A New Brunswick PC MLA and former natural resources minister is hoping that his incoming minority government will move quickly to end a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in his riding.
“We’ve wasted four years of natural gas development so we want to get it started again,” said Bruce Northrup, MLA for Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins.
Fracking is a polarizing word that has created great division in parts of New Brunswick.
The controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale rock has been under a government-imposed moratorium in the province since 2014.
But the incoming Tories want to lift the ban in regions where it is supported.
Northrup says there is community support for fracking.
It’s also where Corridor Resources — an oil and gas exploration company — operated from 1999 to 2014 and Northrup wants to see them back in business.
“We’re looking at Sable Island,” explained Northrup.
“It’s probably going to run out here in the next two to three months and we’re going to have to import gas from the [United] States. Now does that make sense when you have your own natural gas here in the province?”
A number of Sussex-area residents and businesses lobbied for the moratorium to be lifted in 2016.
The current Chamber of Commerce is taking a neutral position on the issue but some say the region benefited with fracking in place before.
“As those fields were being developed, the amount of business and jobs and the need for hotels and restaurants… the work really was a generator of business that is hard to imagine,” said John deWinter, a local businessman in the St. Stephen area
Opposition to fracking has led to violent confrontations and dozens of arrests. That opposition remains.
“The situation with regard to health, ecology, human rights, Indigenous rights and climate crisis — they haven’t changed,” said anti-shale-gas advocate Willi Nolan Campbell.
“The concerns are there and they have deepened.”
Northrup, however, believes key issues of concern have already been addressed and he wants to move forward.
“I was hoping that we would have the legislation in place by Christmas,” he said. “I’m not sure whether that’s going to happen or not.”
One thing seems certain. Third-party support will be needed for a Conservative minority government to get fracking wells flowing again in New Brunswick.