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New Brunswick introduces moratorium on hydraulic fracturing

Province becomes fourth Canadian jurisdiction to ban fracking


(Canadian OH&S News) — The government of New Brunswick has introduced a moratorium on all hydraulic fracturing in the province.

Premier Brian Gallant and Energy and Mines Minister Donald Arseneault announced the moratorium on Dec. 18. The moratorium is a temporary cessation and prohibition of all types of hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting chemicals under high pressure into drilled wells to allow for the release of oil and gas.
According to a joint press release from the Office of the Premier and the Department of Energy and Mines, the moratorium will not be lifted until there is:

* A “social licence” in place;

* Clear and credible information concerning the effects of hydraulic fracturing on health, the environment and water (allowing the province to develop country-leading regulatory regimes with sufficient enforcement capabilities);

* A plan that mitigates the effects on public infrastructure and that addresses issues such as wastewater disposal;

* A process in place to respect obligations under the duty to consult with First Nations; and

* A mechanism to maximize benefits for New Brunswickers, including the development of a proper royalty structure.

But Steve Moran — president and CEO of Halifax-based Corridor Resources Inc., which explores, develops and produces petroleum and natural gas onshore in New Brunswick and Quebec — argued that the moratorium was not necessary. “We do not believe it is necessary and do not support it,” Moran said, suggesting that the five outlined conditions for lifting the moratorium were not clear enough. “They do not provide a predictable path forward. In addition, New Brunswick already has clear and robust regulations in place under which the industry operates safely,” he said.

Corridor Resources has fractured the majority of drilled wells using water or liquefied propane as the stimulation fluid. All have been “performed to the highest industry standards and without incident,” Moran said.

Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, believed that industry could work with the province to achieve the five conditions, making the legislation unnecessary. “If the government wants to grow the economy, create jobs and encourage investment, it is now at risk of doing the opposite through legislation,” he said.

One group that supports the moratorium is the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. Stephanie Merrill, freshwater protection program coordinator with the council, said in a press release that the moratorium showed that the Premier was serious about protecting the environment. “The conditions placed on the moratorium are strongly worded and significant,” Merrill said in the statement. “It gives us time to develop clean energy jobs instead of being under constant pressure from the fossil fuel lobby.”

New Brunswick joins Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador in imposing a moratorium on fracking. Additionally, an onshore ban is in place in Nova Scotia.