Business leaders in Sussex, N.B., say a fracking moratorium is costing the community millions. They want the provincial government to reverse course and say ‘yes’ to fracking, at least when it comes to their community.

Ralph Cunningham owns an excavating business in the Sussex area.

He says the disappearance of drilling rigs and fracking crews is being felt by everyone.

“Motels, restaurants, all the service industries were busy,” says Cunningham. “There were 60 plus people here all the time during the drilling, fracking, and everything. So, it’s a big impact on a small town like Sussex.”

Stephen Moffett is a farmer and a businessman who lives in the Penobsquis area, where most of the drilling activity was taking place. He says the industry had widespread support there.

“Certainly in some areas of New Brunswick, you’d probably say there isn’t social license,” says Moffett. “I think that’s an area we can talk about. Certainly, there is support for this industry in the Sussex area, and it makes sense that we move ahead with it.”

For that reason, business leaders are asking that Sussex be exempted from the moratorium.

Since the moratorium was put in place by the New Brunswick government, activity in the natural gas industry has come to a virtual standstill. No new wells are being drilled and wells that were fracked in the past are not being re-fracked.

The moratorium coincides with this year’s shutdown of the potash mine, which was the largest industrial employer in the area. Local business owners like Ron Baird say the natural gas industry is now needed more than ever.

“It’s a double-whammy on our town right now,” says Baird. “We’re certainly feeling it and affected by it for sure, and we would love to see them reconsider, absolutely, yes.”

The province re-affirmed its commitment to the moratorium just two months ago, but members of the business community in Sussex, N.B., are encouraged that government officials have agreed to meet with them and to talk about the impact the moratorium is having on their community.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron