N.B. gov't to release public health report on shale gas
Published Thursday, October 4, 2012 4:39PM ADT
Last Updated Thursday, October 4, 2012 7:08PM ADT
FREDERICTON -- After first refusing to release a public health report on the shale gas industry, and then agreeing to release some of it, the New Brunswick government has now decided it will release the report in its entirety.
Environment Minister Bruce Fitch said Thursday that the report by Dr. Eilish Cleary, the province's chief medical officer of health, will be released on Oct. 15 along with a report by University of Moncton biologist Louis LaPierre, who gathered input on proposed shale gas regulations.
Cleary examined the potential health impacts of the shale gas industry.
Until Thursday, the government had only committed to releasing some of Cleary's report.
Fitch said Cleary and Lapierre had met earlier in the day to share their findings.
"We've concluded that there's no trouble to release both reports," he told reporters.
However, Fitch said he couldn't release Cleary's report right away.
"There's a process to go through and some of the reports have to be finalized and once that process has been complete and departments have a chance to look at what may affect them or not, then if they need to respond they can, and then it would be released at that point," Fitch said.
Earlier this week the government said it would not release the report because it was considered confidential and was designated as advice to a minister.
But on Wednesday, Health Minister Madeleine Dube said parts of the report would be released in "due time."
She would not say when that might be, and wouldn't say if she would release the entire report or just Cleary's recommendations.
Interim Liberal Leader Victor Boudreau said it's a flip-flop like he's never seen before.
"Obviously if they've gone to these great lengths and through all this embarrassment this week to try to hold this report back, it tells me there is something damaging in this report," Boudreau said in an interview.
"The premier should simply step up to the plate and release this document once and for all so New Brunswickers know exactly what's in it, and what the concerns and recommendations are that were made by Dr. Cleary."
Fitch said Cleary's report covers a wide spectrum and even touches on non-health issues, such as royalties.
In May, the government appointed LaPierre to lead a series of public meetings on its proposed shale gas regulations.
The Liberals have called for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, until all the benefits and risks of the shale gas industry are known.
Fracking involves blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well bore to split the surrounding rock and release trapped pockets of natural gas.