Clarify shale gas rules, say petroleum producers

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is calling on the New Brunswick government to clarify its regulations for the shale gas industry.

The comments come just days after two shale gas companies in New Brunswick announced they were shutting down.

Terry Smith, a co-owner of the businesses, said this week the ongoing protests in the province from shale gas opponents were partly to blame on the decision to shut down.

He also said the provincial government is setting the bar too high for companies working in the industry.

But Angie Leonard, the association's senior advisor for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, said the real problem is knowing where the bar is set at all.

Companies need to know exactly what is being asked of them, she said.

“They've asked for specific reports for when a well is being drilled, or when a well is being fractured," she said.

"But there's no clarification as to who has to provide the report, the timing in which the report has to be submitted, the details that are required in the report."

Leonard said rhetoric in the Liberal leadership race is also causing uncertainty in the New Brunswick shale gas industry.

All three candidates have spoken in favour of a shale gas moratorium and Michael Murphy has also called for a public inquiry into the industry. Some members of Hampton Water First, a group opposed to shale gas development, have sent emails to other opponents urging them to join the Liberals to vote for Murphy.

“Uncertainty is something that makes it hard for businesses to commit to a jurisdiction," said Leonard.

"And when you have leaders in the opposition party that are not looking favourably on an industry and are being very vocal in their comments, it just feeds into that uncertainty.”

Companies are still interested in exploring shale gas in New Brunswick, but they will be hesitant to proceed until the regulations are finalized, Leonard said.

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup and Environment and Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch proposed 116 different reforms in April.

The changes, if implemented, would ensure more money flows into the provincial coffers and also provide money to property owners and communities where mining activity is taking place.

The proposed changes would also set out strict rules on protecting the environment and natural gas companies would also be hit with higher fines if they break the rules.

Citizens had until Sept. 18 to file any thoughts on the regulatory proposals.

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