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New Brunswick Group Ends Call for Moratorium

A citizens group has reversed its call for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New Brunswick after the provincial government unveiled tougher regulations for the emerging Frederick Brook Shale.

But while Citizens for Responsible Resource Development (CRRD) is now cozying up to the provincial government, it is also taking aim at a rival organization, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick (CCNB), over the latter's tactics in the fracking debate.

"Our organization was never against the industry," CRRD President Bethany Thorne-Dykstra told NGI's Shale Daily on Thursday. "We were only calling for a moratorium until better regulations were put in place. There were a number of pieces of regulation that we felt were important to have in place to make people feel comfortable about the activity in their area. People need to know that if a problem occurs that something would kick in."

New Brunswick officials announced June 23 that the province was enacting tougher shale gas regulations but would not implement a ban on fracking (see Shale Daily, June 24). Companies are now required to disclose the chemical composition of all fracking fluids, establish security bonds for their operations, and perform baseline testing on all potable water wells within 200 meters (656 feet) of seismic testing and 500 meters (1,640 feet) of drilling sites before operations can begin.

"Those were some of the pieces [of regulation] that we were recommending," Thorne-Dykstra said. "We saw a real change from the government and we felt it was substantial and worth supporting. We think they are moving in the right direction."

Thorne-Dykstra said that after the June 23 announcement CRRD held an emergency board meeting. She said the board unanimously decided to end its call for a moratorium on fracking and would participate in a press conference Wednesday with Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup. The board then began to contact its 650 members to tell them of the decision.

"We received four emails back saying they still wanted to do a moratorium," Thorne-Dykstra said. "So we feel pretty confident that we made the right decision and that this is a reasonable approach."

Environmental groups began pressing New Brunswick officials for a moratorium on fracking after neighboring Quebec said it would conduct a two-year environmental assessment on shale gas (see Shale Daily, March 10). Quebec is allowing fracking to continue on a limited basis.

One of the groups continuing to press for a moratorium in New Brunswick is the CCNB.

"Our position is that this isn't an appropriate technology to be deployed in New Brunswick," CCNB Executive Director David Coon told NGI's Shale Daily. "Its impacts cannot be acceptably mitigated with regulations. It poses too much of a risk to pursue."

Commenting on the CRRD's reversal on the moratorium, Coon said, "A release went out today from 11 community organizations across the province indicating that [Thorne-Dykstra] doesn't represent them, and that they're continuing their work in their communities around this issue."

Coon added that the provincial government's announcement on June 23 didn't change the CCNB's position.

"We started from the assumption two years ago that this particular technology could be used if the appropriate regulations were in place, there were sufficient funds to monitor and enforce those regulations, and there was a political will to do so," Coon said. "But the more we've learned about this technology and the experience with it in different places throughout the United States has convinced us that it is not possible to do this safely, even within a strong regulatory environment."

Thorne-Dykstra countered that she and others in her group didn't like the CCNB's tactics.

"When you claim you're credible, but you're only going around with the Gasland movie and showing only that side of the story on the industry, I don't think that's fair and I think it's biased," Thorne-Dykstra said. "I think it does create a lot of fear in people."

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