Tag Archives: SWN Resources Canada

As the fracking world turns stomachs


To emit or not to emit; that is the question – a reference, of course, not to the the vast amount of shale gas believed to be mercifully trapped in the ground of New Brunswick, but to the hot air issuing unmercifully and daily from Fredericton.

The deceptively simple ban on hydraulic fracturing in this province has become needlessly complicated ever since Brian Gallant sashayed into the premier’s office some months ago.

At the outset of the election campaign last spring, the matter seemed clear enough. Do five things, the surging Grits demanded of the shale gas industry:

Prove that you can make it safe; demonstrate that you won’t wreck roads and sewer systems; consult with First Nations communities before you break ground; ensure that everyone else in your exploration radii agrees with your plans; and adhere to tough, new regulations on your activities. Oh, and by the way, make darn sure that the taxpayers get a nice, juicy piece of the action.

Still, it’s never been clear that development companies want, or are even prepared, to rise to these standards – partly because many measures the provincial government imposes are hopelessly vague. How, for example, does the whole “social license” piece work in a jurisdiction that does not impose the same requirements on any other natural resource industry?

Meanwhile, the Province has just extended the exploration writs granted to SWN Resources Canada (potential fracker extraordinaire) even though that company’s ground-level executives have said – in letters to the Premiers Office and in public – that it would just as soon pull up its tent pegs and move on unless, of course, Premier “Gallanteer” reverses his position on banning the very means it proposes to make its bones in this neck of the woods.

As that’s not going to happen any time soon. Too much is at stake, politically, for a new government that promised to ride herd on industrial carpet-baggers and environmental poachers to recant its most successful election rhetoric.

No, as Energy Minister Donald Arsenault phrased it, quit revealingly, for the Telegraph-Journal earlier this week, “You don’t give an extension to a company who just wants to sit on a valuable piece of land. You still have to be committed to developing that piece of land – that’s usually how the (provincial) evaluation is made.”

On the other hand, he added, “Having said that, there are currently very extraordinary circumstances. . .It’s hard to show a program to develop the land when you’re not allowed to touch it with hydraulic fracturing. You have to be realistic. We know they (SWN) are committed, they would like to continue that work; however, they are not able to because of the conditions we set forth.”

So, then, why “give an extension to a company” who is forced to “sit on a valuable piece of land” only “because of the conditions we set forth?”

Ah, yes. . .so many soap operas in this province to peruse; so little quality downtime to watch.

Now, the official Tory Opposition weighs in with this absurd missive, issued this week: “The Liberal government’s ill-conceived policies have driven a $9-billion company out of New Brunswick, sending with them jobs for New Brunswickers at home and valuable investment dollars. This Liberal government refuses to accept responsibility for this disappointment, and have resorted to concealing the facts from the people of New Brunswick – but we deserve much better.”

We do, indeed.

We deserve clarity, coherence and political collaboration. We deserve solutions to common problems and humour instead of hubris.

To productively start, let’s first cap the gassy emissions from Freddy Beach.

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Just fracking grow up already!


As former Quebec premier Jean Charest entreats New Brunswickers to step back, take a deep breath and, in an adult fashion, contemplate the shape of things to come in a province increasingly shy of economic options, local legislators are joyriding all the way to the political playground.

SWN Resources Canada’s vice president Jeff Sherrick sent a letter late last year to the premier’s office, advising it that the company was preparing to “suspend drilling plans and re-dedicate resources to projects in other jurisdictions.”

In other words, in the face of a government-enforced moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the province, it has decided to pick up its toys and go home or, at least, elsewhere.

“Not knowing if or when the moratorium will be lifted makes it difficult for us to dedicate money to a project that may or may not go ahead in a given year,” Sherrick explained in the memo, a copy of which Opposition Tory Leader Bruce Fitch obtained through the right to information act.

In fact, SWN is not above playing its own games. According to a recent Telegraph-Journal story, “The gas company stated its desire to continue exploration in the province. (It) has requested a long-term extension of its licenses to search, which it said (in its letter) would provide ‘the stability needed to effectively plan and lessen the financial risks’.”

So, then, is it staying or going? Only Energy Minister Donald Arsenault, it seems, knows the answer as he alone holds the keys to the playground.

Still, when it comes to a vigorous round to “red rover” – of not, precisely, serious economic development planning – all are welcome.

Here’s Fitch on the subject of moratorium, as reported in the T-J: “The sad reality of the situation is that now, in the sixth month of this government’s mandate, the government members are more confused than ever as to what to do with this gas moratorium. . .They scramble to figure out how they can meet the conditions or excuses that they made up a few months ago while gas supplies dry up and companies pull up stakes and leave the province with their investment dollars and their jobs that would have been created here if the Liberals had not gone forward with their moratorium.”

Here’s Arsenault’s rebuttal: “The Opposition is all over the place. When it comes to shale gas and hydraulic fracturing, we have been very clear for two-and-a-half years. We will impose a moratorium in New Brunswick. Do you know why? It is because we care about what New Brunswickers have said all along. We care because we know that the royalty scheme is not maximizing the benefits for New Brunswick. We also care that the then government did not want to consult with First Nations. It is not only a moral responsibility, but it is also the law.”

Now here’s Charest on the subject at a business gathering in Moncton on Monday: “We want to see development of our natural resources. We want to see it done right, but we also see a lot of projects that are stuck and not moving ahead because we are not encouraging the right debate. Fracking in New Brunswick is an example of that. The challenge for us is to have a fact-based discussion on things like fracking, so that we can make a better decision on whether we want this industry to be part of our economy.”

Yeah, good luck with that. I believe there’s still more mud to sling in the political playground that is New Brunswick.

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