Betting big on shale gas

The lucrative industry is booming in New Brunswick

The Quebec government’s environmental worries have ground to a halt the drills driving shale gas development. But in neighbouring New Brunswick, the lucrative industry is booming with full provincial support.

Earlier this month, Quebec’s environment watchdog published a report recommending a shut-down of shale gas wells in the province until more research into their ecological impact can be conducted. Pierre Arcand, the province’s environment minister, announced a moratorium within minutes of the release. But Bruce Northrup, Arcand’s counterpart in New Brunswick, quickly followed the news by telling reporters that his government would not be enacting any similar restrictions. “We’ve been very clear since day one,” he said. “We’re not putting a moratorium on.”

This stance has angered environmental groups, such as the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, which have been quick to note that drilling in the United States has led to chemical spills and natural gas in drinking water. They say New Brunswick’s industry—which has seen $374-million worth of investment since the province’s natural gas reserves were discovered in 2000, and which could one day produce $225 million in annual royalties—must be halted to give the government time to beef up its regulations.

But Dave Keighly, a petroleum geology expert at the University of New Brunswick, disagrees. He says more than 100 years of oil and gas drilling has left New Brunswick well equipped to handle the shale boom. “Quebec does not have much of a history of oil and gas production,” he says. “New Brunswick’s history goes back to the mid-19th century—sufficient rules covering all types of oil and natural gas drilling are in place and can be enforced.” Northrup says his government has conducted public consultations and fact-finding missions to drill sites across North America, and is enforcing regulations.

And, he adds, his government will not let development go unchecked. So far, 65 wells have been drilled. “We’ve made a clear commitment to support the responsible expansion of this industry,” he says. “We’re sailing a slow ship.” But compared to Quebec, it’s full steam ahead.




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Betting big on shale gas

  1. Perhaps Mr. Keighly, and others who continue to site new Brunswick long history with mining, gas, and oil, might like to visit some of the communities where those activities have taken place and view first hand the distruction of the environment, the devaluing of the property of the people who live there, and the ruination of lives that has ensued. A visit to Penbosquis might be enlightening. Mr. northrup would be well advised to follow Quebec's lead and drop his anchor!

  2. The New Brunswick government is claiming they are a new style of government- one who listens to and consults the people of our province. Citizens For Responsible Resource development is a N.B. citizens non-profit organization that is in favour of developing our resources, but in a manner responsible to our people, communities, land and water. The government admits regulations are needed but still insists to push forward without them in place. This is inconsistant and unacceptable!
    With 9 companies in our province currently holding licenses and/or leases to 3.6 million acres of our land, and the Natural Resources map highlighting our entire landmass(including cities, municipal watersheds, etc.) and all our coastal regions as part of a grid for shale gas development, it is obvious that we have been sold out!!!
    Looks like the sale of N.B. Power we just went through with the previous government. Industry is running our government and our political parties. We need a revolt in this province!

  3. You don't have to go to BC or Arkansas. Just come to Penobsquis, New Brunswick to see the "history" of the gas industry in this province. We'd be happy to give you a tour.

  4. Absolutely disgusting. This man has a responsibility to the people of Penbosquis.

    He already knows what gas has done there (in addition to other mining) you'd have to be an idiot to allow this to continue

  5. "… visit some of the communities where those activities have taken place and view first hand the distruction of the environment, the devaluing of the property of the people who live there, and the ruination of lives that has ensued."

    Yeah
    Just go wandering around the streams and woods around Penobsquis, and look at the old broken refrigerators, half empty paint cans, oil and antifreeze cans, rusting old cars with leaking radiators and gas tanks etc., etc., dumped at the end of people's properties, in ditches, or even in full view of the road.

    "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3.

  6. The New Brunswick govt says put the people first. I think it is still like the previous govt.They are not putting the people of new brunswick first.We need to come together like the NB Power issue because if people think this will not effect them they are mistaken.I would like to know how our govt can say they can do this safely when other provinces do not. Maybe they can tell Quebec or New York how to do it safely. We need requlations to protect our province. If this govt really wants to protect us then give us regulations , instead of forcing home owners to let industry on their property to do testing.

  7. Elizabeth,

    Alberta and BC have been 'doing it safely' for years and years now.
    If Alberta had the same attitude as Quebec about this wonderful resource (Natural Gas), Quebec would already have declared bankruptcy as Alberta would be a neutral province(not a have province as it is now) which would have meant NO money for Quebec… therefore bankruptcy.

  8. The New Brunswick govt says put the people first. I think it is still like the previous govt.They are not putting the people of new brunswick first.We need to come together like the NB Power issue because if people think this will not effect them they are mistaken.I would like to know how our govt can say they can do this safely when other provinces do not. Maybe they can tell Quebec or New York how to do it safely. We need requlations to protect our province. If this govt really wants to protect us then give us regulations , instead of forcing home owners to let industry on their property to do testing.

  9. We keep hearing the same comments "so an so has been doing this safely for years". The very first high volume, slick water, horizontal well was drilled in the Barnett Shale, Texas in 2002. It was the first time these technologies were united. The difference? The new technology to access tight shale formations involves 50 to 100 times more volume of fluids (water and chemicals). It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that since 2002 the toxic waste produced has multiplied in direct proportions. The reality is, that the industry has spent less than 10 years tweaking methods of dealing with the various geological challenges of extracting tight gas. During that time they have developed no miracle solutions to deal with the massive increase in toxic waste. And that is only one facet of the negative impacts. The oldest unconventional shale play in the US (Barnett Shale) now has disasterous air quality, with benzene counts rising up to 55 times the safe level for human health. New Brunswick is ill advised in it's failure to stop and research the harmful by products of this technology. It is a short sighted decision and the people will pay the long term price.

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