New Brunswick

Windsor Energy violated provincial law

Windsor Energy violated a provincial law by conducting testing in Sussex without the town's approval, according to the province's natural resources minister.

Northrup says Windsor Energy owes the public an apology

New Brunswick Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup is demanding Windsor Energy apologize after an investigation found the company violated the province's oil and gas law.

Northrup released a statement concerning his investigation into Windsor Energy's actions on Wednesday.

He said the company violated a provincial law by conducting testing in Sussex without the town's approval.

Northrup said the company required written permission from the town before geophysical activity can be conducted within its boundaries.

The natural resources minister said Windsor Energy "directed" a subcontractor to conduct exploratory seismic testing even though it knew it didn't have the town's permission yet.

"As such, I consider this to be a case of blatant disregard for provincial legislation and the authority that rests with the Town of Sussex and all municipalities in our province," Northrup said."

"I believe Mr. Amin owes a sincere public apology to the mayor, councillors and people of Sussex for this show of disrespect."

Companies perform seismic testing to see if it is worthwhile to conduct further mineral exploration in the area. Sussex is located in an area that is believed to be a prime location for the shale gas industry.

Windsor Energy became the centre of a ministerial investigation after complaints surfaced that its subcontractor performed seismic testing inside Sussex's boundaries without the town's approval.

After learning of the incident, Northrup asked his staff to get the GPS co-ordinates of the testing areas.

Seismotion, a contractor hired by Windsor Energy to do the testing, originally asked for town approval to do tests within the community, and councillors arranged a special meeting in mid-October, just ahead of the company's scheduled arrival.

However, the company arrived in Sussex two days early. Seismotion's crews decided not to wait for the town's consent.

Mario Levesque, the company's president, said waiting two days would have cost $60,000 and the trucks were due back in Alberta by Oct. 26.

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

Shale gas opposition

Premier David Alward's Progressive Conservative government has faced significant opposition to the development of shale gas. In particular, there have been a series of protests against the industry and specifically, the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or hydro-fracking.

Hydro-fracking uses water mixed with chemicals and sand and allows companies to access natural gas deposits. Opponents are concerned the process will ruin the water supply.

Alward has said he believes the industry is important to the province. However, the premier 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.

There have been several protests and blockades around the province in recent months.

In October, 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.

SWN Resources Canada announced it was halting its seismic testing in New Brunswick for the rest of 2011 after some of its equipment was damaged.