NB Energy Institute to be 'Virtual, Networked'2/26/2013
There won’t be a big staff or a large budget, but Dr. Louis LaPierre is optimistic about the impact the soon-to-be established energy institute will have in New Brunswick.
LaPierre, a biology professor emeritus at the Université de Moncton, recommended the idea for an energy institute in his report on the shale gas industry released last year. Earlier this month Premier David Alward announced the organization would be created and that LaPierre would serve as chairman for the new independent energy institute, which is designed to create a credible alternative to government and industry in both conducting research and monitoring the shale gas industry.
In an exclusive interview with the Times and Transcript yesterday, LaPierre discussed the role and how he sees the future of the organization. He said it will be a New Brunswick-based institute, but it will have a much wider reach that takes full advantage of the vast amounts of scientific knowledge around the world.
“The institute is a science, evidence-based body that will work and in looking at the science will bring forth recommendations to government. There’s no question that these recommendations may at times be different from what industry and government foresee,” he said. “We’ll work with institutes, other universities across Canada and also across North America. It will be a network. My idea of the institute will be a virtual institute; it will be a networked institute. There will not be hundreds of bodies at one spot, but there may be hundreds of bodies working towards goals of the institute, but they will be at virtual surroundings.
“The institute by being virtual and being networked, will be able to keep up with the bottom line here and assess what’s being done in New Brunswick and take that bottom line for new knowledge and see could we benefit from this knowledge in New Brunswick? Could we make our processes better? And if so, how do we go about doing it?”
LaPierre said the institute will consist of his chairman position, an executive director and perhaps a part-time secretary. There will also be a scientific advisory council made up of five or six scientific representatives from various fields such as engineering, geological and environmental.
“So these people will then take all the information that comes to the institute and then decide what the institute will focus its attention on because the institute will be limited in its budget as to what it can do. Also it will be networked; therefore, we can see what we can gather from the international and national community of people doing the work. A lot of work is being done now that we can benefit from that,” he said. “Then the specific issues. The institute will look at taking the specific issues for New Brunswick and integrating those into our universities and research facilities to try to find answers for New Brunswick. The institute will also oversee the monitoring, more compliance monitoring to make sure the professionals that are hiredand#8201;…and#8201;do the job of the monitoring. It will be a responsibility there.”
LaPierre noted that the chairman position, as well as the scientific advisory council, will be on a per diem basis and be paid only for the days they work. He noted that they anticipate having a budget of about $2 million annually.
“The institute will contract out the work it needsand#8201;…and#8201;The institute will be essentially virtual. It has a physical address and it has one or two people. The rest will be a network and virtual,” he said.
LaPierre also noted that keeping the public informed will be a key part of their mandate.
“We won’t be publishing many glossy reports — few, if any. But there will be an integrated data set and made available to the public,” he said. “We will be databasing a lot of information. The institute, for example, will keep active databases of the chemicals used in the province, and these databases will include the chemicals and also all the properties of these chemicals. They would be made available to health practitioners.”
He added that they also hope to hear from the public as well and will have roundtable forums set up where people from the industry can address concerns presented from citizens.
“Other than that, I think the institute will focus on trying to bring the best science, the latest knowledge and integrating that to the practices that are going to take place if they do take place in New Brunswick and making sure the citizens are informed in getting a science-based information that is factual and is up to date.”
The development of the Energy Institute comes hand-in-hand with the provincial government announcing its regulations for the shale gas industry.
LaPierre said regardless of whether or not the institute was formed, the public would still need assurances when the province ventures into a new industry. He feels it’s a better situation to have a permanent body tasked with that job, rather than it falling to the government or industry.
LaPierre noted that things like the Energy Institute don’t happen overnight, but the government had been looking to get them up and running by April 1, and from there they will get some information out to the public while also working on some longer-term work.
He said they are looking forward to developing further partnerships with local universities, both to leverage research opportunities but also to possibly look towards the training of students who can in the future work for the Energy Institute.
“We hope to tap into that information, and by being networked and by getting our process in place, we also think that if there are important areas in which research is needed that we can then network with other exciting research bodies,” he said.
(Times and Transcript)