NB shale gas regs get thumb's up from river advisory group3/4/2013
BLACKVILLE – The head of a regional group that favours development of a responsibly-managed shale gas industry in the province says a deep list of oil and gas regulations introduced by the New Brunswick government this month leaves little room for criticism.
Lorne Amos, president of the Miramichi Valley Shale Gas Advisory Group, said the 97 items listed in the government’s 99-page Responsible Environmental Management of Oil and Natural Gas Activities in New Brunswick document shows the province listened to the public when it toured New Brunswick during a series of consultations this past year.
From establishing measures that would see government, and not homeowners, pursuing compensation over water remediation and stringent water quality testing that would see any well within a 500-metre radius of a drill site tested for contaminants, Amos said any concerns that a shale gas industry would come at the expense of the environment should be put to bed with release of the guidelines.
“I think the government did a good job in taking the recommendations of Dr. (Louis) LaPierre and easing off on regulations that were maybe too restrictive,” Amos said. “And I think they’re being very cautious on the water, especially when they require a double well wall for exploratory drilling.”
Officials with SWN Resources Canada and Corridor Resources have taken issue with the double-protection on the layers of casing and cement in the well bores, calling it an “overkill” measure that will needlessly add to the cost of development.
Some of the other industry stipulations include those that require all landowners within 400 metres of a seismic testing site be notified, with developers also required to maintain $10 million worth of liability insurance to cover personal injury or damage to property or the environment.
Certain portions of the document haven’t gone down easy with natural gas companies exploring New Brunswick’s industry potential.
Amos has been the public face of shale gas support in one of the few overtly pro bastions in favour of the industry in the province.
Signs proclaiming “Say Yes to Shale Gas” have been erected in southwest Miramichi River communities like Blackville and Doaktown, communities which are hoping to benefit from any economic impact that may come as a result of an expanded oil and gas sector in New Brunswick.
Amos said the group remains active, monitoring developments and studying the processes surrounding the industry’s potential with regularity.
The area is job-starved and struggling to come to grips with the rapid out-migration of its younger skilled workers, and the veteran Miramichi area economic development official has maintained that if shale gas ends up being a well-regulated and, ultimately, viable industry that provides meaningful employment in the area, people here would be all for it.
“The interest in shale gas here is still high – people really want it to go,” he said. “We’re preparing now to have a meeting and hopefully get a government spokesman to address the new regulations.”
Former premier Frank McKenna recently told a crowd in Saint John that if New Brunswick winds up being home to an active shale gas industry, natural gas related revenues, including those in liquefied natural gas (LNG) could net the province $4 billion in provincial tax revenues and $3 billion in royalties.
“I don’t know where he got those figures, but that sounds pretty good to me,” Amos said.