As New Brunswick ponders potential development of the shale gas industry, the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – New Brunswick has voiced its support for “responsible” development of the sector.
The association, which represents 30 firms, believes that by establishing an appropriate, regulated system that safeguards the public and the environment, “a made-in-New Brunswick” shale gas industry is possible, ultimately benefiting both the province and its residents.
“Responsible development can be accomplished by applying ‘made in N.B. solutions’ which would be drawn from the experience gained worldwide through successful practices incorporated in other jurisdictions,” says past president Dave McAllister.
“A regulated shale gas industry would not only have a positive economic impact on the people of New Brunswick, it would also create new employment opportunities for (association) members and non-members alike while maintaining existing jobs in the province.”
The government has identified natural gas exploration, and specifically shale gas exploration and related industrial development, as potentially having significant economic benefits for the future.
In mid-May, it released a discussion paper containing 116 recommendations designed to ensure “the responsible environmental management” of the province’s oil and natural gas industry. The recommendations include proposals to complement the province’s existing regulatory framework.
“The proposals contained in this discussion paper would make our existing regulations even stronger and would ensure we are prepared if the industry expands in our province,” Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup said in a statement.
The discussion paper, entitled Responsible Environmental Management of Oil and Gas Activities in New Brunswick, is organized according to a set of 12 principles announced by the provincial government late last year.
The measures in the plan focus on protecting water and the environment and protecting communities and landowners.
In order to obtain feedback on the discussion paper, the government organized a nine-stop citizen engagement tour. Those public meetings wrapped up July 4. Comments on the paper can be made until mid-September.
While the consulting engineers’ association did not participate formally in the public consultations, “needless to say, we are following the debate quite closely,” said executive director Nadine Boudreau.
Association representatives did, however, participate in a two-day conference in June on natural resource development in the province.
Much of the discussion focused on shale gas development and the implications of developing a resource-heavy economy, Boudreau said.