N.B. files complaint alleging energy firm broke legislation
Kevin Bissett , The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, November 9, 2011 3:54PM AST
FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick government has filed a complaint with the RCMP alleging a Calgary-based energy company broke provincial regulations when it conducted seismic testing without municipal permission.
Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup alleges Windsor Energy violated the Oil and Natural Gas Act by directing a contracted company to conduct testing within the boundaries of the Town of Sussex last month.
Northrup, who represents Sussex in the legislature, said Windsor Energy did not have written permission from the town to carry out the testing as required by law.
"They upset the people of Sussex and they upset the people of New Brunswick too," Northrup said.
"We feel that we have regulations in place that are very strong here in New Brunswick for the oil and gas industry. They've been violated, so we feel that the best thing to do to protect the people of New Brunswick is to hand the file over to the RCMP."
He said an investigation by the department found that on Monday, Oct. 17, geophysical testing involving the use of truck-mounted vibration equipment was conducted along a highway inside the town's boundaries.
The town's council had scheduled a meeting for the next day to consider Windsor's request to conduct the testing. Mayor Ralph Carr said he believes the council would have approved the request.
Carr said he has accepted an apology from Khalid Amin, the president of Windsor Energy, and believes there have been a misunderstanding.
"I know he thought he had the right to do (the testing) because he was on the highway, but part of the highway was in the town," Carr said.
Amin apologized to Northrup in a letter, a copy of which was provided by the Natural Resources department.
"It was our decision to proceed, and it was the wrong one," Amin said. "We should have awaited the outcome of the Sussex Council meeting. Upon reflection, we now understand why you and the community leaders are upset."
Northrup said he believes the decision was driven by money.
"It was about $60,000 a day for these seismic trucks and all the companies to do the work," Northrup said.
He said the company could face a fine of between $100 and $100,000, but that would be up to a judge to decide if it gets that far.
The RCMP confirmed it has received the province's complaint but declined further comment.
Amin declined comment.
Sussex is located in an area of the province where shale gas exploration is occurring.
Northrup said all companies exploring for or developing oil and natural gas reserves in New Brunswick must observe the law.
"The rules we have in place and those now being developed to strengthen our regulatory framework are intended to protect our people and our environment, and must be respected," he said.