New Brunswick

Northrup refuses a hydro-fracking moratorium

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup is remaining steadfast in the provincial government's insistence there will not be a ban on hydro-fracking in New Brunswick.

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup is remaining steadfast in the provincial government's insistence there will not be a ban on hydro-fracking in New Brunswick.

Northrup said in an interview on Wednesday there is no proof to support the concerns raised by many opponents that the shale gas extraction process is harmful to water supplies.

He said there is still time to strengthen the regulatory regime surrounding hydro-fracking in the province.

"You certainly learn a lot about the process, and it's our understanding that over two million frack jobs have taken place all over the world, and there is no real legal case that has been proved in court," Northrup said.

Regulations could be discussed Thursday in Fredericton when more than dozen groups will meet at an invitation-only forum on natural gas development.

Two dozen groups will be represented, including the Conservation Council.

David Coon, executive director for the council, said the decision to go ahead is putting the province's rural areas at risk.

"They're going to industrialize rural communities and change the way of life of people there, affect their well-being, add air pollution and all those kinds of things that come with industrialization, and that's wrong," Coon told CBC News Wednesday.

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup said he will not impose a moratorium on hydro-fracking. ((CBC))
The New Brunswick government has been facing mounting protests and criticism from environmental groups and other organizations over the contentious mining practice.

Maliseet Grand Council Grand Chief Harry LaPorte lent his voice to the opposition this week when he said he was opposed to hydro-fracking.

LaPorte, whose council represents the six Maliseet First Nations, said he is concerned hydro-fracking could be harmful to water supplies in New Brunswick.

Even through Northrup said he has ruled out a ban on hydro-fracking, he has offered to sit down with LaPorte and talk about the issue.

Controversial technique

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

Mining companies use this technique to extract natural gas from areas that would otherwise go untapped.

But, it is the shattering of the shale with the high-pressure water and chemicals that concerns people about the safety of their water supplies.

A recent study from Duke University in North Carolina said people living near hydro-fracking sites should test their well water.

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. The report also said in some cases there was enough methane to be considered an explosion hazard.

But the researcher could not say for sure the findings were a result of hydro-fracking.

Southwestern Energy, a mining company that is hoping to use the mining technique in New Brunswick, is facing two lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Arkansas over allegations by citizens that hydro-fracking contaminated their water.

The New Brunswick government is currently studying the regulatory regime that covers the mining process. Several cabinet ministers, including Northrup, Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney and Energy Minister Craig Leonard, have travelled to U.S. jurisdictions to study their hydro-fracking regulations.

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


The Alward government said if New Brunswickers want a better education system, natural gas exploration is the answer.

Paul Robichaud held up the state Arkansas as an example of what New Brunswick can achieve.

The economic development minister was speaking to more than 300 business people at Enterprise Greater Moncton's annual community development breakfast.

"This state has developed a very successful natural gas industry over the past ten years and they've taken that revenue and reinvested it into their education system."

What Robichaud finds most interesting is that Arkansas's education rankings went from among the lowest in the United States to among the highest.

He said it's all thanks to money from natural gas.