FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's natural resources minister is demanding an apology from a Calgary-based energy company for what he alleges was a "blatant disregard" for rules governing oil and gas exploration.

Bruce Northrup said Wednesday that an investigation by his department has found that Windsor Energy Inc. violated the province's Oil and Natural Gas Act when it directed a subcontractor to conduct seismic tests within the town of Sussex.

In a statement, Northrup said the company did not have written permission from the municipality to carry out the testing as required by law.

He alleges truck-mounted vibration equipment was used along a highway inside the town's boundaries on Oct. 17, a day before the town council was to consider a request to conduct the testing.

"The company's president and chief executive officer, Khalid Amin, has been quoted in media reports as stating he knew that permission had not been granted and was also aware this testing would intrude within the boundaries of the municipality," Northrup said.

"As such, I consider this to be a case of blatant disregard for provincial legislation and the authority that rests with the Town of Sussex and all municipalities in our province.

"I believe Mr. Amin owes a sincere public apology to the mayor, councillors and people of Sussex for this show of disrespect."

Amin said in an email that he may respond later Wednesday.

Northrup said he has directed his staff "to take appropriate action," but he did not specify what that meant.

Ralph Carr, the mayor of Sussex, said the irony is that the council probably would have approved the company's request to do the testing.

"Because it's nice to know what you have underneath you," he said in an interview.

Carr said he spoke briefly with a company official the day before council was scheduled to meet and cautioned him that it would be "unwise" to proceed without approval.

He said the action was disrespectful to council and to a province where debate over testing for shale gas has become polarized.

"People like myself, who haven't decided which way to go, this didn't go over very well," said Carr.

"It's hurt the industry. When they come people, are going to be very leery."

Windsor Energy has since concluded all geophysical testing in the area that was permitted under a three-year licence to explore.

A spokesman for the Natural Resources Department said a complaint will be filed with local police and the results of their investigation will be forwarded to the Crown for possible action.