FREDERICTON - The New Brunswick government is introducing a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing that the premier says won't be lifted until five conditions are met.
Those conditions include a process to consult with First Nations, a plan for wastewater disposal and credible information about the impacts fracking has on health, water and the environment, Brian Gallant said Thursday.
"We have been clear from Day One that we will impose a moratorium until risks to the environment, health and water are understood," Gallant told a news conference in Fredericton.
"We believe these conditions to be very reasonable.
Gallant said he also wants the development of a royalty structure and a "social licence" ensuring that the public accepts fracking before the moratorium would be removed, though he acknowledged that has yet to be defined.
He said his government supports job creation but added that it needs to be done in a diversified and sustainable way.
"We're not interested in putting all of our eggs in a single basket," he said.
A number of companies are currently exploring for shale gas in the province and Corridor Resources recently fracked wells in the Penobsquis area that are used to supply gas to the nearby Potash Corp. mine.
Gallant said such operations would be allowed to continue under the legislation, as long as they don't rely on fracking.
"We'll certainly also always listen to businesses that may have concerns and try to mitigate some of the impacts if they believe (them) to be negative on their operations," he said.
Nova Scotia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have also passed moratoriums on fracking, though they vary in scope.
Estimates by the United States Department of Energy put the number of recoverable barrels of shale gas at around 1.8 trillion. To put that into perspective, Saudi Arabia is estimated to have roughly 2.6 trillion barrels of oil reserves. Christopher Booker writes for The Telegraph that there are enough world reserves to "keep industrialised civilisation going for hundreds of years"
A blog post by the Natural Resource Defense Council explains that "Opponents of such regulation [of fracking] claim that hydraulic fracturing has never caused any drinking water contamination. They say this because incidents of drinking water contamination where hydraulic fracutring is considered as a suspected cause have not been sufficiently investigated." It then goes on to list more than two dozen instances of water pollution to which hydraulic fracking is believed to have contributed. A new waterless method of fracking has been proposed, but environmentalists are skeptical.
Methane is a greenhouse gas and major component of shale's carbon footprint. Cornell Professor Robert Howarth said about a study he conducted, "Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20 percent greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years."
Researchers at MIT found that replacing coal power plants with natural gas plants could work as part of a plan to reduce greenhouse emissions by more than 50 percent.
Several earthquakes both in the U.S. and abroad have been linked to the hydraulic fracturing process. One British company, Cuadrilla Resources, admitted in a report that its hydraulic fracturing process well "did trigger a number of minor seismic events."
The industry currently employs more than 1.2 million people in the U.S., and the Department of Energy estimates that natural gas resources have increased nearly 65 percent due to fracking, according to a TreeHugger graphic. Additionally, the gas industry accounts for about $385 billion in direct economic activity in the country, a Nature piece reports.
Fracking is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2005, thus allowing companies to conceal the chemicals used in the process.
Former chief of staff to President Clinton and former head of the Center for American Progress John Podesta says natural gas can serve "as a bridge fuel to a 21st century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable sources, and low-carbon fossil fuels."
The fracking process can require around five million gallons of water. In some cases less than a third of that water is recovered.