Windsor Energy Corp. has found itself on shaky ground in New Brunswick after it allowed a contractor to conduct seismic testing in a town without its consent, violating the province’s Oil and Natural Gas Act.

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup acknowledged Wednesday that he had received a written apology from Windsor CEO Khalid Amin over the Oct. 17 incident and said the results of his department’s investigation have been handed over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

“New Brunswickers can be assured that all companies exploring for or developing oil and natural gas reserves in our province are expected to observe our laws and that we will ensure these laws are upheld,” Northrup said. “The rules we have in place and those now being developed to strengthen our regulatory framework are intended to protect our people and our environment and must be respected.”

According to Northrup, Natural Resources’ investigators found that a seismic crew from Seismotion Inc. entered the Town of Sussex and began performing geophysical testing instead of waiting for the town council to give official approval. The Seismotion crew used truck-mounted vibration equipment to perform the testing along a highway within the town limits.

Still yet to be determined is how much of a fine Calgary-based Windsor faces for its error. Violators of the Oil and Natural Gas Act are subject to fines set under the Provincial Offences Procedures Act (POPA). Paul Harpelle, spokesman for the Department of Justice and Consumer Affairs, told NGI’s Shale Daily that the fines could range from C$140 to C$200,000.

“Of course, there must be some room for the judge to interpret the Oil and Gas Act and [POPA] to determine how much of a fee should be levied,” Harpelle said Thursday.

An environmental group opposed to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New Brunswick thinks the provincial government should revoke Windsor’s exploration permit. “It’s actually a little bit surprising that they would go the route of filing a complaint with the RCMP,” Stephanie Merrill, spokeswoman for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick (CCNB), told CBC News. “I think a lot of people assume that [Northrup] has the authority to make these decisions on the Oil and Gas Act.”

Merrill added that the CCNB had been told that if Natural Resources’ investigators found that Windsor had broken the law, Northrup had the authority to revoke its license and indicated that he would do so. “I think it is a little bit surprising.”

The CCNB has been calling for a moratorium on fracking in New Brunswick (see Shale Daily, July 11).

Last August, Southwestern Resources Canada, a Southwestern Energy Co. subsidiary, decided to halt seismic testing in New Brunswick earlier than expected after a wave of thefts, vandalism and protests in the province by fracking opponents. The most serious incident was a blockade near Stanley, NB, on Aug. 9 (see Shale Daily, Aug. 25; Aug. 15).