FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's Liberal government is facing accusations that it is wavering on its promise to implement a moratorium on shale gas fracking just as an energy company says it needs to frack more wells in order to supply the province's potash sector.
Premier Brian Gallant was elected just over a month ago on a promise to implement a moratorium on fracking until more is known about ways to safeguard water, public health and the environment.
But critics say the government may be straying from that position after Energy Minister Donald Arseneault was quoted in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal saying a "regional" moratorium is among the options the government is considering.
David Coon, leader of the province's Green party, said the Liberal campaign promise was clear.
"You can't have a partial moratorium," Coon said Wednesday. "That's something like being a little bit pregnant."
Gallant said his government is talking to energy companies and other jurisdictions that have imposed moratoriums before deciding what such a measure would look like in his province.
"You can be certain that there is going to be a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, but you can also be sure that we're going to want to understand what the best way to implement that is," he said.
"We're not focused on one business, one region, or one type of demographic when we're talking about our concerns with hydraulic fracturing."
Gallant said his government has met with Corridor Resources, which has fracked natural gas wells in Penobsquis, N.B., the source of natural gas for the nearby Potash Corp. mine.
Steve Moran, the president of Corridor Resources, said he is encouraged that the government is now asking questions and interested to learn what impact a moratorium would have.
Moran said almost all of the company's wells in New Brunswick have been fracked and there have been no problems with water supplies.
But Moran said new wells are needed now just to maintain that level of supply.
"As a public company with shareholders, our mandate is to grow our production base, and you can't grow without drilling more wells," he said.
New Democrat Leader Dominic Cardy said his party sought information from companies like Corridor Resources before the election and he is concerned the Liberals are only doing that now.
"There was no excuse for the Liberals not to do the same unless it was simply an attempt to pursue political expediency and be able to wink in one direction on the pro-fracking side and wink the other way to those against," he said.