Letters to the Editor

Monday, 12 December 2011

SWN admits to municipal boundary violation; apologizes; Upper Miramichi council weighing options

Local community group notifying the Premier, DNR, Environment and Energy 

By Cheryl Norrad

FREDERICTON - The general manager for SWN Resources Canada, Tom Alexander, right, stated in an e-mail to The Purple Violet Press this morning that the company didn't seek permission from the Rural Community of Upper Miramichi council (RCUM) to perform seismic testing in the area last summer.

"During our 2011 exploration program we unfortunately failed to obtain permission from the Rural Community of Upper Miramichi council. It was our mistake," stated Alexander.

But SWN did notify the RCUM mayor, Scott Clowater, of it's presence in the region during that time.

"We did, however, advise the mayor of our activities in the area last summer," Alexander further stated.

He went on to state, although the company sought permission from other communities it worked in, the RCUM was a newly-created municipal area, inferring the company wasn't aware of it's existence when doing shale gas exploration last summer.

On November 17th, the RCUM council received a personal apology from Alexander on behalf of SWN, and a presentation was made to the council outlining the company's activities in the community with a Q&A session afterwards.

Mayor Clowater, confirmed to The Purple Violet Press the council received the apology from Alexander and a letter reiterating it as well.

Above, RCUM mayor Scott Clowater

"We received a personal apology and letter of apology, and were told that if there is any testing in the area again, we will be contacted," said Clowater.

However, a local community group, the Upper Miramichi Stewardship Alliance (UMSA), wants the RCUM council to take immediate action against SWN.

 Brad Wood, above, spokesperson for the Upper Miramichi Stewardship Alliance

Brad Wood, spokesperson of UMSA, said in a statement to this publication that at a presentation to council on October 24th, the group demonstrated to council how SWN violated the Oil and Gas Act last summer by straying into municipal boundaries without permission. Based on that, it asked the council to do 3 things:

  • Write a letter of admonishment addressed to the Premier, DNR and the Shale Gas Group expressing disapproval of SWN for carrying out exploration without permission.
  • Pass a motion denying permission for further shale gas exploration in the RCUM.
  • Pass a motion denying permission for shale gas production in the RCUM.

    According to Wood, there has been no activity by council with regard to these requests.

    Mayor Clowater said the council is currently reviewing the matter and will be holding public information meetings in February on the issue. He added the council will take the opinions of the populace into consideration when deciding what action it may eventually take.

    Wood said the UMSA will be submitting a letter to the various government departments involved within the next few days, and will specifically ask Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup he review the violations of the Oil and Gas Act that were made by SWN this summer.

    "If the average citizen breaks provincial regulations they can't just offer an apology and get away without some kind of punishment. Apparently this is permissible for corporations within our province," said Wood.