An eastern contender stepped forward Thursday to be the pioneer of natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New Brunswick under a new regulation that enables regional exemptions to be granted from the province’s five-year-old ban.

Halifax-based Corridor Resources Inc. announced a commitment to seek a permit. But the firm described the rule change as only “an initial step in removing the hydraulic fracturing moratorium” and set no target date to start work.

Corridor’s statement added, “We understand the government intends to conduct a consultation process with New Brunswick First Nations prior to considering any application.”

Leaders of the province’s Mi’kmaq natives indicated the consultations would be neither fast nor easy. The tribal chiefs group, Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. (MTI) said the government “blind-sided” them with a “secretive” regulation amendment.

The regulatory change follows through on a promise by New Brunswick’s seven-month-old Conservative government to grant regional exemptions from the fracking ban imposed by the former Liberal regime to areas that want the industry.

But the Conservatives have also pledged to avoid reviving heated public debate that boiled over in 2013 into a violent clash between anti- and pro-fracking factions that burned six police cars and ended in 40 arrests.

Corridor owns drilling rights to east coast shale gas drilling targets and kept a 10-well initial development plan alive during the New Brunswick moratorium. Fracking remains banned in the company’s home Nova Scotia.