N.B. government considering SWN application for 6-year licence renewal

FREDERICTON – New Brunswick Energy Minister Donald Arseneault says he’s not worried that SWN Resources is halting operations in the province.

In a letter obtained by Global News, SWN’s executive vice-president of corporate development, Jeff Sherrick, said the company has a desire to continue their work and investment in the province, but cannot continue that investment because of a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

They have suspended drilling plans that were scheduled for this spring.

READ THE LETTER: SWN suspends drilling program in N.B., applies for long-term license

Arseneault told Global News Tuesday the energy company has applied for a six-year renewal on their exploration licences.

But because SWN has a licence and not a lease, it is only eligible for extensions of one year at a time. However, the government, through cabinet, could grant a longer extension.

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When asked if he was worried about what would happen if the province did not renew the company’s licence, Arseneault said he has been looking at all scenarios.

“Under the leadership of Premier Gallant, we’ve made the economy our number one priority but we’re also not putting all our eggs in one basket,” he said.

READ MORE: Groups say N.B. moratorium should only last 6 months

But Jake Stewart, the energy critic for the Opposition, said the province should be worried if they don’t renew the licence.

“I think the government will be sued. I think part of what the Minister is doing is he’s going to try and avoid lawsuits. That’s my guess,” he said.

Arseneault reiterated that even if he does extend SWN’s licence, it doesn’t mean the moratorium will be lifted any time soon.

The debate dominated question period Tuesday. Opposition leader Bruce Fitch asked Premier Brian Gallant how much the province is losing by allowing SWN’s business to go elsewhere.

Gallant fired back, asking Fitch if he would allow fracking wastewater to be dumped in his riding.

The province is working on an independent group who’ll decide if or when the province has met the five conditions to lift the moratorium.

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Arseneault said that group should be announced by the end of March.


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