Shale gas report rules out moratorium, The New Brunswick government must address the “very serious concerns” that people have by sympatico.ca, October 15, 2012
The provincial government hired Louis LaPierre, a professor emeritus in biology at the University of Moncton, to solicit the opinions of citizens over 116 proposed regulatory changes to the oil and gas industry. The recommendations in his report are based on the feedback he received during the nine public meetings that he held across the province earlier this year. Opponents to the shale gas industry often came out in large numbers to LaPierre’s meetings so they could express their concerns. “Throughout this process I became acutely aware of the very serious concerns that New Brunswickers have regarding shale gas exploration, as well as the economic benefits that the industry could have for our province,” LaPierre said in a statement. “I began to think of a way that the two sides of the shale gas debate could co-exist and created the Path Forward, which is a framework and a set of actions that would allow the province to fully explore the potential of a shale gas industry in New Brunswick.” LaPierre’s report contains 14 recommendations for the provincial government. In his report, he rejects the idea of a provincial moratorium on the shale gas industry. He said that would stop all research and “would not benefit New Brunswick or its people.” … “A moratorium will only serve to delay that important study and postpone making a determination if there is a business case for shale gas extraction, how it can be done on an environmentally sound basis, and how proposed regulations can be implemented to have the desired effect.”
The report makes a series of recommendations, including:
– a water use strategy.
– a chemical database and health registry that would be available to doctors.
– tough regulations.
– funds for citizens in situations where problems arise.
The report also calls for a heritage pool to be created, so that some of the gas found in New Brunswick would stay in the province. LaPierre noted in his report that there was an “active group” in the province that opposed the shale gas industry. He also said some of “the facts and figures that were referenced in the public meetings were difficult to substantiate.” But the university professor did not confine his observations about the public meetings to those who showed up at the forums. He used his report to point out the absence of presentations from the province’s business leaders. “I was surprised that various business chambers, boards of trade and municipalities did not choose to make a formal position or recommendation through the consultation process,” the report said. “I personally find it concerning that organizations such as these chose to remain silent on an issue that could have a profound impact on New Brunswick’s economy.”
The professor’s report calls for the creation of an energy institute that would use expertise on the shale gas industry from the province’s universities, instead of relying on outside experts. “I firmly believe that a rational, science-based process and structured dialogue is needed to properly determine whether there is a viable shale gas industry in New Brunswick, and if the economic potential can be realized in an environmentally safe manner,” LaPierre said in a statement. Members of an anti-fracking citizens’ group called The Alliance are anxious to review both reports and will issue a public response to them in the coming days, said spokeswoman Marilyn Lerch. The Alward government initially would not commit to releasing the contents of a study completed by the province’s chief medical officer of health. But Dr. Eilish Cleary’s report will be released in full. “So we are happy they are coming out, we are eager to read them and eager to respond to them,” said Lerch. “I can’t imagine that the health officer would not highlight the dangers and the real hazards associated with shale gas mining on the health of our people,” she said. “I would anticipate that that would be heavily underlined.”
Regardless of the reports’ recommendations, however, The Alliance plans to continue to oppose shale gas mining in any form, said Lerch. The group, which has members from 20 communities, contends the industry poses dangers to the land, the water and the health of New Brunswickers. “We have been working to educate ourselves for two years about the hazards and educate our neighbours of shale mining in all its aspects from the very beginning until the abandonment of the mine,” said Lerch. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to: Another Voice: Fracking spoiled farm’s hay fields