The Canadian Province of New Brunswick’s Energy Minister has announced that the current moratorium on hydraulic fracturing will continue indefinitely.
The moratorium was put in place in December 2014 until five conditions have been met. The five conditions to allow hydraulic fracturing are:
- a social licence is in place;
- clear and credible information is available 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 is in place to mitigate the impacts on public infrastructure and to address issues such as waste water disposal;
- a process is in place to respect the duty of the provincial government to consult with First Nations; and
- a mechanism is in place to ensure that benefits are maximized for New Brunswickers, including the development of a proper royalty structure.
In March 2015, the New Brunswick government created the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing with a mandate to determine whether it would be possible to meet the government’s five conditions in order to lift the December 2014 moratorium. The Commission published a report in March 2016 which included nine recommendations as to what must occur for the five conditions to be met.
Before the government can consider whether a hydraulic fracturing project meets the five conditions, the province must implement a number of findings from the Commission that are essential to a robust regulatory and permitting regime, including:
- an 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 public infrastructure impacts;
- short-term and long-term solutions to hydraulically fractured wastewater disposal should be determined before commercial production begins; and
- the government needs to work with aboriginal leadership in New Brunswick to adopt a nation-to-nation consultation process for hydraulic fracturing.
However, notwithstanding implementation of these recommendations are in the government’s control, the Energy Minister has announced that it is industry that has clearly not met the five conditions and that therefore the moratorium would continue indefinitely. The Minister also advised that industry proposals to dispose of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations in municipal waste water treatment systems was unacceptable.
New Brunswick is thought to have significant shale resources and currently is dependent on rapidly dwindling offshore supplies of natural gas and fracked shale gas imported from the United States and Western Canada.