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Where Political Parties Stand on Shale Gas

09/21/2014 12:19 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:02 EDT
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Brian Lairson prepares drill pipe as a shale-gas well is drilled in Mannington, West Virginia, U.S., on Friday, April 30, 2010. This well was being drilled into the Marcellus Shale, a formation that may hold 262 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, making it the largest known deposit according to a U.S. Energy Department estimate. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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As shale gas has become the defining election issue for New Brunswickers going to the polls Monday, the Council of Canadians, along with several allies in the anti-shale gas movement, released the results of a questionnaire sent to all parties asking them to clarify their positions.

"Last night's English debate - which left out the Green Party and the People's Alliance - saw a decent amount of debate on the issue of shale gas between the three leaders, but there was not enough time to flesh out their positions. Our hope is that this will give New Brunswickers an essential tool to untangle the issues before they vote for New Brunswick's environmental future," says Angela Giles, the Council of Canadians' Atlantic organizer.

With the exception of the Progressive Conservative Party, which did not respond despite repeated attempts to contact them, all parties completed the questionnaire. This is not a surprise given the Conservatives' recent decision to allow SWN to drill four test wells. David Coon, leader of the Green Party, personally answered the questionnaire.

The questionnaire asked whether the parties support a moratorium or a ban on shale gas development in the province, and under what conditions. It also asked about their vision for job creation in the renewable energy industry, their plan for dealing with shale gas wastewater, and their ideas on indigenous and community rights.

Some important points:

Shale gas:

The Conservative Party staked out the only pro-shale gas position. The New Democrats, Greens, and Liberals have all opposed shale gas in some fashion, and the People's Alliance call for a referendum on the issue.

  • The Liberals call for a moratorium not on shale gas development but on the actual technique of hydraulic fracturing.
  • The NDP stated in their response they support a legislative ban on shale gas extraction, which could be lifted if the answer to their two-test framework (Is it safe? Can it make us money?) becomes positive, but only after two years.
  • The Green Party response is that they would enact legislation to cancel the licences for the exploration of shale gas and terminate the leases to extract shale gas.
  • The People's Alliance referendum would require more than 60% of eligible voters to cast a vote and a 50% +1 of cast votes in favor of the moratorium for the latter to be enacted.

Renewable energy:

  • The Green Party proposes biomass energy to heat homes, and a buy-local agricultural program.
  • The Liberal Party proposes energy efficiency home renovation programs.
  • The NDP refuses to "pick sides" between renewable and non-renewable industries encouraging development of renewable energy by provincial independent energy agencies and an energy efficiency home renovation program.

First Nations and local communities:

  • The Green Party says this question is irrelevant because they will cancel all shale gas operations.
  • The Liberals will respect the Duty to Consult First Nations and rejects the contracting out of this duty to third parties.
  • The New Democrats propose that First Nations treaty rights be respected. And that First Nations have the ability to participate and benefit from all projects including receiving royalties.

Wastewater

  • The Green Party says this question is irrelevant because they will cancel all shale gas operations.
  • The Liberals will centralize conservation, inspection and enforcement in one department to "provide better oversight."
  • The New Democratic Party will have this overseen by their proposed science-driven provincial EPA-like agency.

Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians, has also been watching the election.

"People are standing up for their communities in New Brunswick, just as many others are standing up against climate change in New York City and across the country this weekend. This election is key to determining the future of fracking in Canada. The country is watching, and we hope you'll vote against shale gas."

Here is the summary of the responses

The full responses along with the letter sent to the parties:

New Democratic Party

Conservative Party

Liberal Party

Green Party

Photo : Rick Harris, Flkr Media Commons