The groundswell of New Brunswickers waking up to the potential shale gas industry our provincial government is banking on is gaining momentum across the province. Spurred by screenings of Gasland, information presentations and the gearing up of exploration programs by industry, communities along the eastern shore are dismissing shale gas as a possibility and are instead, rallying against it.
On Wednesday, April 13th, residents of communities around the Rexton area staged an anti-fracking protest outside the open house hosted by Southwestern Energy (SWN Resources in Canada). Ralliers came and went during their six hour event, but 30 people consistently waved signs reading messages like “No Fracking Way”, and received supportive honks from passer-byers.
The Rexton rally was organized quickly after residents of the area became aware of the seismic testing program proposed by SWN Resources.
Derek Telasco and his wife Terri got involved in the issue after an industry representative showed up at their St. Charles farm. “We had seen Gasland before, and researched fracking enough to know how dangerous it is to our water, ” said Telasco. “We moved here from Ontario to get away from the pollution, there is no way I am going to let them put our water at risk,” he continued.
The Telascos were two of the event organizers and have been working to raise the shale gas awareness in their community.
Maxime Daigle, originally from Point-Sapin, spent the day talking with people showing up to the industry open house, arming them with information and questions he felt they should be asking industry representatives.
Daigle is a former oil and gas driller and speaks passionately about his experiences all across North America. He warns people that “gas drilling cannot be guaranteed to be done safely”. “There are too many opportunities for things to go wrong in the drilling process for us to not be worried about our water,” he says.
Daigle quit the industry after seven years and returned home to New Brunswick to study and work in renewable energy technology. Since finding out that this province is slated for gas exploration on 1.5 million hectares of land, he has been vocal on calling for a complete ban on shale gas.
The provincial government however, has been staunch in their rejection of any moratorium or ban on shale gas, with Department of Natural Resources Minister, Bruce Northrup calling it in recent interviews, “the best thing to happen in New Brunswick in a long time”.
The number of New Brunswickers who do not agree are growing, and future anti shale gas rallies are planned for SWN Resources’ upcoming open houses in Rogersville, Doaktown, Chipman and Stanley. The organizers say they hope to draw in more and more people as they move to the different communities.
Stephanie Merrill is with the Conservation Council NB.