Thursday, 23 June 2011

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup: "Not Going to Crawl up in Hole and Go Away"

By Cheryl Norrad

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup talks with media about issues being discussed today at the provincial forum on shale gas in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

At the provincial forum on shale gas exploration in Fredericton today, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup reiterated the government's position on being open to hearing concerns from stakeholders around the province, while outside the venue protesters passionately voiced their opposition to the industry making a home in New Brunswick.

"We want to be up front about hearing concerns...as we have done with our open houses and will continue with our open houses...we are not going to crawl up in a hole and go away," he said.

The forum today wasn't open to the general public, Northrup said, because the officials wanted to meet with specific groups on the issue as part of the government steering committee process.

"It was a day of dialogue, but there is discussion of having a forum in the future with the people," he said.

The government also announced today new guidelines it put in place to oversee the shale gas industry in the province to tighten up existing legislation, namely, full disclosure of chemical fluids companies use in the fracking process, something the public has been asking for.

"We thought today was a good time to do it [make announcement] because all the stakeholders are here," he said. Northrup added, "This isn't the last of the enforcement laws, but we want to make it clear we are on top of it as a government."

Northrup also mentioned government is putting a bond in place the industry will have to abide by to be accountable for their operations while in the province.

"A bond has to be in place or they won't operate here," he said.

But when questioned on banks in the United States refusing to bond or insure shale gas companies operating in states there, Northrup didn't answer. He repeated the industry must abide by the bond in this province or they won't operate.

Royalties to landowners who allow shale gas operations on their land is also something the government is considering said Northrup.

"Along with provincial royalties, there can be royalties to landowners, too, who go along with the process, but they have a right to refuse...no means no," he said.

When Northrup was asked why the government has flatly refused a moratorium on shale gas fracking in New Brunswick, he said things are progressing slowly enough to have time to put legislation in place.

"We're not putting in a moritorium because there is time to do it right...only a few wells have been active this year so far," he said.

When asked about his trip with Enviornment Minister Blaney outside the forum to speak to protesters, Northrup was congenial.

"Communication is what it's all about..there's a lot of emotion...but we plan to continue with our open-door policy."

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