New Brunswick

Sussex mayor denounces seismic testing company

Sussex Mayor Ralph Carr is denouncing the tactics of a seismic surveying company as a "monumental" mistake after it pushed ahead with tests without the town's approval.

Seismotion official says waiting for council vote would have cost $60,000

Sussex councillors are upset that seismic testing went ahead in their town before it was given approval. (CBC)

Sussex Mayor Ralph Carr is denouncing the tactics of a seismic surveying company as a "monumental" mistake after it pushed ahead with tests without the town's approval.

The Town of Sussex is now asking Premier David Alward and his Progressive Conservative government to take action against Seismotion, which performed tests inside Sussex boundaries on Monday.

"It's a blunder, a big blunder. They should not have done that," Carr said.

"For such a contentious issue and divisive issue that is taking place in our province, especially southern New Brunswick, they should have bowed out and said, 'We'll come back or we'll go by you.' Anything, but do what they did."

Sussex is situated in an area that is believed to be a prime location for the shale gas industry. But Carr said that some people in his community are wary of the shale gas industry. 

The mayor said the company's actions will make this already divisive issue even worse in his town.

The Sussex council has sent an unanimous letter to the Alward government requesting the provincial government take action against the company. 

Sussex Mayor Ralph Carr said the company's decision to perform the testing was a monumental mistake. (CBC)
Sussex mayor’s stern reaction is being reinforced by many of his councillors.

Seismotion originally asked for town approval to do tests within the community, and councillors arranged the Tuesday meeting just ahead of the company's scheduled arrival.

But when Seismotion crews found themselves in Sussex two days ahead of schedule, the company decided not to wait for town consent.

Marc Thorne, the town's deputy mayor, said it's unfortunate the company pressed ahead with its work despite knowing when the local council was going to hold its vote.

"They had decided that since the timeframe that they had established with us wasn't accommodating their accelerated schedule they just went ahead and did the work. We were angry. We were frustrated," Thorne said.

"It was done. It was in violation of the act. And there needs to be consequences," said Coun. Mark Wright.

Coun. Shelley Bradley did not hold back her frustrations when a Seismotion representative appeared at a council meeting on Tuesday night.

"When a company goes ahead and does this. Just like completely ignores the rules, completely just basically says, ‘You know what? Screw you guys,’" Bradley said.

Alek Dupras, the company's permit agent, said the company has permits from the departments of Natural Resources and Transportation that cover testing along highway one even within town limits.

"Waiting for this … meeting represented too much money so they chose to go forward, understanding they had all the permits necessary for that," Dupras said.

Seismotion is doing the testing for Windsor Energy.

Mario Levesque, the president of Seismotion, said waiting two days would have cost $60,000 and he's running out of time to get the work done. The trucks are going back to Alberta on Oct. 26.

Testing has now moved east between Sussex and Alma.

Latest shale gas controversy

This is the latest controversy in the contentious issue of shale gas exploration.

Last week, Hampton councillors voted to block seismic testing in town limits after roughly 70 residents held a peaceful protest.

Hampton is about 40 kilometres southwest of Sussex.

There have been protests across southern New Brunswick against shale gas exploration and hydro-fracking.

The largest anti-shale gas rally was at the legislature in the summer when roughly 1,000 protesters amassed in Fredericton.

Alward has said he believes the industry is important to the province, but he has committed to imposing the toughest standards on the continent on companies operating in New Brunswick.

He's also said New Brunswickers need to embrace the industry as part of a new approach to boosting the economy.