Lift moratorium, move forward on gas

The recent report by the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing contains many ideas for moving forward with natural gas in New Brunswick. And moving forward is exactly what this province needs to do.

The Commission spent a year studying the issue and this report makes it clear that hydraulic fracturing can proceed and that solutions exist for key issues like wastewater treatment. It’s time to seize the opportunity to develop this resource.

We believe it is time for government to lead and acknowledge the industry has proven its case, and that natural gas development should continue in New Brunswick.

There can be no room for indecision, uncertainty or delay.  We acknowledge the Government has work to do, but it cannot begin without a lifting of the moratorium followed by a firm commitment to establish a clear path forward.

Don’t be fooled that we have time to decide whether or not to lift the moratorium. If we wait, the opportunity will be lost without New Brunswickers making the choice. Lost along with it will be the potential for good paying, family building jobs.  Independent reports have estimated the natural gas industry would sustain nearly $1.6 billion worth of annual provincial GDP and 4,400 full time equivalent jobs.

New Brunswickers should not be content to sit back and let the loudest voices kill this opportunity.   Let us remind everyone that a December poll by Corporate Research Associates showed the majority of New Brunswickers support shale gas.  Support increased to 52 from 41 per cent last year; at the same time opposition decreased from 45 to 38 per cent (10 per cent of respondents didn’t know or didn’t answer).

Opponents imply that industry, communities and environment cannot co-exist but that is simply not true. In fact, co-existence has been happening in our province for over 15 years in Kings and Albert counties.

New Brunswick has had an active natural gas industry since 1998. It has occurred without incident to water, health or the environment. It has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in this province. It has provided jobs, helped grow companies and paid royalties and taxes.

We need to move forward and we need to do so now.  Nothing can or will happen with a moratorium in place. There will be no investment in New Brunswick. There will be no jobs or royalties created. There will be no progress made on building bridges between stakeholders. The best way to ensure the robust regulatory oversight that everybody wants is to actually continue operations. Only through regulating actual work can appropriate regulations and enforcement occur. The notion that New Brunswick has to design a ‘promised land’ of regulatory and consultation perfection in advance of any natural gas activity is absolutely unworkable. Deciding in advance on regulations and consultations for every possible development scenario in every possible location is impossible. The smart way is to actually fine-tune the over-arching regulations based on the actual proposed natural gas activity. There are companies that want to spend money in New Brunswick to further our knowledge of the natural gas resource in the province.  It is time to let them proceed.

Let’s start with places where natural gas activity is already happening safely. Let’s use our current activity as a bridge to the future of the New Brunswick natural gas sector.

More and more studies are emerging all concluding that, with the right oversight and protections, shale gas can be developed safely and responsibly. Like Yale University, Colorado State University, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Nova Scotia Independent Review Panel, the Fraser Institute and The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering who have all reached the conclusion that risks can be managed. The New Brunswick government continuing to study this issue for years will only mean lost opportunity for the New Brunswick economy and its people.

We urge the New Brunswick government to lift the moratorium and concentrate its efforts on safely regulating this developing industry.

Submitted by:

Joel Richardson, Vice President, NB & PEI‎ Divisions, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters/Executive Director, Metal Working Association of New Brunswick
Valerie Roy, Chief Executive Officer, Atlantic Chamber of Commerce