New Brunswick

Shale gas group imposes restrictions on meeting

A Fredericton city councillor is questioning why the provincial government's shale gas study group is imposing strict rules before meeting with a citizens' group.

Coun. Leah Levac says rules would not allow for a 'genuine conversation'

A Fredericton city councillor is questioning why the provincial government’s shale gas study group is imposing strict rules before meeting with a citizens’ group.

The provincial government asked Dr. Louis LaPierre, a professor emeritus in biology at the University of Moncton, to tour the province, asking citizens about their views on the provincial government’s proposed shale gas regulations.

The meetings were held primarily in rural areas in June and there were no public meetings scheduled in Moncton, Fredericton or Saint John.

Coun. Leah Levac is trying to organize a public meeting with her constituents to discuss shale gas regulations. (Facebook)

Coun. Leah Levac said many of her constituents raised concerns about shale gas development during May’s municipal election.

"One of the things that I committed to residents was working in whatever ways that I could think of to help try and ensure there was an opportunity for residents to get the information they were asking for and participate in the conversation," Levac said on Tuesday.

Levac said the Ward 10 Residents Association sent LaPierre’s group a formal request for a meeting.

The shale gas group responded saying it would meet with the citizens’ association but the session would last a maximum of 20 minutes and only three citizens could participate.

As well, the local residents’ group would have to share the 20 minutes with the Friends of the UNB Woodlot, another Fredericton organization.

Levac said there is no way a "genuine conversation" could be held with the shale gas group in 20 minutes.

"It doesn’t make sense to me that following on the heels of an open commitment to trying to talk with New Brunswickers that the follow-up response would be essentially 10 minutes with three people," she said.

Louis LaPierre held public meetings in June to talk about the proposed shale gas regulatory changes.

"There are 3,700 people who live in Ward 10 roughly and 56,000 people who live in Fredericton and I think all of those people have the right to be part of the conversation."

Levac said Fredericton-Silverwood Progressive Conservative MLA Brian MacDonald has agreed with the association’s request for a meeting with LaPierre’s group.

In May, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup and Environment and Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch announced 116 different reforms that, if implemented, would ensure more money flows into the provincial coffers and also provide money to property owners and communities where mining activity is taking place.

The proposed changes would also set out strict rules on protecting the environment and natural gas companies would also be hit with higher fines if they break the rules.

Many groups and citizens have specifically voiced their opposition to the contentious mining practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or hydro-fracking.

Hydro-fracking is a process where exploration companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground, creating cracks in shale rock formations.

Citizens have until Sept. 18 to offer feedback on the changes.