POLITICS

Opponents say new rules for New Brunswick won't make fracking safe

10/11/2012 11:37 EDT | Updated 12/11/2012 05:12 EST
FREDERICTON - A group of protesters say the New Brunswick government's proposed new regulations for shale gas exploration aren't enough to make the industry safe.

About a dozen people marched in front of a government building in Fredericton on Thursday to show their opposition to measures announced earlier this year.

Spokeswoman Julia Linke says the government's consultation process is lacking because it doesn't ask for the consent of New Brunswickers.

"Consultation is more than telling people about regulations," Linke said.

The group is particularly concerned with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract gas from shale deposits.

Fracking involves blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well bore to split the surrounding rock and release trapped pockets of natural gas.

Opponents say fracking puts groundwater supplies at risk.

"Fracking cannot be made safe with regulations," Linke said.

The government released a discussion paper in May containing 116 recommendations that addresses a number of issues including well design, royalties and protection of water supplies.

The province will release two reports next week on fracking. One is by Dr. Eilish Cleary, the province's chief medical officer of health, who looked at the health impacts of the shale gas industry, while the other is by biologist Louis LaPierre of the University of Moncton, who gathered input on the proposed shale gas regulations.

Linke says the province should ban further development of the industry.

The Opposition Liberals have called for a moratorium on fracking, until all the benefits and risks are known.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, three test wells for shale gas were drilled in New Brunswick between 2008 and 2010 and all three were fracked. A fourth test well was drilled in late 2011 but has not been fracked.

In all, there have been 82 gas wells drilled in the province since 1990, 49 of which have been fracked.