Canada: New Brunswick extends indefinitely moratorium on fracking

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Canadian province New Brunswick has decided that the moratorium on fracking, imposed by the province’s Liberal government, will remain in place indefinitely.

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.

However in response to a study released in February, Energy Minister Donald Arseneault said that “Creating jobs is our number one priority, but not at any cost. It is clear that our conditions cannot be satisfied in the foreseeable future.”

The study which the minister was referring to, 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.

Arseneault said there was no way the shale industry could proceed right now because of the situation left by the previous Progressive Conservative government of premier David Alward.

“We’ve inherited a situation from the last government that really brought this industry where it’s at today. The way they conducted themselves and the relationship that really deteriorated with First Nations made it such that we had no choice but to put a moratorium in place in the province of New Brunswick,” he said.

According to National Observer, Mi’kmaq chiefs in New Brunswick welcomed the news that the moratorium will remain in place, and said they see it as an opportunity for the province to mend its relationship with First Nations communities.

But Fort Folly First Nation Chief Rebecca Knockwood said it’s time for Arseneault to stop blaming the previous government.

“Two years into this mandate the Gallant government can no longer pin the strained relationship on the former government. They are not meeting their constitutional obligation to consult First Nations on Sisson Mine or Energy East,” she said.

Meanwhile, business lobbyists didn’t hide their disappointment with the government’s decision.

“The business community in New Brunswick is very disappointed that the government chose to go down this road of effectively putting a ban on natural gas exploration and development,” Joel Richardson, Fredericton-based vice-president for the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told The Globe and Mail.

“They’re saying the No. 1 priority is job creation, but they’re not going to lift up the rocks to figure out what economic opportunity lies underneath,” he added.

New Brunswick is believed to have considerable resources of commercially recoverable shale gas but no exact data is available as any measurements were prevented by the strong public resistance to shale exploration in the province.

In imposing a ban on fracking, New Brunswick joins Nova Scotia and Quebec as well as several U.S. states, including New York.

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