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A trip to New Brunswick to learn about shale gas development and what communities are doing about it

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I came home on Sunday evening from an awesome weekend in New Brunswick learning more about fracking, meeting with allies, and being inspired by the amazing work of our chapters in the Atlantic and the incredible opposition to fracking in New Brunswick. I even had the privilege of speaking at the Voice of the People tour in Saint John on Saturday evening. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

On Friday afternoon, members of the Council of Canadians’ South Shore and St. John’s chapters, Political Director Brent Patterson, Atlantic Regional Organizer Angela Giles, and I made a stop in Elsipogtog to meet with community members there. Elsipogtog First Nation -- just outside of Rexton, New Brunswick -- was the hotbed of fracking opposition last fall when RCMP moved in on peaceful activists who were camped out to protect the land and water from SWN Resources fracking plans.

We then stopped in Penobsquis to meet with Beth Nixon, a landowner and farmer who is fighting fracking on her land and has seen firsthand the impacts that potash mining can have on people’s drinking water. Beth is a well-spoken and sharp lady who is quick to laugh and tell jokes despite the serious challenges and risks she and her family face. She took us two well pad sites -- one, minutes away from a dairy farm and the other right on her property.

Penobsquis is an industry town and had its first non-conventional wells drilled in 2000 and 2001. Since then, many more rounds of seismic testing have taken place and several more wells have been drilled. This coupled with potash mining has resulted in personal-use water wells drying up, health concerns, and subsidence causing damage to homes and properties (and drastically decreasing real estate values). There are currently nearly 40 wells that are being fracked in Penobsquis.

Corridor Resources is currently going through an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with the New Brunswick government for Phase III of a hydraulic fracturing operation in Penobsquis, including a proposal to frack using propane in place of water.

To read the Council of Canadians’ submission to the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation including our letter to the New Brunswick Department of Environment and Local Government on Corridor Resources’ EIA, click here.

During the day on Saturday, I joined chapters for our Atlantic Regional meeting in Saint John to discuss their work in the past year, the Energy East pipeline and shale gas/fracking in the Atlantic.

For the evening Voice of the People event, Joel Butler welcomed the people who filled the room at St. Joachim's Church which was right across the road from the massive Irving refinery. Alex Bailey from the Fredericton District Labour Council opened the evening’s presentations. I spoke next about the terrible impacts shale gas development can have on water sources and how fracking violates the human right to water. Chris Walker from NB Anti-Shale Gas Alliance followed with an informative and thorough presentation on the climate, health and other impacts of shale gas. Garth Hood of the Fredericton chapter of the Council of Canadians ended with a riveting presentation on alternatives to shale gas development and fossil fuels.

Shale gas is a heated and divisive topic, particularly with the provincial election coming up on September 22. We can be certain that opposition will continue, especially if SWN Resources does return this year.

The Voice of the People tour was launched on March 20th, 2014 and will visit nearly 30 communities across New Brunswick. The tour will provide public education about shale gas, clean jobs, and clean energy. This community-led initiative is an inspiring example of community members taking responsibility for democratic debate in the community on climate change and alternatives as well as the protection of water and public health. To learn more about the tour or to attend an event, visit their Facebook page.

To read more about shale gas development in New Brunswick, check out the New Brunswick chapter of our the Fractivist Toolkit!



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