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Fracking moratorium a wedge issue for New Brunswick politicians

Divisive fracking moratorium a wedge issue for New Brunswick politics
Wed, Nov 21: The New Brunswick Progressive Conservative government is considering a motion to introduce a bill that would lift the ban on fracking in certain areas of the province. The previous Liberal government imposed the ban on the deeply divisive issue. Morganne Campbell has more.

Hydraulic fracking is one of the most divisive issues in New Brunswick and after a moratorium that’s lasted four years, the province’s politicians may be ready to take another approach on the issue.

But it also poses the risk of placing a wedge between all four political parties in the legislature.

Fracking is a process that involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas.

READ MORE: Sussex-area MLA pushing for partial end of New Brunswick fracking moratorium by Christmas

Although the Tories’ throne speech didn’t dwell on developing natural gas, it’s no secret that the party is warm to allowing gas exploration in the province.

The idea would be to lift the moratorium in certain regions such as Sussex, N.B.

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Corridor Resources currently has 32 producing wells in the Sussex area and operates a 50-kilometre pipeline, a gathering system comprising 15 kilometres of pipe and a natural gas-processing facility.

They already announced they have been making plans for new wells if the moratorium is lifted.

But it’s not clear if the government has the support needed to do so.

“Let’s just base our decision on what the reality is of exploring a resource that can very much make a difference here in our province,” said Premier Blaine Higgs.

“It’s not going to be overnight.”

Kris Austin, leader of the People’s Alliance, says he’s on the fence when it comes to fracking but that doesn’t mean all of the party’s MLAs have the same viewpoint.

“People have a right, in my caucus. I’ve already assured them they have a right to a free vote on this issue. We’re not going to whip the vote,” Austin said.

The Green Party supported the Liberals’ decision to impose a moratorium four years ago and on Wednesday, they didn’t seem to have changed their position.

“I think there’s a good chance the moratorium could stay in place but until we get there, we won’t know for sure,” said Green Leader David Coon.

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But Higgs has urged all the province’s MLAs to approach the issue with an open mind.

“I will put all of the facts on the table about what other jurisdictions are experiencing in their operation and all of the implications,” he said.

With additional reporting from Morganne Campbell