Organizers estimate some 1,500 people turned out to protest shale gas in Fredericton today, Monday, August 1st, 2011. In the largest demonstration against shale gas to date in New Brunswick, young and old, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq, urbanites and rural dwellers marched through the downtown streets of Fredericton to the N.B. Legislature where they chanted enthusiastically, listened to speeches and grooved to the tunes of the Fredericton Raging Grannies, Taymouth activist Jim Emberger and the Wulustukyeg Singers. Demonstrators said they are concerned about the impacts of shale gas development on their water, health and communities.
Alma Brooks, a member of the Maliseet Grand Council from Saint Mary’s First Nation, reminded participants of New Brunswick’s colonial history on New Brunswick Day and spoke of the need to protect the water and the land.
Derek Simon, the emcee for the rally, noted that representatives from the Green Party and NDP were present, which drew applause from rally participants. Silence greeted the announcement that the Liberals were in attendance. Often noted in anti-shale gas circles is the shameless hypocrisy found in the current Conservative government’s pro-shale gas position following their recent opposition to the former Liberal government’s plan to sell NB Power in 2009. The Conservatives criticized the Liberals for not consulting New Brunswickers on the proposed NB Power sale and now many say their government is doing the same on shale gas. In July, Denis Landry, the Liberal’s natural resources critic called on the Alward government to put in place a moratorium on shale gas until there are stricter regulations.
About 20 groups were represented at the rally including several community groups that have formed to oppose shale gas like the Penniac Anti-Shale Gas Organization and Notre Environnement, Notre Choix in Kent County as well as the Maliseet Grand Council, CCNB Action, the Sierra Club and the Council of Canadians. Simon noted that similar rallies against shale gas were occurring at the same time in Halifax, Inverness, Baddeck, Truro, Charlottetown and St. John’s.
Drilling and “fracking” for shale gas has become a hot topic with the discovery of a potentially lucrative shale play in southeastern New Brunswick and the granting of shale gas licenses to companies like SWN Resources, which holds a three-year licence to search for oil and gas in an area of more than 1 million hectares in southern New Brunswick.
Drilling and the controversial fracking method, which uses chemicals and horizontal drilling, has already occurred in Penobsquis and Elgin, near Sussex as well as several U.S. states including Pennsylvania where water contamination is plaguing affected communities. Quebec, New York state and France have passed a moratorium on shale gas.
“We are lucky, for most, our province – our home – is supported by clean drinking water, pristine rivers and lakes, fresh air, and green fields”, says Stephanie Merrill, Freshwater Protection Coordinator with CCNB Action. “Shale gas exploration and development threaten our home”.
Merrill notes that the grassroots momentum against shale gas is growing rapidly across the province. “The level of local involvement in this issue is very encouraging,” says Merrill, who leads CCNB Action’s Shale Gas Alert Campaign. “It means people are paying attention, getting angry, getting active and doing something about it. They are protecting their homes for present and future generations from permanent damage,” she continues.
The rally ended with a lively rendition of “Hit the road Frack!”