The New Brunswick government has yet to fulfill a controversial election promise to reopen the door to natural-gas fracking, and now one of the key players in the gas industry says the uncertainty surrounding fracking is becoming an issue.
With more than two dozen wells in the Sussex area, Corridor Resources is the biggest player in the province’s domestic-gas industry, but the company is waiting for the moratorium on fracking to be lifted in the area.
In its latest quarterly report, Corridor points to a business environment of “regulatory uncertainty” and ponders “when or if Corridor’s lands will be exempt from the moratorium.”
As a result, the company has halted the process.
“I’m always disappointed when I hear about a private-sector investment that doesn’t wind up landing in New Brunswick,” said New Brunswick Energy and Resource Development Minister Mike Holland.
“What I’ve done is I’ve been committed to working to ensure that the pieces are in play so that Corridor, or a private-sector company, and any aspect of a department I have, understands that the province is open for business.”
Corridor has also expressed concern over coming consultations with the Aboriginal community.
“Predicting a timeline as to when the consultation process is completed is difficult,” states the company in its quarterly report.
But the New Brunswick Aboriginal Peoples Council says it has many questions about fracking and needs to be properly consulted on the issue.
“What is actually going on here? Can it be done safely? Can it not be done safely? Is it going to affect the water? How is it going to affect the water? The whole process, they have to come and sit down and properly consult,” said Chief Barry Labillois.
Holland says consultations with First Nation groups over the possible extraction of natural gas in Sussex have been ongoing, and he plans to set up in-person meetings soon.
Meanwhile, environmental groups say First Nation communities are being made into scapegoats.
“Oil companies and the gas companies, and some slow-to-the-case premiers, like to blame regulatory uncertainty and First Nations vetoes for just about everything,” said Lois Corbett of the New Brunswick Conservation Council.
Corbett says smart investors are moving away from fossil fuels, but supporters of the natural-gas industry say there are benefits that could be shared by all.
“Out west there is a great track record of First Nations having equity pieces, getting trained for a lot of the jobs on site in oil and gas development, and in New Brunswick there is a tremendous opportunity going forward for First Nations to become engaged,” said Colleen Mitchell of the Atlantica Centre for Energy.
The Higgs government has expressed faith in the potential for shale gas development in New Brunswick, but for now the industry seems mired in regulatory uncertainty, with no clear date on when the fracking moratorium will be lifted, even on a regional basis in Sussex.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron