“Well the problem is we’re in a climate crisis so we can’t be creating new infrastructure that is going to aggravate carbon pollution in the province.” – David Coon
Article by: TAMMY SCOTT-WALLACE
Blaine Higgs says he will give Sussex business leaders what they have been asking for and lift the moratorium on fracking, at least regionally, if the opposition Tories win September’s provincial election.
When the Progressive Conservative leader visited the Sussex region on Monday, about 15 owners of companies that supported Corridor Resources and its natural gas activity made their pitch again for an opportunity to grow an economy they say has been struggling.
Particularly in the Sussex area where the potash mine laid off hundreds of people in January 2016, they feel a regional exemption should be granted to allow hydraulic fracturing to further develop the industry the area already knows well.
“This is an area that’s voiced an interest in natural gas. We don’t have to lift the moratorium in areas where there is no interest,” Higgs said. “Kent County may not want it and that’s OK, but for regions like Sussex and Elgin, there’s a real desire to make it happen. We’re going to develop it where we can.”It was the first time Higgs made such a commitment to the contentious issue in the lead-up to the fall election.
Rick Doucet, minister of Energy and Resource Development, said Higgs is using the fracking issue as an election platform. New Brunswickers, however, are not likely to see any shift in the Liberal position when it comes to fracking as the election approaches, he added.
“We’ve already gone through the process. We put in legislation that we’re sticking with the moratorium,” he said. “We’re taking the prudent approach on this. It’s the right approach and right now we have no plans of lifting the moratorium at all.
“There’s still a lot of New Brunswickers…not convinced over the fracking.” Marcus deWinter, president of Alantra Leasing, was among the business leaders who gathered two years ago in Penobsquis asking for the moratorium to be lifted in the area. Around the same time the town of Sussex also wrote to the province stating its hope in seeing the fracking moratorium lifted regionally.
The Gallant government stuck to its guns though. deWinter thought it was important to hear Higgs’ position.“A lot of businesses supported that industry,” he said. “It was a big boost to our economy.” The $70 million in work Corridor has planned in shale gas exploration and well drilling in nearby Elgin alone, deWinter pointed out, would mean big money for local businesses and more work for young people who want to stay in their home province. That work is sitting in limbo, he pointed out, with the fracking ban in place.
His business supported natural gas activity with mobile trailers for its well sites, while local hotels and restaurants fed and provided lodging for workers, and other businesses sold parts and tools or serviced equipment for the industry.“For me government should be about removing roadblocks,” Higgs told the business owners gathered to hear what he had to say as he toured Easy Kleen Pressure Systems’ expansion.
“We can’t continue to hold up an opportunity people want.”And in Sussex’s case, natural gas activity is familiar, and welcomed, said Stephen Moffett.He is a pig farmer in Penobsquis where Corridor Resources is located. His agricultural lands have natural gas pipelines running on them.Since 1998 Corridor has produced natural gas without incident, said Moffett, and he believes the company has been a good neighbour.
“They’re right on my property. I don’t do much work for them but they’ve been here for 20 years and they’ve been great to deal with,” he said, “and we desperately need the economic growth this industry can bring.”
Corridor had plans to proceed with further fracking to develop more natural gas wells, but the work was stalled once the Gallant government placed the ban after its 2014 election win.
The fracking debate was among the hottest issues of that provincial election and ordering a moratorium was one of Gallant’s election promises.
Gallant’s government set five criteria to lift the moratorium that include improved relations with First Nations, an acceptable plan to dispose of frack water, agreeable social licence, a renewed royalty structure, a plan to mitigate impacts on public infrastructure, and to protect water and the environment.Moffett believes in the Sussex region, the criteria can be met.
“We are not trying to be political here,” Moffett said. “Our message is the same as it’s been with the current government. We believe there is no reason why the moratorium should not be lifted here.”
The Green Party is an opponent of fracking, and if you ask leader David Coon, he will argue there are plenty of reasons not to lift the moratorium anywhere.“Well the problem is we’re in a climate crisis so we can’t be creating new infrastructure that is going to aggravate carbon pollution in the province,” Coon said from Fredericton on Wednesday, suggesting until a door-to-door survey is done, the support of the Sussex region cannot truly be measured.
“We have targets to reduce target pollution so we can’t be taking on this kind of activity that poses risk to our water and is also going to increase the carbon pollution of the province.”