New Brunswick

Shale gas complaints to be handled by new process

Energy Minister Craig Leonard says a dispute resolution mechanism will be put in place to help homeowners seek compensation for any problems associated with shale gas development.

Energy Minister Craig Leonard says homeowners will not be fighting companies

The New Brunswick government will create a dispute resolution mechanism to deal with any damages or lawsuits arising from problems associated with shale gas development, the province’s energy and mines minister said on Thursday.

Energy Minister Craig Leonard said it will be the provincial government ensuring that legitimate claims are resolved and not individual homeowners fighting with large companies.

"There's always going to be financial security in place to deal with those type of issues that government can draw down on to compensate the individual to make sure they're taken care of," he said.

"And then if there's a legal aspect after that, then it would be government and industry who are dealing with it rather than the homeowner or landowner."

Energy Minister Craig Leonard said a special dispute resolution process would be put in place to deal with complaints over shale gas developments. (CBC)

Leonard also said there will be enough inspectors on the ground to monitor exploration and ensure regulations are being followed.

The Alward government received two reports earlier this fall, which each included many recommendations on how the province should move forward with the shale gas industry.

The provincial government has been reviewing those reports and will issue its blueprint for the oil and gas industry in the spring.

The report will arrive before any of the expected shale gas exploration activities start.

Leonard told the legislature on Wednesday the upcoming shale gas strategy will set standards for water usage, construction activities, monitoring standards for natural gas sites and staffing guidelines to guarantee proper inspection and environmental oversight of natural gas projects.

The Alward government is also considering setting up two new regulatory agencies. The provincial government may create an Oil and Gas Commission and an Oil and Gas Secretariat, which were both recommended in Louis LaPierre’s report.

Opponents to shale gas exploration have called for an outright ban on the contentious industry. The Opposition Liberals, meanwhile, have indicated a moratorium is needed until more research can be done.

Leonard said a moratorium is not appropriate response to dealing with the shale gas industry.

The energy minister said it is important to develop strong regulations so any potential problems do not actually arise.

"Those instances are decreasing rapidly because of best practices being put in place," he said.