The Canadian Province of New Brunswick presently sources the majority of natural gas it consumes from the Sable Offshore Energy Project, but its production is slowing. The Frederick Brook shale is thought by some to contain vast reserves but it has yet to be drilled because in December 2014 the Government of New Brunswick placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. In March 2015 it created the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing to determine if five conditions could be met to lift the moratorium.
The five conditions to lifting the moratorium are that there must be:
- a social license in place;
- clear and credible information about the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on public health, the environment and water, allowing the government to develop a country-leading regulatory regime with sufficient enforcement capabilities;
- a plan in place that mitigates the impacts on public infrastructure and that addresses issues such as waste water disposal;
- a process in place to respect the duty of the provincial government to consult with First Nations; and
- a mechanism in place to ensure that benefits are maximized for New Brunswickers, including the development of a proper royalty structure.
The Commission, which has cast itself as a “citizens” panel in that none of its members are experts in the sciences or engineering of oil and gas, formally invited individuals and groups to make submissions.
The Commission has now published nine general findings that effectively endorse the moratorium. The nine recommendations are as follows.
- The government must design, resource and implement a different approach to address complex public issues such as hydraulic fracturing.
- A broad community conversation about the community risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing is required.
- The government must create an independent environment and energy research network.
- An environment and energy strategy must be developed that helps transition New Brunswick to a new, value-added knowledge-based economy.
- A new independent regulator should be created with a mandate to strengthen New Brunswick’s monitoring and evaluation of shale gas development in terms of understanding cumulative effects, including impacts on human health and the environment.
- Adequate resources must be assigned to properly plan for potential impacts to roads and other public infrastructure.
- Short-term and long-term solutions to hydraulically fractured waste water must be determined before commercial production begins.
- The government needs to work with First Nations to adopt a nation-to-nation consultation process for hydraulic fracturing.
- The government should determine a royalty structure that encourages responsible development and promotes specific government priorities.
No timeline has been announced on when the government might act on the Commission’s recommendations.
A link to the Commission’s report is https://www.nbchf-cnbfh.ca/.