assembly does not have a blanket policy when it comes to the controversial hydraulic-fracturing process known as fracking, he said.

"We are, and I think the chiefs of New Brunswick, are studying that, are studying fracking very carefully and they'll do what's right. At the end of the day, it's about putting food on the table right?"

Fracking involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations, enabling them to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped.

Opponents of the process say it could have a negative effect on local water supplies and many of them have held protests across the province.

Augustine said he'd like to see more education about the process.

People need to be provided with the necessary technical expertise to make informed decisions, he said.

Augustine said he supports people's right to demonstrate, but he advises caution.

Ongoing protests

A SWN Resources official estimated in April there is a 10 per cent chance of the company being able to establish shale gas production in New Brunswick.

Last week, three other people were arrested at a similar anti-shale gas rally in Kent County. A truck owned by a contractor for SWN Resources was also seized last week at a protest.

Many protesters are worried the seismic testing will lead to a shale gas industry that could damage the environment.

The New Brunswick government announced a series of legal and regulatory reforms earlier this year intended to give the province some of the strictest oil and natural gas exploration rules in North America.

Premier David Alward has said companies should be able to explore to see if there is enough of a resource available to create a shale gas industry.