A new report examining hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick, Canada, is likely to do nothing to influence the debate on shale exploration in the area.
In 2014, New Brunswick government introduced moratorium on fracking which was not to be lifted until five conditions are met. These conditions included: a process to consult with First Nations, a plan for wastewater disposal and credible information about the impacts fracking has on health, water and the environment.
A study of a fracking moratorium in New Brunswick, released on Friday, acknowledged the province is in desperate need of jobs and economic stimulus, but stopped short of stating whether the required conditions to lift the moratorium can be met. Instead, it called for a single, independent regulator to eliminate the problem of government departments that both promote the growth of resource industries and enforce the rules that apply to them. It also called for a rethink of how the government consults citizens, including aboriginal people, on resource development.
On the release of the report there was a marked lack of urgency from Energy Minister Donald Arseneault, who said that the Liberals have plenty of time to consider the recommendations.
“It’s like any other resource,” Arseneault told reporters. “The resource will still be there … There’s a lot to think about and we’re going to take the time we need to read the report and have a good discussion on it … This is too important of an issue for us to rush.”
This lack of urgency sits well with the anti-fracking lobbly, who feel that following through with the recommendations would take years, which works in their favour.
“Until those things are done, there’s no conversation about shale gas development in New Brunswick and by that time we’ve moved on,” Stephanie Merrill from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick said, adding that the recent Paris agreement on climate change, and Ottawa’s plan to put a price on carbon, also make development unlikely.
Even if the New Brunswick government adopts all the commission’s recommendations, “by the time that rolls around, given the work that’s to be done plus the market conditions and the price of gas, we’re talking years, potentially decades out. And by that time this conversation … will be over. We’ll have turned the page,” said Merrill.
A similar sentiment could be felt among politicians, with Green Party Leader David Coon (pictured) saying: “The competition is between natural gas and green energy. By the time natural gas prices start to come back in any significant way, we’ll be well down the road to building an economy based on greener energy. Fossil fuels will have “a diminished role”” he concluded.
Among those who are in favour of shale development in New Brunswick, a lack of urgency in resolving the matter is a source of great concern.
“Every day the moratorium is in place we’re losing jobs in this province and we are losing investment,” Joel Richardson, vice-president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters in New Brunswick, said.
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