Join the Crowd: Vote for a Moratorium

Newfoundland has put a moratorium on shale gas exploration into effect, primarily over fears about effects on tourism around Gros Morne Park.

hopewellrocksAs we have pointed out, much of the expected shale gas extraction in NB is around our biggest tourist attractions….including our own UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve and the Hopewell Rocks.

A resolution from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities is supporting a province-wide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and calling for a dialogue about the practice of hydrofracking between First Nations, federal, provincial and municipal governments on potential impacts.
In the PEI Legislature, on November 26th 2013, the Standing Committee on
Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry recommended a Moratorium on
High Volume Hydraulic Fracking on PEI.
With existing moratoria in Quebec and New York, New Brunswick is now the
only jurisdiction in our region pushing ahead with shale gas development.
Voters in the Colorado cities of Boulder, Fort Collins and Lafayette approved
anti-fracking initiatives by wide margins in early November, despite an industry
campaign against the measures that cost at least $875,000.
Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union (300,000 with 40,000 in the energy
sector), called for a Canada-wide moratorium on all new oil and gas fracking.
Unifor raised concerns about safety and environmental risks as well as the lack of
informed consent by First Nations about fracking activities on traditional lands.
Click here for our list of the New Brunswick municipalities and Provincial groups of all kinds that have called for a moratorium.

A “small special interest minority”?  We think not.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs…

Every night, during the evening news, we are treated to heartfelt government advertisements about separated families.  Let’s bring those boys home so they can work here.  We’re all for that…however…the facts do not support the promises.

First, let’s look at worker safety:  In the States, oil and gas industry has 7 times more fatalities than any other industry.  Are things different here?

In Alberta, between  2000 and 2010 – 1,285  workers were killed on the job.  In three subsequent years, between 123 and 154 died each year.

What about job numbers?  The Business Council study promoted by govt and industry promised us 21.5 jobs per well, or three times the number actually produced in Pennsylvania. The researchers did not even look at existing well fields in Penobsquis (6 employees) or Stoney Creek (2 employees).

Let’s take a look at Pennsylvania, where they claim the industry created 30,000 and 50,000 jobs. To accomplish this they drilled 7,200 wells. Do the math:  This means that the industry created a maximum of 7 jobs per well.

jobs2013slideCompare this to the state of Massachusetts, which produced 80,000 clean energy jobs in 5,500 different companies in less time than it took oil and gas to destroy the Pennsylvania countryside. These jobs were distributed throughout the entire state – unlike shale jobs, which are concentrated where the gas is being drilled.  It also found that the jobs crossed all sectors of the economy – construction labor, skilled tradesmen, business managers, and professionals such as architects and engineers. These permanent jobs are in contrast to truck driving and retail that disappear when the shale gas workers are gone elsewhere.

So, we ask…considering the imminent danger climate change, why isn’t our government looking at clean energy options?

Let’s drill instead. Our government assures us that will be only drilling between 50 and 100 wells per year, while in PA they drill between 1200 and 1500 per year.  So how exactly will we supply all our energy needs with cheap gas, supply cheap gas to our industries including big users like potash and fertilizer plants, supply cheap gas to the Irving refinery to refine tar sands oil and export expensive gas over seas on 50-100 wells per year?

Other benefits Pennsylvania has received from the oil and gas craze: 

Community Division:  Because landowners get royalties, local populations have been severely divided against each other, as neighbors without wells undergo all the risks of shale gas with none of its benefits.  The opposition in PA is growing and the Democratic Party now calls for a moratorium on future drilling in their official party platform.

Water Contamination:  Northeast PA is the site of 2 different peer-reviewed studies by Duke University that verified methane contamination of water wells in proximity to shale gas drilling.

Radioactive Wastewater:  Another recent Duke study found dangerously elevated levels of radioactivity and toxic chemicals downstream from a water treatment plant processing fracking wastewater. The streams feed public drinking water sources.

Violations and Fines:  PA keeps its shale gas enforcement actions online – even with its questionable enforcement agency, the database shows thousands of violations. It has levied millions of dollars in fines, but with no decrease in the number of violations.

Fracking Health Secrets: PA law forbids physicians from telling a patient what fracking chemical is making them sick if that chemical has a trade secret designation. Court cases of health problems and contamination have been settled by agreements that include gag orders on the plaintiffs, including last year’s infamous attempt to put lifetime gag orders on two children involved in a case.

(with notes from Jim Emberger)

Accountability

When will we start holding our politicians accountable for their words?  September 2014?

This video clip from the New Brunswick Legislature, April 2010…5 months before David Alward was elected premier of NB; and Bruce Northrup was appointed Minister Natural Resources.

As opposition leader, David Alward wants assurances from Natural Resources Minister Wally Stiles that New Brunswickers’ drinking water will be protected in the hunt for natural gas. During this made-for-tv comedy show, the PCs want to know what the Liberals will do if water contamination takes place – cause, you know….it has elsewhere.

The Liberals repeat over and over again:  We have an EIA. We have rules. Companies will follow them. (sound familiar?) They say if you hear something 7 times, you will remember it. Apparently, the PCs learned the response well.

5:15:  David Alward (PC): “You can have all the regulations in the world, but if the companies are not doing what they are supposed to do, it’s not going to help anybody.”

5:43:  Wally Stiles (LIB): “Southwest Energy has a very good track record, an environmentally friendly company. They have public meetings. They deal with regulations on a professional basis.”

6:45: Bruce Northrup (PC): “…tell that to the people of Penobsquis who went for 5 yrs without water….As far as this side of the house, Mr. Speaker, we will stick up for the people of New Brunswick….we’re here for the people of New Brunswick. All 55 of us should be here for the people of New Brunswick.”

Really? Wouldn’t that be nice?

New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance Calls for Public Inquiry into October 17 Raid

Open Letter to David Alward
Premier of New Brunswick

Dear Premier Alward:

Today is International Human Rights Day and I am writing to you on behalf of the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA).  Members of the many community groups that make up the NBASGA are fully committed to peaceful, non-violent protest, and we share Amnesty International’s concerns that further violent incidents, such as what happened in Rexton, could happen again.

Therefore, NBASGA is formally asking you, as Premier, to establish a full, independent public inquiry into the circumstances and events culminating in the RCMP raid on a peaceful protest camp near Rexton on October 17, 2013. The citizens of New Brunswick have a right to know all the circumstances surrounding this sudden escalation in the use of force.

We feel an independent public inquiry is necessary to determine what precipitated the violence, and how best to prevent any possible recurrence in the future.

In its letter to you, dated Nov. 1, 2013, Amnesty International (AI) states that the violence at Rexton “could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law”.  As AI is the world’s foremost human rights organization, we implore you to heed its warning that further clashes could occur.

I’m sure you would agree that the Province of New Brunswick should be making every attempt to fulfill all its legal obligations to Indigenous peoples under both Canadian and international law.

While the full nature and extent of any provincial breech of the legal and human rights of Indigenous peoples needs to be examined, there are too many unanswered questions about the specific circumstances leading to the Rexton incident.  An independent, impartial public inquiry held at arm’s length from government is necessary, because the Province of New Brunswick was itself a player in those circumstances and events and so has an obvious conflict of interest that precludes it conducting an impartial inquiry.

Following years of peaceful protest, what happened in the days leading up to October 17 that made the police think the situation had changed so radically?  Thousands of people have visited peaceful demonstration sites across the province since opposition began, bringing supplies and offering financial and moral support.  Rexton was no different until the RCMP decided to raid the protest camp.  Witnesses say there was no threat to public safety at the camp until police, with drawn guns and accompanied by dogs and snipers in camouflage, attacked unarmed civilians, including women and children, with pepper spray and non-lethal rounds.  In one incident, a woman praying the rosary was pepper-sprayed in the face.

A public inquiry should also examine why police continued allowing citizens to enter the site, considering the police themselves claim it was a dangerous situation threatening public safety, yet kept media away (excepting one Brunswick News reporter who was curiously there at dawn).

As well, an inquiry could determine why police did not consult with First Nations’ chiefs who were vocal advocates of non-violence.  Although they are leaders committed to non-violence, Chief Sock and his band counselors were among the first arrested and thus prevented from intervening in a timely fashion.  Arresting a respected chief who has repeatedly stressed the importance of peaceful protest in the midst of an inflamed situation is baffling and needs further scrutiny.

An inquiry might reveal why, despite a massive police presence at the camp, six RCMP vehicles were left unattended, and how they could be set on fire with no police intervention and, to date, no arrests of suspects for arson.

These are but a few of the unanswered questions.

Mr. Premier, the people of New Brunswick are entitled to a fair, full and impartial accounting of what caused the violence at Rexton on October 17.  Such an inquiry would both clear the air and be instrumental in actions taken to ensure such violence does not happen again.

We look forward to your reply. A hard copy of this letter will be mailed to you.

Sincerely,

Jim Emberger, Spokesperson
New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA)

Cc:
Brian Gallant, Leader NB Liberal Party
David Coon, Leader NB Green Party
Dominic Cardy, Leader NB NDP
Kris Austin, Leader People’s Alliance
Charles Murray, Ombudsman

Stop the Madness

The following letter to the editor written by Deborah Carr was emailed to the Times & Transcript on Nov 18, 2013. It has not yet been printed, so we are posting it here as December 10 is international Human Rights Day.

~~~

Like others, I viewed the images of the devastation and death brought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines with a deep sense of grief and loss and helplessness.

How can we not be moved by the impassioned plea of Yeb Saño, Philippines climate negotiator, as he committed to a hunger strike and begged the world to address the climate crisis?

“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness,” Saño said.

davidsuzukiDr. David Suzuki recently spoke a similar message to a packed house at the Capitol Theatre, restating that we have blindly ignored 25 years of warnings from the science community, and are now at a critical crossroads. Scientists are 95% certain climate change is caused by human impact on the environment.

Here in New Brunswick, our government recognizes flooding in Perth-Andover and storm surges along our Acadian coast to be a result of  global warming and following Dr. Suzuki’s talk, we watched a documentary on vulnerable coastal communities in all Atlantic Provinces that have been subjected to the flooding and surges.  But what we have experienced so far cannot come close to the massive devastation experienced elsewhere….yet.

davidsuzuki2The Climate Commission reports there will be catastrophic consequences for all if we do not move toward renewable energy and leave 80 per cent of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.  The time to change direction now. In only a few years, Massachusetts has created 80,000 jobs in the clean energy sector. Others are doing it, why not us?

In a recent CBC interview, Ireland’s former president and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson reminds us that this is – above all – a human rights issue. Beyond countries already suffering crop loss due to periods of drought and flooding, UN agencies now say a further 9.6 million people are at risk of food insecurity caused by erratic and extreme weather conditions.

People in vulnerable countries are dying as a result of industrial greed, political corruption and citizen complacency in the wealthy north. “This is a matter that requires the greatest of human solidarity – a movement to make the world safe for the future,” Robinson said, noting our grandchildren will bear the brunt of our choices today.

Meanwhile, feeling helpless and powerless, we burrow deeper under our cozy blankets of complacency.

If we have any hope of ‘stopping the madness’, you and I must take an active role and demand that governments seek a broader vision and reduce our nation’s dependence upon fossil fuels.  This is now a necessity, not a choice.

If you and I do not educate ourselves; if you and I do not begin making better choices in our day to day living; if you and I do not vote consciously and then hold our politicians accountable – our grandchildren have no hope of a future.

“If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?’ asked Saño.

Indeed.  If not you and me, then who?

In the aftermath of Rexton

Last Tuesday, the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA) held a media conference at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton to respond to the violent events in Rexton the week previous.

Global news report: http://globalnews.ca/video/918855/anti-shale-gas-alliance-questions-rcmp-intervention

The official statement follows:

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance supports the rights of aboriginal peoples to have prior, meaningful consultation on matters vital to their lives and livelihoods, as guaranteed by treaties and courts. Because they live close to the land and have nowhere else to go if their lands are damaged, they are the first line of defense for all of us.

Although there were unquestionably many things that eventually led to the events last week in Rexton, there is an underlying background history of 3 years of a government failure to engage honestly and openly with the citizens of NB on such a crucial issue.

This is not only an aboriginal rights story.  It’s a story of government ineptitude and arrogance.  The dangers associated with shale gas pose a threat to all New Brunswickers, and for three years the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance of nearly thirty groups of Anglophone, Francophone and Aboriginal citizens have sought, along with the people of Elsipogtog, to expose these dangers to the government and the public.

Just as it has ignored aboriginal rights, the government has also ignored our groups, the thousands of people we represent and all New Brunswick citizens.  Opponents to shale gas have turned out 1,500 people on short notice for a march on the legislature in 2011 and a year later brought an historic petition to the legislature, signed by 20,000 citizens.  In a province of only 750,000 thousand people, these are incredible numbers.

We have just learned that 51 Francophone mayors have reiterated their calls for a moratorium, joining the 14 of 15 civic leaders of Kent County and dozens of municipalities and districts throughout the province.  How can the government make any claim to have the support of the people?

A door-to-door poll in St. Ignace found that 98% of the populace opposed shale gas, which matches the 97% of a similar poll in Taymouth nearly three years ago.  Clearly the government is not making its case, and with good reason.  If you don’t talk to people you can’t convince them.

The NB Anti-Shale Gas Alliance has continuously urged the government to address all of the scientific, economic and social issues surrounding shale gas in public forums open to questions and debate. To date, the government has completely ignored these requests and has totally failed to present its scientific and economic case to the public.

It missed a perfect chance to do so when the Chief Medical Officer for Health issued a comprehensive, award winning report on shale gas. The government had to be forced to make this report public, and never, ever discusses it, because it raises questions about the general lack of knowledge about many aspects of shale gas, and about the government’s approach to developing it.

The single government attempt to engage the public was the LaPierre ‘listening tour’.  But when the tour ended, government decided to ignore the public’s comments and instead accept a report of the personal opinions of Dr. LaPierre, a report, which now stands discredited along with its author.

This disregard for the public’s opinion and willful failure to seek informed consent from the public is mirrored in the government’s failure to obey its legal obligation to consult with the aboriginal people. This failure makes the government the first lawbreaker in this dispute, and is the underlying cause of all the events leading to Rexton.  Simple, honest and open public discussion could have prevented Rexton from happening.

Anti-shale gas demonstrations, including blockades of equipment and arrests, have been occurring for nearly three years with absolutely no appearance or threat of violence.  Thousands of people have peacefully visited demonstration sites from Stanley in 2011 to Rexton today, bringing supplies and financial and moral support.

Therefore, there are many questions to be answered, and many explanations needed to determine why last Thursday at Rexton was different.

We applaud the Elsipogtog people for being able to move on to healing and peacefully making their case through the courts. They have our support and that of allies around the world.  But there must be a public accounting of the police activities leading up to and including the day of this event.  There remain many questions about the authorization, timing, necessity and execution of this action, and the shocking escalation in the use of force. Leaving them unanswered will set a precedent that will guarantee a reoccurrence of Rextons in the future.

We are also happy that this incident has ended with the Elsipogtog people seeking their own injunction to halt seismic testing. Seismic is not simple and harmless exploration. Under New Brunswick law it is the gateway to production. An exploration license (granted for seismic testing) is automatically turned into a production lease simply by asking for it and paying a fee. The only time to have meaningful discussions about whether or not we as a Province want to follow this path is to do so before exploration is done.

Moving to a more positive message…

As the government has abandoned public dialogue, the NB Anti-Shale Gas Alliance has been attempting to fill this void. Our members have been giving presentations, providing information, organizing events and spreading the word person-to-person throughout the province. This has prompted dozens of municipalities, professional and civic groups to call for a moratorium.

We have stepped up our efforts by putting together a package of arguments about the many facets of shale gas that are seldom discussed, as the government, industry (and some media) are happy to pretend that water contamination is the only problem with shale gas. Our first formal collection of arguments was directed primarily to the concerns of municipal officials, and was distributed at the AGM’s of both the Francophone and Anglophone Unions of Municipalities.

The information is drawn from credible (and named) sources such as peer-reviewed science, expert analysis, industry reports and stories in the news from places where shale gas is being extracted. It covers much of the same ground as the scientific Chief Medical Officer for Health’s report, but it is designed to be accessible to the non-scientist.

The information is available here.

As this information, with additions and updates, circulates in the public, we encourage people to take it to their political leaders and get answers to their questions about it. As the campaign for next year’s election proceeds, we will track candidates’ positions on this issue and make them known to the public as well.

The government should know that there ‘will’ be a public discussion about shale gas. Whether they will be part of that discussion is up to them. The other campaign of the Alliance is to raise money to fund a legal challenge to shale gas.  One way or another the public will get the truth.

Questions Regarding the Events in Rexton:

There was no threat to public safety until police, who arrived with drawn guns, dogs and snipers in camouflage, advanced on unarmed civilians, including women and children, using pepper spray and non-lethal rounds.  This was a sudden and shocking escalation in the use of force.  Why was it necessary, given months of non-violent protest, where firearms were never seen at this site or any protest site?

The police claim to have ‘intelligence’ that there were explosives and firearms. How did they know?  Why then did they allow people to go into what they later described as a ‘dangerous situation’ right up to the moment the police assault began?  This site had been effectively blocked in all directions for weeks.  Why did this not take place on Thursday?

While some people were allowed in, why did the police ban the press from the scene while the action took place? By doing so, the police removed the only people who could substantiate their allegations about firearms and explosives purportedly found at the site.

And if police had this knowledge, why wasn’t it made known to the chiefs with whom they had contact? They may have been able to diffuse this situation peacefully themselves if they had been informed.

We find it utterly incomprehensible that with a massive police presence at the site that first one and then eventually six vehicles could be set on fire, with no police intervention, and no arrests of suspects for arson. We don’t know what to make of this, but it needs an explanation.

Our choices will determine our children’s future

“Sustainable development must define the choices we make to provide our children with both a thriving and healthy world. It has become increasingly apparent that the shale gas industry is incompatible with sustainability.”

There is no shortage of independent scientific research to prove this statement, as well as actual experiences from places where shale gas has been developed.

There are presently more than 70 New Brunswick municipalities that have called for a ban or a moratorium on shale gas development in the province – along with 30 groups, and a dozen organizations/associations (many of them health-related), as well as countless individuals.

There is little public support for such development, particularly in our rural areas. In a recent meeting with Regional Service District representatives from Kent County, Energy & Mines Minister Craig Leonard said that he would support individual landowners who said ‘no’ to having wells drilled on their property, but would not support municipalities calling for a moratorium within their boundaries. This is an erosion of our democratic rights.

The New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance has compiled a marvelous collection of short pieces that summarize the different issues of concern related to shale gas development. The twelve important topics, which aren’t often part of the public discussion, are covered individually. Many of the topics greatly affect those not living in shale gas areas.   While geared specifically towards the interests of municipal decision-makers, they also provide fact-based evidence for individuals looking for credible information and research. Read more…

Grassroots Guardians:

Why Protecting New Brunswick from Shale Gas Development is Everyone’s Responsibility

Last month, Council of Canadians National Chairperson, Maude Barlow spoke to over 500 people at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton, New Brunswick on the need for all cultures to come together in a quest to protect our land, air and water.

If you were unable to attend the event itself, it was recorded in three parts:

PART 1:  Patricia Leger, of Memramcook Action, speaks first to the intensive work and solidarity of many groups and volunteers across the province of New Brunswick who are collaborating in opposition to hydro-fracking for gas and oil. Deborah Carr of Water and Environmental Protection for Albert County spoke to the situation in the areas surrounding Moncton and the potential for developments in south-eastern New Brunswick, giving the reasons why everyone needs to become involved.

PART 2 –  Ron Tremblay, of Maliseet First Nations, begins in his native tongue because his grandfather always told him to speak in his own language first when he talks.  Then, in English, using the stories of his culture, he explains the need for all people to take a stand to protect our shared Mother Earth. He talks about polluted rivers and his arrest, as he stood at the junction of Routes 116 and 126 to block seismic thumper trucks. He shares the prophecies of the elders that the people will reach a crossroads and if we advance beyond, there will be no turning back. We are at that crossroads; it is the time for rising up of all people to protect our future.

PART 3 – Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians, speaks on the environmental protection work being done throughout the world, and here in New Brunswick, where our opposition is being watched by other provinces, states and countries.  She paints a grim picture of the state of our environment, but shares optimism inspired by the very large successes of dedicated people and groups, among them our First Nations communities. She encourages the financial support of legal injunctions to stop the government from proceeding with the exploitation of our natural gas. (see www.knowshalegasnb.com).

This land is my land…or is it?

(with notes from R. LeChance and D. Core)

Last week in Hillsborough, Dave Core, founding president of CAEPLA, Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowners Associations to spoke to a full house of southern NB landowners on the issue of leasing land for pipelines or gas/oil wells.

davecoreDave has spent decades advocating for landowner property rights across the country. He jokingly commented that, despite his ponytail, he was not an environmentalist, but was, in fact, pro-development. But never at the expense of the landowner.

He hopes to create more responsible land stewardship and to ensure industry is held to higher levels of compensation, accountability and safety through lease agreements.

Pipeline companies are beginning to survey lands east and west of Fredericton for the proposed West-East pipeline and the government has scheduled town hall meetings in a limited number of communities. At the same time, gas companies are exploring for shale gas in south-east New Brunswick and preparing for further development in other areas.

Dave-Core-250x180

Pipeline surveyors are already contacting people in the Saint John River Valley. Listen to this interview on CBC and this online article.

Dave’s talk in summary:

Gas and oil companies lease the surface of your land to extract the resources. Pipeline companies can acquire the use of your land through “Easement Agreements” that leave your name on title. In both cases the energy companies can apply to the government through “regulatory processes” for “right of entry” (expropriation). This takes away your right to negotiate a fair contract protecting your best interests. You have no leverage to negotiate once your property rights have been taken by legislation that creates either ministerial or regulatory processes giving all the advantages to the oil/gas and pipeline industry. The only way to counter-balance this is when landowners work together to level the playing field and to force governments to change the legislation protecting property rights.

Here are some important points to understand, should someone approach you to lease/survey your land:

  • Most important: Do not sign any oil or gas leases or pipeline agreements (surveying, exploration, land, etc.) unless you know exactly what you are signing.  Signed documents of any type have been successfully used by pipeline and gas and oil companies to indicate the landowner’s approval for development. Even attending a ‘town hall’ consultation meeting and filling out a survey or information form can be used to ‘verify’ that the company has ‘consulted’ with you.
  • Pipeline companies do not want to own or lease your land; they want to take your land through an easement agreement which leaves your name on title. In this way, partial or total liability for any damages remains with the landowner.
  • Any easement on your land, including all future liabilities, will be tied to your property even if you attempt to sell it.  The easement may restrict your use or any future buyer’s use of the land.
  • If you refuse to sign an easement agreement, the company can apply for a ‘Right of Entry’ that the federal government’s National Energy Board will approve. This taking of land is to the financial benefit of pipeline company shareholders. It is rent control for pipeline monopolies.
  • Land agents will play neighbour against neighbour to make sure that they do not pay fair industrial rates for the land and to avoid signing an ironclad contract that protects your property.  You have little bargaining power as an individual.
  • Landowners across Canada now understand that the only way to get fair compensation for oil and gas leases is to talk to each other. The only way to protect your family’s safety, environment, businesses and investments is by working together to demand ironclad contracts and changes to government legislation respecting property rights. It is only the front line people, those directly affected, that can address these issues and protect our water and stewardship responsibilities.
  • Verbal assurances from a land agent or a gas company are not legally binding. Anything not written into the oil/gas lease or a pipeline easement is NOT in the agreement.
  • Very few lawyers have the necessary experience in property rights issues associated with the laws relating to gas companies and gas leases to actually address the best interests of an affected landowner. When landowners work together, they have leverage to negotiate better agreements and to hire legal counsel who understand the enacting legislation and will stand up for landowner rights.
  • Land agents do not look after your best interests. It is their job to acquire lease/easements at the lowest price with the least responsibility for their clients; i.e. the gas/pipeline companies. When you purchase a house through a realtor, they represent the seller, not the buyer.  Land agents represent the buyer (gas company), not the seller (property owner). Their fiduciary responsibility is to the company paying their contract not to the property owner; do not let them convince you otherwise.

The proposed west-east pipeline would be regulated by the National Energy Board (NEB), and their regulations supersede anything you agree to with the pipeline company, provincial environment or regulatory laws. Once the pipelines are abandoned with NEB approval, the NEB no longer has jurisdiction; responsibility falls back on the landowner. The landowner whose name is on the title, will fall prey to provincial environmental and safety laws, potentially making his/her property a brown space, like an abandoned gas station. This is why pipeline companies do not want to own the land their pipelines cross, they ultimately do not want responsibility when all is said and done.

The best way to protect your best interests when approached to lease land for pipelines or well pads is for landowners to work together to force contracts that are renegotiated or updated every 5 years. Contracts should address abandonment and other risks, liabilities, duty of care and other costs that are often left to affected landowners when they legally belong to pipeline companies.

By creating a NB Landowners Association, landowners form a united front enabling them to negotiate better easement agreements (or perhaps a lease with annual payments renegotiated every 5 years) that help protect safety and property values. It is only by working with your neighbours that you can level the playing field.

We need our local communities and our Provincial Governments to support us in holding the Federal government and its NEB responsible for our property rights.

About CAEPELA
CAEPLA has created an instruction booklet – When the Landman Comes Calling – advising landowners of the risks of leasing. If you know of a neighbour that has been approached by a land agent or anyone else trying to acquire a land or pipeline lease, share or print the attached document with them.  Also share the document with anyone who has stated they are willing to lease their land.
They

Wetlands taking a blasting

(Conservation Council of NB Media Release; news coverage to follow)

Shale gas exploration gets green light in wetlands, around watercourses

Fredericton – After being alerted to the fact that seismic testing and related work for shale gas exploration is happening in wetlands and around significant watercourses in Kent County, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick (CCNB) has learned that government has granted a blanket permit to do work across wetlands and watercourse buffers in 8 provincial counties.

CCNB was approached by Kent County residents Tina Beers, Harcourt Local Service District Advisory Committee Chair, and her husband John, also with the Harcourt LSD and a volunteer firefighter, who came across activity in a nearby wetland. They were immediately concerned that activity was taking place in sensitive wetland and floodplain areas and started inquiring about the rules for working in and around them.

CCNB requested, and the Department of Environment and Local Government has shared, the wide-sweeping Wetland and Watercourse Alteration (WAWA) permit granted to SWN Resources Canada in April for their seismic exploration program to do work in “various” wetlands and watercourse buffers throughout Albert, Kent, Kings, Northumberland, Queens, Sunbury, Westmorland and York counties.

Ms. Beers was shocked to learn how easy it was for the company to have such widespread access to wetlands.

“We keep hearing that our waters will be protected from shale gas exploration through the strict new ‘Rules for Industry’, she said, “but we look into this issue that concerns us just to find that the province has given the company a green light to go into these sensitive areas”.

“We really want the public to know this,” Ms. Beers continued, “this is a real example of how the “rules” are being applied right now.”

Mr. Beers came across a drill rig stuck in the wetland while out on a fishing trip. A swath of land was cleared larger than allowed as the rig needed to be removed by an excavator.

The wetland is about 16 hectares and located roughly ½ km from, with the water drainage connected to, Hector Fork, a tributary of the Richibucto River. Shot hole blasts were also marked less than 40m from the bank of the Richibucto River, an identified wetland area.

“The Rules for Industry” that government is so proud of are permit conditional, like most of our environmental regulations in New Brunswick, says Stephanie Merrill, Freshwater Protection Program director for CCNB. “A proponent can apply for a variance, they write a check for the fee, it’s given the stamp of approval and off they go”, Merrill explained. “Our ‘rules’ are useless if there is no political will to use them for the intended purpose and unfortunately the granting of WAWA permits specifically is very common practice,” Merrill stated.

In addition to granting alteration permits for ‘regulated wetlands” — wetlands acknowledged by the Department of Environment through their GeoNB mapping system, SWN has been actively working in “unregulated wetlands” — not mapped but that still exist on the landscape. These wetland alterations require no oversight from the Department of Environment since 2011 when then Minister of Environment Margaret-Ann Blaney made dramatic changes to how wetlands are regulated in the province.

CCNB has previously estimated that this mapping system only accounts for about 50% of wetlands that exist on the ground and identified 16 examples where wetlands were relieved of their ‘regulated’ status.

“We’ve been saying since these changes were made over two years ago, that the Department is actually in violation of their own Clean Water Act by ignoring these wetlands and relieving them from any protection, permitting, tracking and monitoring, says Merrill. “How can government expect the public to be comfortable with new rules when the old ones aren’t even followed?”

CBC Coverage
– Print:  SWN Given permit to test in wetlands– TV:  http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/NB/ID/2397123866/