EUB prepared for shale gas role3/15/2013
FREDERICTON – New Brunswick’s Energy and Utilities Board is willing to take on the role of reviewing shale gas industry complaints made by the public but has yet to be approached by government to do so, says the regulator’s chairman.
Raymond Gorman appeared in front of the standing committee on Crown corporations in the legislature on Thursday.
Afterward, he responded to an earlier call by l’Université de Moncton professor emeritus Louis LaPierre to have the Energy and Utilities Board serve as the public body to review shale gas industry complaints and issue remedial compliance orders.
In a report largely lauded by the Tory government, LaPierre also calls for the board to oversee a $100-million bond set aside to pay landowners in the case of well-water contamination.
“They could act in the capacity of an ombudsman to ensure objective and transparent resolution of disputes,” LaPierre wrote. “It makes sense to assign these roles to the Energy and Utilities Board, given they already have the legal authority and functional organization to take on these new shale gas issues in addition to their existing energy oversight mandate for the province.”
Gorman said that any natural gas pipeline gathering system that needs to be put in place with the potential growth of the shale gas industry would fall under the Energy and Utilities Board’s current jurisdiction.
“Whether the role is broader than that, we don’t yet know,” he said. “We would take on any task that the government asks us to.
“If you take on a new role, you obviously assess what needs you might have for new or different staff or what roles where your existing staff could be used.”
Gorman said the board’s existing pipeline safety department currently has four staff – a director who is also an engineer and three pipeline inspectors.
“Could some of the work they do perhaps be helpful there? Potentially,” he said. “You don’t know until you know the magnitude of the staff needed.”
Gorman said he hasn’t had discussions with the government to date in regards to an expanded role.
“Ultimately whatever role we might play, there is a policy decision to be made by the government,” Gorman said. “To my knowledge, that policy decision has not yet been made.”
Energy spokesman Marc Belliveau said in an email that the board’s involvement in regulating the shale gas industry is a possibility but will depend on the implementation of other regulatory initiatives slated to be released in an oil and gas blueprint that is expected to be released in spring.
The province’s shale gas industry is currently regulated by the Department of Energy and Mines, Environment and Local Government, Public Safety, Transportation, and WorkSafeNB.
Gorman also said Thursday that the Energy and Utilities Board’s role in a proposed pipeline extending from Alberta’s oilsands to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John would be limited.
“The National Energy Board has jurisdiction on any pipeline that crosses a border, so if it comes from Alberta and ends up in New Brunswick, we actually would not have any ruling,” he said. “If there are pipelines, spurs, that might get built off of that eventually, we would have a role and possibly a joint hearing (with both the New Brunswick and national board).”