Letters to the Editor

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Poll Closed. Could a referendum on shale gas be this easy?

It's official. Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup's claim of his door always being open is just a PR thing say the people of the poll. The yea's have it, 43 to 13 or 76% to 23%, out of 56 persons who voted. Thank you for taking the time to do so.

Since this poll was easily done, this publication would like to offer it's services to the Alward government to carry out a referendum on shale gas in New Brunswick. There would be a small fee of course, but we feel it would be cost effective for the taxpayers of the province.

Monday, 29 August 2011

No seismic inspectors, but DNR advertising for petroleum operations technologist

While perusing the NB government job website today, we came across the following advertised in the 'open competitions' section. (An 'open competition' means government is recruiting from outside the civil service).

Department of Natural Resources
Petroleum Operations Technologist
Engineering Technician IV
Open Competition

The Department of Natural Resources, Minerals and Petroleum Development Branch, Fredericton, is seeking an individual to fill the role of a Petroleum Operations Technologist.

Reporting to the Manager, Resource Development, the incumbent will be accountable for technical issues relating to approvals for petroleum exploration, development and production. Responsibilities will include reviewing applications from industry clients for well drilling and completions, ensuring regulatory compliance by monitoring daily operations as well as ensuring operators submit reports in accordance with legislation, conducting field inspections to ensure operations are being carried out as authorized in the approval, reviewing abandonment programs, development plans and geophysical exploration applications; chairing and coordinating meetings with industry clients and/or government agencies and liaising with other government agencies as required for joint reviews.

ESSENTIAL QUALIFICATIONS: High school graduation supplemented by a recognized technology program diploma, and a minimum of six (6) years related work experience. Membership or eligibility for membership in the New Brunswick Society of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists is required. The successful candidate will demonstrate a high degree of technical knowledge of the petroleum industry, i.e. all phases of drilling, including testing, completions, production and abandonment, as well as geophysical exploration in order to ensure compliance with legislated requirements for best management practices. A good understanding of environmental legislation and practices should also be demonstrated.

Written and spoken competence in English is required.  Please state your language capability on your application.

Applicants must clearly demonstrate the essential qualifications to be given further consideration. Please ensure that preferred language for assessment is identified on your resume.

ASSET QUALIFICATIONS: Preference may be given to candidates that demonstrate certification in First Line Blowout Prevention, WHMIS, First Aid. Subject to the response to this competition, candidates may be required to demonstrate on their application one or more of the asset qualifications in addition to the essential qualifications in order to be given further consideration.

OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS: Must be prepared to:  travel regularly to work sites; carry out physically demanding activities including walking to exploration or drill sites on all types of terrain and climbing onto drill rigs; work outside in extreme weather conditions; be exposed to dust and noise; wear required protective equipment during field work situations.

BEHAVIOURAL COMPETENCIES: The successful candidate will possess the following behavioural competencies: Client Service Orientation, Concern for Order, and Effective Interactive Communication.
Salary:  $41,314 to $51,896 per annum

Note:  In the event that this competition poses difficulties in recruiting a qualified candidate, a covering off appointment at a lower level may be made. In that case, candidates with less than the required related years of experience may also be considered.

We encourage applicants to apply on-line at https://www.ere.gnb.ca, by e-mail at brenda.m.nicholson@gnb.caor by mail at the following address by September 13, 2011 indicating competition number NR-11-15.
Department of Natural Resource
Human Resource Services
Hugh John Flemming Forestry Centre
1350 Regent Street
Fredericton, NB  E3C 2G6
Telephone:  (506) 453-6608

This competition may be used to fill future vacancies.  We are an Equal Opportunity Employer and we promote a scent-reduced environment.

We thank all those who apply however only those selected for further consideration will be contacted.

No inspectors overseeing SWN? Nobody's talking.

The Purple Violet Press has been making various inquiries over the past few months to determine whether government inspectors were ever appointed to oversee SWN seismic testing crews. (Although SWN plans to suspend operations in a few days, we thought it still relevant since crews will be active until early September).

On June 29 at a SWN open house in Durham Bridge, local officials met with SWN and government members, in a private briefing before the open house began, to discuss upcoming seismic work in the area.

This publication learned that during the meeting, MLA Kirk MacDonald pushed DNR Deputy Minister Sam MacEwan to provide inspectors on-site to oversee the work of seismic crews. Locals were worried about the scheduled exploration work and had made their concerns about well issues known to MacDonald.

It's understood from a source present at the meeting, MacEwan agreed there would be government inspectors with the seismic trucks at all times to ensure the 200 meter set back from wells was respected.

However, there has been no answer on whether any inspectors were ever followed up on by MacDonald or put in place by DNR.

The Purple Violet Press contacted Ann Bullmonteith, spokesperson for DNR, for comment on the matter. However, none was forthcoming. We also contacted Sam MacEwan, however, he simply referred us back to Ann Bullmonteith.

Mr MacDonald's office was also contacted, but curiously, after being so open with the press in discussing the shale gas issue, MacDonald has not only shut his door to us, but other media inquiries as well, including those of the CBC's Jacques Poitras, who called MacDonald's refusal, "wierd". MacDonald's press liason, Heidi Cyr, told us to contact the DNR spokesperson on the matter, Bruce Northrup.

SWN General Manager Tom Alexander was also contacted this afternoon for comment on SWN being overseen by government inspectors. But, Alexander had no comment, saying it was something we would have to approach DNR about.

Locals in the Stanley, Taymouth, Penniac and Durham Bridge areas told this publication they saw no government inspectors while seismic crews were in their communities. There were rumors of inspectors, but nothing was confirmed.

Members of the Taymouth Community Association, Jim Emberger and Peter DeMarsh, were also contacted by this publication for comment. Neither were aware of any inspectors accompanying SWN seismic workers in their communities.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Former Liberal MP Andy Scott at Centennial Building

Although he has no position on the shale gas debate, former Liberal MP Andy Scott was at the Centennial Building yesterday for meetings with government staff representing the NB Social Policy Research Network, a non-government, non-corporate group that provides independent information to various stakeholders.

- We apologize for the sound quality at the beginning of the video. Windy conditions yesterday affected camera audio. - ED.

Ad about shale gas moratorium in Quebec

If shale gas proponents think New Brunswickers are emotional about the issue, this dramatic video showing burning water and prominent Quebecois artists calling for a moratorium (which the Quebec Liberal government enacted), ought to really have them shaking their heads.

Protester reaction to Energy Minister Craig Leonard

Energy Minister Craig Leonard stoic in the face of protester challenge

Blogger Charles LeBlanc schmoozes with billionaire industrialist James Irving

Thursday, 25 August 2011

And the beat goes on...week three of anti-shale gas protest outside Centennial Building in Fredericton

An estimated 70 anti-shale gas protesters were outside the Centennial Building in Fredericton today for what has become a weekly Thursday protest. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

A poster of Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney was circulated outside the Centennial Building today during an anti-shale gas protest in the capital. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Oliver Gilbert, right, and sister Clara from Durham Bridge were at the anti-shale gas protest in Fredericton today. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside arrived at the Centennial Building for a meeting and got caught up in the anti-shale gas protest on his way in. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Energy Minister Craig Leonard has a laugh with local blogger Charles LeBlanc today at the anti-shale gas protest in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Fracked out!  Oliver Gilbert takes a mid-day nap after scampering around the Centennial Building front lawn all morning during the anti-shale gas protest. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Superheroes came out to the Centennial Building to support the anti-shale gas protest in Fredericton. Alexander Dube, left, Laura Turnbull, second from left, Faith Dube, center, and Nicci Blewett, right, showed where they stood on the issue. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Creative homemade posters dotted the sea of anti-shale gas placards during the protest at the Centennial Building in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

The Premier's parking spot was empty behind the Centennial Building while anti-shale gas protests were going on out front. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Another poster being circulated by anti-shale gas protesters at the Centennial Building in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Former Liberal MP Andy Scott arrived at the Centennial Building for meetings, representing the NB Social Policy Research Network, a non-government, non-corporate organization that provides information on a wide variety of issues from experts, including those studying the environment. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Some protesters suspected the person above of being an RCMP plainclothes officer taking pictures of protesters for future use. Perhaps, given the rancour lately between SWN and protesters, the RCMP may feel it has to take steps to identify troublemakers to keep order. Others scoffed at the idea the man could be RCMP, until he was seen again on the rooftop of a nearby parking garage in different clothes continuing to take pictures. (Photo: Julia Linke)

Energy Minister Craig Leonard earns his paycheck in the middle of a group of upset anti-shale gas protesters at the Centennial Building in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Protester addresses damage and assault accusations

Blaney apologizes for remarks about Conservation Council

Energy Minister has no comment on Blaney's remarks about CCNB

Mr Irving on shale gas in NB

Scion of the wealthy Irving industrialist family in New Brunswick, James Irving, was quietly walking along the street in Fredericton today when happened upon by The Purple Violet Press. We asked him his opinion on shale gas in New Brunswick.

Conservation Council Responds to Blaney

Stephanie Merrill of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick responds today to comments made by Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney yesterday, accusing CCNB of inciting protesters against the shale gas industry in New Brunswick.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Blaney has no comment on remarks about Conservation Council

- video courtesy of Charles LeBlanc

Blaney blames Conservation Council

With the ramping up of protester action, and the mainstream media finally onboard, the shale gas war in New Brunswick is heating up. Marking the official beginning of the PR battle for the hearts and minds of New Brunswickers on the shale gas issue, Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney fired the first salvo across the bow of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick today, blaming it for inciting opposition to the industry in the province. See the link below for the story.

Geokinetics upset with damage, assaults and media

Mark Anderson, operations supervisor overseeing Geokinetics work in the province, spoke to The Purple Violet Press via telephone from his office in Calgary today, about reports of equipment damage and physical assaults on the company's seismic testing staff in New Brunswick.

"There has been a lot of damage to equipment and assaults on people," he said.

Anderson went on to say one theft complaint was filed by Geokinetics, (resulting in the arrest of Simon Nash from Durham last week with a subsequent court appearance Monday), and two assault complaints have been filed, which have yet to reach court. 

RCMP media relations officer, Cpl Yann Audoux said today he had no information on the matter in his office because nothing has been forwarded. He added it's not RCMP policy to comment on whether an investigation is taking place until charges are laid. If and when charges come about, the media relations office is notified and a statement is released at that time.

"I have nothing on that...we cannot confirm or deny whether any investigations are taking place; it's policy. But if there are charges, a statement will be on our website," he said.

Describing the assaults in an angry tone, Anderson said Geokinetics staff have put up with a variety of physical violence including, "...people spitting at them, having beer bottles thrown at them, and one was punched in the face," he said.

He also said most of these employees enduring this treatment are New Brunswick residents just trying to do their jobs.

"They don't deserve it. They are just young guys from there trying to make a living," he said.

Anderson said he was reluctant to talk to our publication because of the negative media coverage towards Geokinetics and SWN in the province.

"I've seen some things sent to me from down there and find it biased and unfair coverage," he said.

He added no other media from the province has contacted him on the issue nor does he have a desire to speak to them.

"I've just about had it," he said.

Shale gas commercial appearing on CNN lately

Information Morning shale gas reports yesterday

Respected economic consultant blogs on dilemma posed by shale gas between economy and environment

David Campbell discusses the yin and yang of development vs. environment today in a post on his blog, It's the Economy, Stupid. Click on the link:  http://davidwcampbell.com/

CBC's Poitras and McHardie mull over latest on shale gas in Spin Reduxit podcast

NB Media Co-op - Chipman Meeting Cancelled

via Twitter:

The panel on shale gas in Chipman scheduled for August 28th has just been cancelled by the MLA because he was "having trouble getting all the stakeholders to the table."  Ross Wetmore says he will still be having a public engagement meeting for his riding but will not be dealing with hydro-fracking, but other riding issues. He wants to reschedule it for the fall.  

PR Campaign Coming...

The CBC's Susan King reports on the shale gas issue yesterday, and at the end of her report is the mention of SWN launching a major PR campaign in the coming months. As well, the Alward government plans to put more information out on regulations. See the links below.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Minister Northrup said not many wells next few years, SWN CEO said otherwise

On the shale gas battlefront this summer, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup stated to various media only a few wells would be fracked in the next few years, in keeping with the timeline for shale gas work in the province.

However, The Purple Violet Press has obtained a copy of the minutes from SWN's second quarter earnings teleconference with investors on July 29, 2011, which stated something else.

The following is quoted from the minutes where SWN CEO Steve Meuller discusses future fracking in NB with investors:

"Switching to new ventures...there will be several wells ultimately in New Brunswick to figure out if that play works...What you're going to see starting next year as a ramp up where we're probably doing between 10 and 20 wells a year on new ventures..."

We wondered if the Minister is aware of this information.

We have contacted Natural Resources for comment. We await their reply.

You can read the meeting minutes here:  http://www.swn.com/investors/Press_Releases/2011/2011-07-29.pdf

A short while after contacting DNR, we received the following clarification from SWN General Manager, Tom Alexander:

"You have a piece concerning a statement from our CEO that you have interpreted to mean we might drill 10 to 15 wells in New Brunswick next year. Your interpretation is incorrect. The statement clearly says there may be that many wells in New Ventures. New Ventures is the division within Southwestern Energy that looks for new resource plays throughout the US and world. The Minister of Natural Resources will not have knowledge of SWN's New Ventures group's planned activities in other parts of the world."

So, we asked Alexander if he was speaking on behalf of both SWN and DNR.  His reply:

"I do not speak for DNR."

By the end of work day, we still hadn't received a reply from DNR communications.

UPDATE:  Alexander is correct. Up to a point. In reviewing the minutes again, we found New Ventures as a name is mentioned once in the middle of a paragraph, but at all other times is typed 'new ventures'. Nowhere in the minutes is there a specific reference to New Ventures being a division of SWN. - ED.

The Ballad of Bruce Northrup: The Door Is Always Open, by Dave & Sugar

Take the PVP Poll: Is Northrup's door really always open?

Yesterday, this publication asked for a statement from Natural Resources in reaction to shale gas company SWN's claim of physical assaults on some staff. We heard from all others we contacted, but DNR refused to answer our inquiries via e-mail and telephone. We simply wanted to know when the Minister knew about the physical assaults. But, the department's communications advisors, Ann Bullmonteith and Steve Benteau, didn't deign to professionally acknowledge us. A "No comment at this time" would've sufficed. But stone silence prevailed. Since the Minister claims his door is always open, we wonder if that's true or just lip service. You decide. Take the poll at the right.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Headed to Natural Resources for Comment

This publication received a reply from everyone it contacted today on the story involving SWN's claim of physical assaults on some staff. Everyone, that is, except the Department of Natural Resources. The department's communications team of Anne Bullmonteith and Steve Benteau have often snubbed this publication's requests for statements and information. So we went to their offices at the Forestry Complex in Fredericton. Once again we were snubbed. Why does the Natural Resources department not want to speak to the alternative media in New Brunswick? The optics on the situation aren't good. It forces us to ask, what does the department have to hide?

Waiting to Speak to Natural Resources Communications

No Comment from Natural Resources

Arrest made in latest shale gas dispute

Simon Nash from Durham Bridge has been arrested and expected to be charged with theft. Arraignment likely to be at 1:30 pm. Details to follow. Link below to CBC website story:


UPDATE:  Nash was arraigned in a Fredericton courtroom today by Judge Mary Jane Richards on charges of breach of an undertaking and theft over $5,000. He was released on an undertaking to keep the peace and be of good behaviour and to abstain from alcohol. Proceedings were set over until September 7 for a trial date.

RCMP Press Release:

On August 18, 2011, at approximately 5:50 pm, members of the District 2 RCMP executed a traffic stop on English Settlement Road in Taymouth, NB.
A search of the vehicle resulted in the seizure of seismic testing equipment. 52 year old Simon Juan Nash, of Durham Bridge, was arrested and later released. 
A short time later, RCMP pulled over the same vehicle for a traffic violation. Simon Nash, a passenger in the vehicle, was found to be in violation of court ordered conditions and he was re-arrested. 
Nash appeared in Fredericton provincial court on August 19 and was charged with theft in excess of $5000 and breach of a court undertaking. He was remanded into custody and appeared in court on August 22, 2011  for a bail hearing.  He has been released on several conditions and will appear in court next on September 7, 2011 at 9:30 am.
The investigation is ongoing.

Minister Bruce Northrup on CBC Information Morning

Below is a link to this morning's CBC Information Morning podcast in which CBC provincial affairs reporter, Jacques Poitras, interviewed Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup.  (Yes, we actually give reporters credit for their work on our site).

Anti-Shale Gas Protesters Assault SWN Staff?

In a Fredericton newspaper publication over the weekend, SWN General Manager Tom Alexander claimed physical assaults had taken place on some of SWN's staff. 

This is the first we've heard about physical assaults taking place at any time in the shale gas battle in New Brunswick. Since we've been focusing on this story solely for the past several months, we thought we would've heard about this. But Alexander's mention of it on the weekend is a new revelation to us.

The only thing we're aware of that approaches what Alexander is talking about was the intimidation by First Nations in Durham during a SWN open house in June. The Natives were in Alexander's face vehemently demanding he and his staff leave, but nothing physical took place.

We  have questions in to some people on the different sides of the shale gas movement about this claim of SWN staff being physically assaulted. We will let you know the answers as soon as we do.

UPDATE: We just received comment from SWN General Manager Tom Alexander on this issue. Here is what he said verbatim:
"Over the course of the past several weeks there have been numerous events of physical and verbal assaults and there were threats of continued violence and ongoing vandalism. We take the safety of our crews, personnel and equipment very seriously and therefore we decided to suspend our 2011 seismic operations. I cannot discuss any of the events further as there are ongoing investigations but we will pursue every legal remedy possible as this type of activity is unacceptable."

UPDATE: RCMP Media Relations officer Cpl Yann Audoux stated the following to our inquiry about physical assaults on some SWN staff:
"It's not our policy to confirm or deny whether any investigations are taking place...but if any charges do come about, we will comment then."

UPDATE:  Steve Benteau, Communications Officer, Deptartment of Natural Resources was emailed this morning for comment from the Minister's office on when Northrup found out about physical assaults. No response from Benteau. Benteau was also called by this publication at 12:57, but we could only leave a message on voicemail. We have so far received no response.

UPDATE: Judie Acquin-Miksovsky, local First Nations anti-shale gas protester, on Native awareness of physical assaults on some SWN employees:
"This is the first I've heard of this as well. As a member of Saint Mary's First Nation...we went into the blockade in a peaceful manner. We told them [SWN workers, RCMP] we DID NOT go there to do any damage to the vehicles or workers, and we didn't. There is absolutely no report of damage to workers or equipment during the blockade because there was none. Not one time was there any direct physical exchange of any kind to anyone on Route 625."

UPDATE:  Jim Emberger of the Taymouth Community Association responds:
"It [physical assaults] was news to us too, as was most of what he [Tom Alexander] said. If each of his statements wasn't a lie, it was a gross misrepresentation."

UPDATE:  Stephanie Merrill from The Conservation Council of New Brunswick responds:
"I have not heard anything either. Interesting."

UPDATE: Protester, speaker and former industry worker Maxime Daigle weighs in:
"I haven't heard anything...and if it did happen, I don't think it was when we were there [Stanley blockade] as the RCMP would've arrested someone right then and there; it would've been a tool to break off the blockade.  It [claims of physical assaults] could be a PR stunt to show people that are not familiar with the subject...an overall picture of the protesters...that they are just a bunch of crazies. The real fight is going to begin, that is PR, and hopefully people realize this isn't something they can handle with ease and a little protesting."

UPDATE: Front line protester and member of an anti-shale gas movement action team, John Moir: 
"All of our protests were peaceful. As far as our action teams (in my area) [Durham Bridge/Stanley/Taymouth] there were no reports of physical assaults. We would be the first to know as we are the 'action' team. And by 'action' I mean protection and front line. Not the people who vandalized, if they really did...I'm not sure what happened in Cumberland Bay. I did receive reports that it was very heated, but no reports of physical assaults."

UPDATE: Administrators of Ban Fracking NB website post statement on Facebook page:
"BanFrackingNB DOES NOT support resorting to vandalism, violence or theft. The media will try to paint us all as criminals now, and we will lose support from a lot of people."

Saturday, 20 August 2011

August 20 - September 3: White House sit-in against tar sands pipeline, one of the biggest sit-ins in history

- Excerpt from the Globe and Mail, Saturday, August 20

"Dozens of protesters were arrested Saturday as they participated in a protest outside the White House aimed at pressuring President Barack Obama to put the brakes to TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

They're staging the protest as the U.S. State Department is poised to release its final environmental assessment of TransCanada's $7-billion project. That report is expected within days, and Mr. Obama will then have 90 days to decide whether granting the Calgary-based oil giant a pipeline permit is in the U.S. national interest.

Keystone XL will carry millions of barrels of oilsands crude a week from northern Alberta through the American heartland to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

Environmentalists say the Keystone XL has the potential to wreak havoc on America's agricultural heartland and point to recent large-scale pipeline oil spills. Proponents of the pipeline, including most congressional Republicans, consider the project a major job creator that will help end American reliance on Middle East oil.

The U.S. State Department is tasked with making a decision on the pipeline because it crosses and international border. In recent talks in Washington between Hilary Clinton and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, the secretary of state was exceedingly cautious when discussing the pipeline, says a source familiar with the discussion..."

Friday, 19 August 2011

Conflicting reports, questions on the decision to suspend shale gas exploration in NB

This publication finds it strange the government made the announcement to suspend shale gas exploration in NB until a later date after hearing recent comments.

Just yesterday, business consultant David Campbell told us in an interview two credible sources of his own told him the Alward government would likely back down on having shale gas in New Brunswick. Yet a short time later, Campbell got an e-mail saying the government had no plans to do so.

Also yesterday, Premier David Alward told protesters outside the Centennial Building shale gas would continue to move forward, and Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup has been resolute in his comments throughout the battle over shale gas in NB that it would continue to go on.

The only party not to comment on the future of shale gas in NB was SWN Resources, the company actually doing the seismic testing. It was Northrup who spoke to the media today about the company's suspension of exploration, leading us to believe the company made the decision unilaterally, letting the government tell the public for them.

But then again, a SWN employee told us during the Stanley blockade SWN would be doing seismic testing into early September anyway. Based on this, even with the suspension, the timeline for seismic work seems to follow the original plan.

So we ask, does the government know what it's doing? Some seem to be on message about shale gas going ahead, others say it will back down. We further ask, is SWN simply trying to let the government down easy by saying they will continue work at a later date, since officials seem so bent on keeping shale gas in the province? Perhaps SWN is like the proverbial boyfriend trying to slowly break up with a girlfriend in hopes of easing the pain of separation. We wonder if there is a mechanism in place in the agreement with SWN that makes provision for compensation to the province if they back out. Is that why SWN is climbing down slowly? To avoid a payout? Or, are SWN and government both trying to save face by telling the public things have stopped for now, but will continue at a later date? Finally we ask, could the people have actually won this one?

Shale gas exploration will be suspended by SWN next few weeks - NB Media Coop

SWN suspending seismic testing in NB next few weeks - CBC

Pics from Taymouth protest yesterday

Many thanks to readers who sent us these pictures of protesters in Taymouth yesterday. Since we couldn't attend, we are grateful for the submitted photos.

SWN leaves Taymouth due to protest and damaged equipment

- courtesy Taymouth Community Association Facebook site August 18

About 60 residents of Taymouth and surrounding communities held a peaceful shale gas protest rally on English Settlement Road this morning. They met at the Taymouth Community Centre and drove out to the first seismic testing point on English Settlement Road, where 4 vibe/thumper trucks had just arrived to begin testing. The seismic trucks were accompanied by other vehicles, including those of security personnel. Several RCMP vehicles were present to keep the peace.

Residents asked about the government inspector and were told he had accompanied the seismic trucks the 2 previous days but had not appeared today.

Residents displayed their protest signs, talked with each other and with the RCMP and seismic crew. There was an unsuccessful attempt to present the Taymouth petition, to stop shale gas exploration in the Nashwaak Valley, to Operations Manager Mike Rhodes, but he was continuously on the phone.

CBC, Radio Canada and Global News interviewed residents about their concerns about the major risk to the environment and peoples’ wellbeing associated with shale gas development.

Finally Mike Rhodes approached the press to make a statement. He said the seismic work would not occur today as some geophones had been pulled up and some geophone wiring had been damaged. The seismic trucks would drive back to their starting point on the Highway 8 Bypass at its junction with Zionville Road.
As the trucks drove off residents chanted, "Don't come back!". They then followed the trucks in a long procession of cars, out of the community and back to the Highway 8 Bypass.

Shortly thereafter company personnel removed geophone equipment from Zionville  Road.
It is thought that seismic testing will occur tomorrow on English Settlement Road. Residents from Stanley and surrounding communities, including Taymouth, plan to demonstrate again Friday, beginning at 2 p.m. The location will be wherever the seismic trucks are located at that time.
Note: It turns out that the government inspector was on his way to the test site today when he got a call from SWN reporting the damage to the geophones and the likelihood that  siesmic tsting would not proceed. The inspector turned around and went back to Fredericton.

Shots of thumper trucks leaving Taymouth yesterday at public insistence

Many thanks to readers who sent us pictures of SWN seismic vibrator trucks leaving the Taymouth area yesterday, escorted by RCMP, after objections by the local populace. Since we couldn't attend, we are grateful for the submitted photos.

PVP Interview with Prominent NB Business Consultant on Shale Gas and the Economy

David Campbell is one of Atlantic Canada's leading economic development consultants.Campbell authors a daily online blog called, It's the Economy, Stupid, writes a weekly economic column at a provincial newspaper and is also a published author. He is a frequent commentator on radio and TV and guest lectures at several Maritime universities. Campbell holds a Certificate in Economic Development from the University of Waterloo in Ontario and a Masters in Business Administration from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He currently holds the position of President at Jupia Consultants Inc. in Moncton, New Brunswick.

We have been wanting to interview Mr. Campbell for a while with his take on the shale gas issue in New Brunswick. We were able to do so this week.

As a New Brunswick business consultant focusing on the New Brunswick economy, what do you think are some specific benefits for the province, and its people, if the shale gas industry makes a home here?
Thank you for the opportunity to join the conversation on this subject.   I have been studying economic development for more than 20 years and have been focused on finding ways to help New Brunswick build a sustainable economic future.  It has been a hard slog – in fact we are heading in the wrong direction.  There haven’t been net new jobs created in the private sector in this province for almost five years.  Many of our biggest industries – forestry, the call centre industry, even fish – are either stagnant or in slow decline.  We need new growth sectors for the economy.

Every ‘Have’ province in Canada – Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Newfoundland has a substantial stream of oil and gas royalty revenues.  Even Ontario slipped into have not status in the past couple of years.  The Canadian economy – for better or worse – relies on its natural resources more than most other countries (a lot like Australia).  Hopefully we are smart enough as a country to use the dividends from non-renewable natural resources to build economic strengths elsewhere.

I raise this because I believe New Brunswick’s heavy reliance on federal transfer payments has contributed to our economic malaise which has led to net out-migration every single year except one since 1994 and net out-migration of young people steadily for generations.

The oil and gas industry –unlike most – could provide a substantial stream of royalty revenue to the government.  I don’t know how much – the government has talked about some very big numbers but suffice it to say that if the industry grows at a moderate pace here in should lead to tens of millions of dollars each year in royalty revenues and several thousand jobs.

Right now the industry is importing some of its workers and infrastructure and there is some what we call ‘leakage’ of the economic benefits.  We should work to rectify that by building expertise in our firms and turn out graduates from our universities and colleges.  But we are in the early stages here.  It is possible the industry may not get off the ground.

The other thing here is that most of the areas that are exploiting their indigenous sources of natural gas have lower cost gas for other industries.   One of the things that most supporters of green energy don’t talk about (or don’t know) is that green energy itself can be very energy intensive in the production of systems and the energy itself.  Biofuel production in the U.S. is a very natural gas intensive industry and these plants locate in areas that have low cost natural gas.  The manufacture of solar panels (the polycrystalline silicon) is very energy intensive and they locate in places with cheap energy.  Even the manufacture of wind energy systems uses a considerable amount of energy.  My point is that we should look to use our natural gas for further economic development here in New Brunswick.

The final thing I would say here is that there should be direct economic benefits from the shale gas industry flowing back to the communities where the industry is based.  The industry does cause disruption, noise pollution, trucks on the roads, etc.  We need to see money flowing back into communities.

If the shale gas industry doesn’t make a home here, can you forecast the implications for the province’s economy, given your economic expertise?
I am not a doom and gloom guy but there are some very dark clouds on our economic horizon.  In 1971, there were over three people under the age of 18 for every person over the age of 65 and now it is less than one-to-one. Most of this has happened because of a sustained outmigration of our youth and a lack of immigration compared the rest of Canada.   It is going to have profound implications for both rural and urban New Brunswick.   There are a lot of people who disconnect economic considerations from our community and social objectives.  They see the decline (70% of NB communities are losing population) – overall the population in 2011 is about the same as it was in 1997 – only a lot older – but they don’t connect it to their quality of life.

The shale gas industry is certainly not the full solution but it could be part of the solution generating revenue, jobs and eventually cheaper natural gas for use by residents and industries.

What other areas of investment would you like to see the government pursue to help pull it out of its economic quagmire?
I think there is considerable opportunity to position New Brunswick as a centre for ‘cloud computing’ which is just a fancy way of saying a storage centre for all the video, pictures, audio and other data people and companies are putting in the ‘cloud’ these days (storing on the Internet).  This is a huge opportunity around the world.  I also see some potential for us to foster more information technology-based business activity.  We now are one of the only places in North America with 100% broadband coverage around the province.  We should look for ways to develop virtual IT activity.  I think mining has more potential here too.

I am particularly interested in industries that benefit rural and Northern New Brunswick.  I think natural resources – forestry, mining, fishing and agriculture – are vital economic development opportunities outside the urban areas.  Many of the jobs we lost over the past decade were in the forestry, mining, manufacturing, etc.  Many of our neighbours had to leave the province to find jobs elsewhere. I think we can get at least some of these folks back if we can get develop more of our natural resource industries.

Research has shown investment in sustainable agriculture in New Brunswick could surpass profits from the shale gas industry and last indefinitely. Could you see NB going in a more sustainable direction? 
I haven’t seen this research – please send it along.  I am a big fan of agriculture but I think Canadians need to start to pay more for our food.  We spend well below average as a percentage of our household income on food compared to other countries and this drives the need to import cheap food and hurts local food production.  As the third world starts to build more domestic demand for its agricultural products, that should force us to produce more of our own.  I just don’t know how much it will contribute in terms of tax revenues to government.

Again I am not an expert here but I have been told that the average rural New Brunswicker is far more at risk from agricultural runoff than from another other kind of water contamination.  If we are going to ramp up far more agriculture, we have to do it in a way that doesn’t lead to these kinds of externalities.

You wrote in a recent blog posting the anti-shale gas lobby in New Brunswick is sometimes hysterical in its opposition to shale gas in using evidence of adverse effects on the environment, what are some specific examples that lead you to believe that? 
I don’t remember using the word ‘hysterical’ but I did say that I disapprove of people overstating the risks in order to scare people.  There is a sign in Rogersville that reads “Hello Shale Gas, Goodbye Miramichi Salmon”.  That is an outrageous statement as there is no case anywhere in the world where shale gas has led to the elimination of the fish out of a river system.  Not even alleged cases.    I realize the people who put up that sign (and the signs with faucets spewing fire) are taking creative liberties to emphasize their points but in my opinion at that point we are not having an honest debate.  Someone could say that without shale gas, we will have to cut off rural New Brunswick from public services.  Of course, that would be a gross exaggeration and everyone would think so.  But if someone on the other side says if the shale gas industry goes ahead we will lose the salmon in our rivers that should be considered a gross exaggeration as well but for many people they will actually believe it (or believe the risk is high).

It seems to me – and I am not an expert in public opinion – that there is a growing mistrust of government and that is a worrisome thing.  We need government now more than ever to take leadership and work with industry and communities on solutions to our biggest challenges but if they are always running scared – we will just muddle along.

But I wouldn’t overplay this issue as some have.  We don’t read enough of our own history and we lose the perspective that comes from it.  There were huge protests – vandalism – deep anger and resentment over the building of the Mactaquac dam and the dislocation of the people in the region.  The Lepreau nuclear power station faced similar anger and frustration.    Beyond that, the language reforms in New Brunswick just in the past 20 years or so really cause a lot of anger and frustration and led to the creation of a political party (CoR) as a manifestation of these frustrations.

When we are dealing with big, potentially controversial issues we need to – as citizens – take the time to look at them from all sides.  Sure the language changes caused discomfort to some and added costs to the system but it was the right thing to do.

Some people might say I am against grass roots political activism but that is not true.  The reality is that grass roots efforts play an important role in a healthy democratic society but we do have to be wary of special interests – on all sides – and their efforts to influence our views.  In a world where we are bombarded within information – without any filters – we have to be able to discriminate ourselves.

The mention of a referendum on shale gas has been getting play in the province’s mainstream media the past few days.  Do you think putting the province’s economic issues to referendum could be a detriment to building the economy? 
No.  I don’t actually mind referenda in certain circumstances but I think there has to be a way to ensure the public has a full understanding of the options on the ballot – or otherwise powerful lobbies – be they anti-shale gas or a large corporate interest – could get their way to the detriment of the public good.  I would say there have got to be things that should not go to referenda – people need to use the ballot every four years to make their voice none.  If you think about the equal opportunity reforms of the 1960s – on a referendum those would never have seen the light of day.  

You also wrote in a blog posting yesterday that people have been coming to you saying the government might cave and ban shale gas in NB or put a moratorium on it. One would think you wouldn’t publish something like that unless there is something to it. Do you have credible people coming to you and saying it’s a strong possibility? 
Two people that I consider to have a very strong understanding of the political dynamic in New Brunswick told me – on the same day – that in their opinion the government would back down on this.  Subsequently I got an email from someone in government saying they would not back down.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

CBC Covers Shale Gas Protests in Fredericton and Taymouth

Protester says NB not ready for Referendum

Protester suggests a middle way to shale gas in NB

Premier David Alward Continues to Listen to the Anti-Shale Protesters

- video courtesy of Charles LeBlanc

Anti Shale Protesters Confront Premier David Alward in Fredericton

- video courtesy of Charles LeBlanc

MLA Denis Landry at Centennial Building Protest Today in Fredericton

Liberal MLA Denis Landry was vocal about today's protest on CBC's Information Morning, but was late to show, getting timings confused. Protesters went to Liberal HQ nearby to see what the delay was, bringing Landry and colleague MLA Roger Melanson out meet others at the Centennial building protest.

Frederictonian Anti Shale Gas Protester

A city of Fredericton resident supporting today's protest weighs in on shale gas work within city limits:

Liberal MLA's Meet with Anti-Shale Gas Protesters in Fredericton Today

A crowd of 30 to 40 protesters gathered at the Centennial Building in Fredericton today for the now-weekly anti-shale gas protest. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Liberal MLA Denis Landry meets with anti-shale gas protesters at the Centennial Building today in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Liberal MLA Roger Melanson listens to the concerns of an anti-shale gas protester at the Centennial Building in Fredericton today. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Premier Alward's vehicle was in his parking spot at the Centennial Building today, but he didn't meet with protesters outside until it was almost over. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Anti-shale gas kids in the movement. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Creative protests signs are a common sight at the anti-shale gas protests around the province. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)

Blogger Charles LeBlanc buttonholes Liberal MLA Denis Landry at the anti-shale gas protest today at the Centennial Building in Fredericton. (Photo: Cheryl Norrad)