Shale gas tests, protests suspended until September
Opponents of shale gas exploration are taking a break from protesting in New Brunswick’s Kent County, but say it doesn’t mean they are giving up.
Shale gas developer SWN Resources has been conducting seismic testing in the area since early June but is suspending operations until September.
Anti-shale gas protesters have remained at the site since the testing began, prompting some arrests and a strong police presence.
John Levi, a vocal opponent against shale gas testing, says an agreement was reached with police and SWN Resources to halt exploration until September.
He also says charges against 25 of the 35 people arrested have been dropped, but that the opposition is just getting started.
“When the drilling comes, of course, it is going to be more aggressive,” says Levi. “We can’t allow the actual drilling to go on.”
The 45-year-old Elsipogtog First Nations warrior chief was charged with mischief and obstructing a police officer after being arrested during a shale gas protest on June 21.
He pleaded not guilty and was released on the condition that he not go within 100 metres of any seismic testing equipment, SWN employees or any sub-contractors hired by the company.
His case has been held over until January.
The New Brunswick RCMP emailed the following statement Wednesday:
“As with any investigation, not all arrests lead to charges. In cases where charges have been laid, those will proceed through the court system. In other cases, charges have not been laid. We continue to investigate a number of incidents that have taken place in the area over the past several weeks.”
Kent County resident Dallas McQuarrie says he prefers to live with as few chemicals as possible and is opposed to the chemicals used in shale gas fracking. He has a few ideas for government to consider.
“One is just the moratorium on shale gas development and two is the provincial government recognizing the inherent land rights of the aboriginal people,” says McQuarrie.
Brad Walters, a professor of environmental studies at Mount Allison University, says government should take a hint on the issue.
“Quite devastating for the Alward government, all of this stuff, because it is really impacting the rural communities the most in the region,” says Walters.
The Alward government says its regulations are some of the toughest in the country and economists and business leaders say jobs and royalties could mean an economic boom in the region.
But McQuarrie fears the cons outweigh the pros when it comes to shale gas development and hopes it’s not too late to stop it.
“If the provincial government cares to put in a moratorium now, that would be a grand thing, and if they do not, then perhaps the next government will.”
SWN Resources did not respond to requests for comment.
With files from CTV Atlantic's David Bell