HALIFAX – Some opponents of shale gas exploration and other energy developments are driven by ideology and ignoring the facts, New Brunswick’s minister of energy said Tuesday.
Craig Leonard said during the Maritimes Energy Association conference in Halifax that the shale gas industry could revive the economic fortunes of his province, yet some people aren’t willing to hear a reasoned argument about its merits.
“There is a sector of the population, they do everything in their power to try to stop these projects, they focus on the environmental concerns to raise opposition within the population,” Leonard said.
“Much of it, as we know, it takes the form of an ideological stance as opposed to any that is fact-driven or has anything to do with the details of a particular project.”
Leonard’s comments came as the RCMP monitored a protest in the Rexton, N.B., area where people blocked an entrance to a site where SWN Resources is storing natural gas exploration equipment.
After his speech, he urged the protesters to obey the law.
“We say we want safe, lawful protest, and anything after that we leave up to the RCMP on how to proceed,” he said in an interview.
Leonard also said he has met with people who both oppose and support a shale gas sector in the Kent County area, but now he wants to wait for exploration results from seismic research before consulting further.
“We have to find that balance … to ensure we can move forward with the exploration and to get the information we need to see what the potential for the industry is,” he said.
“Then we can have further discussion with groups in those areas on how we can move forward from that point.”
During his speech, Leonard said New Brunswick currently only has about 30 natural gas wells producing 10 million cubic feet per day, but there are about eight trillion cubic feet that could be recovered from various shale rock formations.
He said opponents of shale gas should see the possibility of replacing dirty coal with cleaner burning natural gas as well as recognize that fossil fuels will be part of the province’s energy mix for years to come.
The techniques used to release natural gas trapped in layers of sedimentary rock have helped reverse the fortunes of the U.S. energy industry, but they have also drawn fierce criticism from opponents.
The combination of horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, has some environmental groups saying the process itself and the wastewater it generates can pollute drinking water.