A prominent author and professor is weighing in on New Brunswick’s shale gas debate, saying the province desperately needs the economic benefits it will bring.

Donald Savoie’s comments come as opponents step up efforts to stop shale gas exploration, mainly over concerns about what it could do to drinking water.

Protesters returned to Route 126 near Moncton on Friday, two days after three demonstrators were arrested at the site.

Susan Levi-Peters of the Elsipogtog First Nation says it’s a matter of not being consulted about shale gas exploration in a meaningful way.

“So far they have not because we have been asking for talks, and legally they should have been sitting down and talking with us,” she says.

Maxime Daigle owns a property close to where the seismic testing is headed. Daigle says the government does not have a social licence to issue exploration permits.

“They do not have consent. First Nations have inherent rights to this land and what government is doing is maliciously intended.”

Ronald Babin, an environmental sociology professor at University de Moncton, says the public is growing increasingly concerned about the issue.

“People are concerned about these developments and the impact that it will have on their environment and on their quality of life,” says Babin.

But Savoie says New Brunswick residents will lose out if they don’t consider the economic benefits of shale gas.

“We will say ‘no’ to shale gas, but by the same token, we will cut our standard of living by 25 per cent,” says Savoie. “That is the only way you can say no and be consistent.”

Dr. Leo Picard, a doctor at the George Dumont Hospital in Moncton, says the medical community has serious concerns about fracking and he had hoped to see more attention paid to a report by the province’s chief medical officer.

“Definitely most of the doctors, they are behind Dr. Cleary’s report,” says Picard. “There is no doubt about it. The government should have paid better attention to Dr. Cleary’s report, but they didn’t.”

Last month, the Alward government issues its shale gas blueprint, saying the province’s regulations were among the toughest in North America.

With files from CTV Atlantic's David Bell