FREDERICTON – New Brunswick is bringing in new rules governing the shale gas industry with the release of 97 regulations that the provincial government says are aimed at protecting the environment and creating jobs.
Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard says the rules will also protect the province’s water and landowners.
Under the regulations released Friday, exploratory wells will be required to have a double casing to protect surrounding groundwater, and the use of open pits for the storage of wastewater will not be allowed.
If a water supply is compromised, the province would work to fix it and then go after the responsible oil or gas company for reimbursement.
Opponents of shale gas exploration are against the practice of fracking, which uses large volumes of water and chemicals to fracture layers of rock to release trapped gas.
They say fracking will compromise groundwater, but the industry disputes that assertion.
The rules follow the release of a discussion paper last May and public consultation.
The government says rapidly changing technology will require ongoing updates of the rules.
Leonard says the new rules will govern oil and gas activity for about the next two years.
The Opposition Liberals have repeatedly called for a moratorium on shale gas exploration until more research is done.
But the shale gas industry has also received some high-profile backing in recent days.
Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent voiced his support this week, saying the economic benefits would be a boost to New Brunswick.
Former Liberal premier Frank McKenna has also promoted the growth of the shale gas sector, recently telling businessmen in Saint John that environmental regulations should be respected but they shouldn’t block an industry that could help the province’s economy.
Leonard told the legislature last fall that New Brunswick could contain enough shale gas reserves to serve the province’s energy needs for the next 100 years. He later said those figures still need to be proven.