Shale gas exploration could get green light by Christmas, says MLA

Bruce Northrup, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins, says the PCs will make a move to lift the moratorium on shale gas exploration by Christmas in areas where there is public support.

Progressive Conservative Bruce Northrup says moratorium would be lifted in areas where there is public support

Anti-fracking activist Willi Nolan calls opening up the shale-gas debate in New Brunswick ridiculous. (CBC)

Bruce Northrup, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Sussex-Fundy-St Martins, said the PCs will make a move to lift the moratorium on shale gas exploration by Christmas in areas where there is public support.

The controversy over fracking in New Brunswick last came to a head in October 2013, when 40 protesters were arrested and five police cars were burned in Rexton. A temporary moratorium was put in place, then made permanent under Brian Gallant's Liberal government.

Premier-designate Blaine Higgs has said he is willing to open the debate surrounding the natural resource.

Higgs expects he and his cabinet will be sworn in on Friday, a week after the Liberals were defeated on a confidence vote.

On Tuesday, Northrup, a former minister of natural resources, one-upped Higgs on the shale gas issue by providing a timeline. 

"We will have to go through the process through the legislation and I'm hoping we'll be able to do that before Christmas," he said. 

"We lift the moratorium and be in constant contact with Corridor Resources and look at that in the future and start it as soon as we can, as soon as possible."

Protesters against shale gas exploration faced a line of police officers in Rexton in October 2013. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Northrup said his constituents support hydraulic fracking, and there are others in favour as well.

"The Boiestown-Doaktown area, they've seen the exploration on their area where the motels were full and the restaurants were full."

Northrup was quick to add that fracking will only be welcome in communities where there is public support.

But activist and anti-shale gas protester Willi Nolan-Campbell disagrees with Northrup, arguing people in New Brunswick were clear during what she called "the fracking wars" five years ago. 

She said people who protested put in the effort to protect the environment and believed fracking was unsafe.

"Does this new minority government have that evidence because all I'm seeing is the case against fracking getting worse and worse as the years go by," she said. 

"Why would they ever bring up fracking in New Brunswick? It's ridiculous."

MLA Bruce Northrup was minister of natural resources from 2010 to 2013 in the Progressive Conservative government of David Alward. (CBC)

Nolan-Campbell said allowing some communities to frack while others opt out doesn't make sense. Water is a resource shared by all, she said.

"I don't see how there could possibly be a place in the province where there's not going to be somebody downstream or close by that is not interested."

And if a PC government does lift the ban, Nolan-Campbell said protesters will organize again. This time they'll be even better at it, she said.

Higgs has said he is open to loosening restrictions imposed by the Liberal government but has not discussed a timeline.

About the Author

Tori Weldon

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Tori Weldon is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been working for the CBC since 2008.