His update included an explanation of the principles that the provincial government is following in developing regulations for the industry.
"Our government continues to focus on strenghtening and modernizing New Brunswick's guidelines, laws and regulations for the oil and gas industry," Northrup said. "Considerable work has been doen so far by several departments, and we look forward to releasing full details of the world-class regulations in the spring and to obtain input from the public and stakeholders."
Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney said the environmental protection plan under development re-iterates the provincial government's commitment to safeguard the water and environment of all New Brunswickers.
"As I have said from the start, we will ensure that if a natural gas industry from shale can be developed in this province, we will be ready in every sense of the word, and our top priority is protecting our environment," Blaney said.
As part of the ongoing work associated with the new regulations, officials have taken the following steps:
- fact-finding missions to other jurisdictions
- an on-going review of evolving regulations in other jurisdictions throughout North America
- reports, critiques, scientific studies, monitoring results and model standards presented by academia, industry and non-governmental organizations
- consultations with subject matter experts within the provincial government; and
- the convening of the New Brunswick Natural Gas Forum, held June 23.
The environmental protection plan is based on the following 12 principles:
- monitoring and protecting water quality
- addressing the need for sustainable water use
- protecting public health and safety
- protecting communities and the environment
- reducting financial risk and protecting landowner rights
- addressing potential impacts of geophysical (seismic) activities
- taking steps to prevent potential contaminants from escaping the well bore
- verifying geological containment outside the well bore
- managing wastes and taking steps to prevent potential contaminants from escaping the well pad
- addressing air emissions
- maintaining an effective regulatory framework; and
- sharing information
Northrup said he was pleased with the comprehensive framework being developed, as it will be applied to the shale gas industry if it is deemed to be economically feasible following current exploration efforts.
"We are pleased with the direction and the amount of work that has been carried out, and we look forward to sharing all the details with the full environmental protection plan with New Brunswickers in the spring," he said.
Public and stakeholder meetings have been held throughout the province, with more than 1, 800 people participating in presentations on the potential impact that the shale gas industry will have on New Brunswick's economy, water and geology.
Northrup said the provincial government intends to continue to communicate with New Brunswickers about the shale gas industry.