Friday, 25 May 2012

NB community groups opposing shale gas send open letter to Premier Alward

This is an open public letter to the Alward Government from New Brunswick community groups opposed to Slickwater Hydraulic Fracturing (Hydro Fracking) exploration and development in the province. Please publish its contents in full. Thank you.

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May 23, 2012
Premier David Alward
Minister Responsible for Citizen Engagement
Centennial Building
P. O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB
E3B 5H1
Canada

Dear Mr. Alward:
Our government is not living up to its commitment to engage with citizens. Shale gas mining and development is one of the most important and controversial issues facing New Brunswickers today. 
During the past 12 months, thousands of urban and rural New Brunswickers have been moved to action. Some have had their well water tested. Many have participated in protest marches for the first time in their lives. Others have sent letters to newspaper editors denouncing our government’s involvement in the promotion of this industry. All of these well-informed people are cognizant of scientific evidence that confirms that shale gas extraction threatens our air quality, surface and groundwater, health, property values, and quality of life.
Despite your promise in a Moncton speech last October, our MLAs have failed to hold town hall and information meetings “to hear directly from their constituents on this important issue.” So, on May 10th, a group of citizens organized a debate in Fredericton on the pros and cons of shale gas mining. Eight government representatives, including you, were invited to participate. 
Based on our government’s booklet entitled Citizen Engagement and Responsible Government (http://www.scribd.com/doc/31665820/Citizen-Engagement-and-Responsible-Government), we fully expected our government’s active participation in this debate. Instead, our government declined the invitation.
The e-mail from Mr. Troy Lifford, PC Caucus Chair, attempting to explain our government’s refusal to participate in this debate, was perplexing. Mr. Lifford said our government has yet to decide whether it endorses the development of a shale gas industry in New Brunswick.
This statement seems contradictory to the result of the “free vote” last December, in which Conservative MLAs voted unanimously in favour of “responsible and regulated development” of this industry. Moreover, the Dept. of Natural Resources’ Web site, Natural Gas from Shale, declares, “Welcome to our web site dedicated to shale gas exploration and development,and goes on to address only the alleged benefits of this industry. This does not sound like the words of a government that is undecided on the issue. Nor have Minister Northrup’s repeated refusals to place a moratorium on the industry pending further study sounded like the stance of a government that has yet to decide.
In April 2012, when Mr. Northrup gave a new shale gas exploration license to Windsor Energy, a company which had previously ignored exploration regulations, he claimed it was to avoid an expensive lawsuit. But in December 2011, our government showed no such reluctance to pass legislation that breached the province’s agreement with Enbridge Gas New Brunswick, legislation to facilitate the economical distribution and use of natural gas. That does not seem to be the action of a government that is undecided about developing a shale gas industry.
Our government just days ago claimed to have developed “world-class” regulations to control the shale gas industry. That, too, does not seem to be the action of a government that is undecided about developing a shale gas industry.
All of our government’s public statements, actions and attitudes have made it clear that it favours the development of this industry in the province, regardless of the well-known and scientifically verified dangers it presents to our people. In such a context, Mr. Lifford’s declarations of government neutrality on the issue seem a disingenuous dodge to avoid accountability for the government’s approach to this issue, a dodge that disrespects all of our cherished democratic principles of public consultation and transparency on important issues affecting the people.
We believe that it is your responsibility, as Minister Responsible for Citizen Engagement, to guide our government in an honest and open discussion of all of the implications of shale gas development in New Brunswick, and to be straightforward and forthcoming about our government’s standpoint towards this extractive resource industry.