Shale gas opponents say revival would spark stiff pushback

·3 min read
Anti-shale gas protesters gathered along Highway 11 near Rexton during protests in 2013. (Jennifer Choi/CBC - image credit)
Anti-shale gas protesters gathered along Highway 11 near Rexton during protests in 2013. (Jennifer Choi/CBC - image credit)

Members of  the anti-fracking movement say talk by Premier Blaine Higgs of exploring shale gas could trigger protests similar to those that happened near Rexton in 2013.

Higgs has been suggesting for weeks that Europe's need for new supplies of natural gas to replace what it purchased from Russia could create opportunities for shale gas extraction in New Brunswick.

"We could be shipping liquefied natural gas, which is much cleaner than oil," he said at the legislature last week.

Those on the front lines of shale gas opposition nine years ago, when confrontations broke out between police and protesters, say resistance remains strong.

The demonstration turned violent when RCMP officers moved in to enforce an injunction against a blockade, resulting in 40 arrests and five vehicles cars burned.

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

Jim Emberger, spokesperson for the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance, said public opposition has only grown since the province last explored fracking.

"If it comes down to there being a discussion about it, there's a lot more ammunition on our side than there was then."

"I think a lot of people in the fossil fuel industry view this as one of their last big chances to make some money before we have to get off of fossil fuels," he said.

'We haven't forgotten'

Lorraine Claire was part of the anti-fracking demonstrations near Elsipogtog First Nation and said the same group is ready to take action if the discussions turn into actual plans.

"We don't want it here. They think that the time has passed and people have forgotten, but no, we haven't forgotten," she said.

Submitted/Lorraine Clair
Submitted/Lorraine Clair

Claire said while the original protesters remain active, the younger generation in Elsipogtog is also passionate about protecting the environment and staunchly opposed to shale gas.

"There's not going to be a simple sit down and talk about it, let's do this again. There's going to be a battle on the table, there will be a battle on the streets if there needs to be," she said.

Conditions for shale gas

Higgs acknowledged last week the issue is complex, telling reporters he doesn't want to relive the protests near Rexton in 2013.

"So we would need to work with communities, First Nations and have a general understanding that, 'Can we be of assistance here to ourselves and others?'" he said on June 13.

The war in Ukraine has spiked global prices and demand, but experts warn uncertainty in the global market could make an investment risky without a long-term agreement.

The Liberal government under Brian Gallant imposed a moratorium on shale gas after the 2014 election.

It legislated five conditions that must be met for development to be allowed again, including consultation with Indigenous communities, social license from New Brunswickers and a plan for proper wastewater disposal.

It also requires clear information on potential impacts on air, public health and water so proper regulations can be set in place.

Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn Inc., which represents Mi'kmaq chiefs, told CBC News earlier this month that the organization has not been contacted recently by the Higgs government to discuss shale gas exploration.

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