Environmental groups say New Brunswick needs to shift to a low-carbon economy in response to statements found in the report by the New Brunswick Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing released in late February.
Hydraulic fracturing has been a contentious issue in New Brunswick, with its opponents stressing the potential harms it could present to the environment, and its proponents emphasizing the benefits it will provide to the province’s economy.
The Commission concluded their 11-month study by releasing a final report to Premier Brian Gallant on Feb. 26.
The three-volume report, written by former Clerk of the Executive Council Marc Léger, former University of New Brunswick President John McLaughlin, and former New Brunswick Community College Chair Cheryl Robertson, recommended the province create a new independent regulator and rebuild its relations with First Nations, if it were to lift the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.
The report also recommended creating a new “environment and energy strategy” to shift the province to a knowledge economy that is less dependent on carbon.
Lois Corbett, the Executive Director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, was happy to see the report acknowledge the need for a lower carbon economy.
“New Brunswick must transition away from the old-world economies of resource extraction and into a new era built around new technology and driven by clean energy. We don’t need natural gas to play a big role as we make this transition,” says Corbett.
The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance agrees: “We need to leave behind a 20th century economy based on finite supplies of fossil fuels that can no longer be burned.”
The Commission stated that sustainable development, which encompasses the environment, the economy, and social implications is a model that “should sit at the heart of a more community-focused consultation and regulatory process.”
The industry of shale gas development has the potential to impact residents of the province in these three ways, according to the report.
The economy could be affected by shale gas development “through private sector job creation and public sector revenue, most notably taxes and resource royalties.” However, the industry could negatively impact the environment, specifically land, water, and air. Furthermore, the report notes that the industry could impact “human health and safety, which is influenced by the physical environment, the social environment, the economic environment and the lifestyle environment.”
Beyond current market conditions for natural gas and climate change commitments, the report also investigated the “role of natural gas in the New Brunswick economy” and highlighted the question of whether “we want to use locally-sourced shale gas to serve our domestic energy needs.”
Minister of Energy Donald Arseneault said the commission’s report will partly inform the province’s decision to keep or lift the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing that it put into place in 2014.
Christopher Pearson is a fourth year psychology and philosophy student University of New Brunswick, doing a Arts 3000 internship with the NB Media Co-op.