New Brunswick

Nobody asked us if we want fracking, Sussex LSD chair says

Some people in communities surrounding the town of Sussex are hoping the province slows down and asks those will be affected by fracking if they want it.

PCs accused of sacrificing Sussex-area communities for 'a few pieces of silver'

When it comes to government's move to lift the shale gas moratorium, Gordon Kierstead, chair of the local service district of Sussex, said local communities shouldn't be sacrificed for a few pieces of silver. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Some people in communities surrounding the town of Sussex are hoping the province slows down and asks the people who will be affected by fracking if they want it.

On Friday, the throne speech passed by the legislature included a sub-amendment that exempts "communities in and around the town of Sussex" from a shale gas moratorium. The precise area around Sussex wasn't identified.

The province hopes a cabinet order will happen in the next few weeks to make the amendment official.

Gordon Kierstead of Ward's Creek, chair of the local service district in Sussex, said no one has come to him to ask if the roughly 2,600 residents in the area support fracking.

"There's been no town halls," said Kierstead. "There's been meetings, no nothing to determine if there is a social licence or a willingness."

Kierstead said it's easy for politicians to say they have community support, but he questions where the support is coming from.

"For a few pieces of silver, they're willing to sacrifice the surrounding area."

Energy and Resource Development Minister Mike Holland has said the government will make sure there's a "means and mechanism" for consulting people in the Sussex area before accepting people want fracking there.  

Premier Blaine Higgs said in August that he'd measure support for development by listening to municipal councils, then let the consultations "spread out" to surrounding local service districts through open meetings.

On Friday, Higgs said passage of shale-gas language in the throne speech was a green light for a localized lifting of the fracking moratorium in Sussex-area communities that have demonstrated support for it.    

Needs more consultation

Kierstead is concerned the government will rely on the opinions of business and municipal leaders in Sussex, who he said are not in a position to make decisions for surrounding rural communities.

He pointed to a dust-up back in 2011, when Ralph Carr, the mayor of Sussex at the time, denounced a seismic surveying company for sending exploration trucks inside town limits without municipal approval.

Carr's stern reaction was reinforced by many councillors, with the mayor explaining that some people in his community are wary of the shale gas industry.

Stephanie Coburn, who lives on a beef farm in Head of Mill Stream, said it would be the 'thin edge of the wedge,' if fracking resumed in Penobsquis. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Kierstead said it is frustrating to be the one area in the province where the moratorium could be lifted by 2019.

"There needs to be a lot more consultation. I mean they're rushing this through and they don't want to listen."

Twenty-five kilometres north of Sussex, Stephanie Coburn was disappointed by the proposed lifting of the moratorium in and around Sussex, and questioned if more communities will follow.

"I really feel this is the thin edge of the wedge, if they can frack in Penobsquis again," said Coburn, who lives on a beef farm in Head of Mill Stream. 

Favours referendum for province

In 1999, natural gas wells were installed in Penobsquis, 14 kilometres northeast of Sussex, where they are still being met with a mixed reaction

Bruce Northrup, the MLA for Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins, has said the community supports a resumption of drilling.

Coburn said she would favour a referendum but not just for Sussex and surrounding communities. She'd like to see the question put to the entire province because there is a larger question at play.

"Do we want to be taking carbon-based product out of the ground and burning it and increasing our carbon footprint?"

She'd rather see the province's financial resources go toward increasing the energy efficiency of homes so carbon-based energy wouldn't be in such high demand.

Coburn would also rather her own energy be spent elsewhere.

"I am 71 years old," she said. "I would love to be home playing with my grandchild instead of talking about fracking again."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story suggested the government would not consult people in Sussex-area communities about fracking. In fact, Energy and Resource Development Minister Mike Holland has promised a "means and mechanism" for determining whether local people do support fracking.
    Dec 04, 2018 10:47 AM AT

About the Author

Tori Weldon

Reporter

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

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