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About that fracking moratorium promise

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It’s fair to assume that many people who voted Liberal in the recent provincial election did so based on Brian Gallant’s campaign promise not to allow fracking until he’s convinced it is environmentally safe.  In fact their respective positions on fracking was the defining difference between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives.

Some may have taken that promise seriously, but many others were convinced it was just a play for votes, and speculated that after realizing how desperate our financial situation actually is, and after a reasonable amount of time has passed, he would discover that fracking is environmentally safe after all. 

Many figured it would take a about a year.

Now, we may wonder if the time line may be moved up considerably. 

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The problem, and it is hard to imagine this comes as a surprise because it was made perfectly clear during the campaign, is that the potash mine in Penobsquis outside Sussex relies on natural gas supplied by Corridor Resources. Corridor gets that natural gas from 30 wells in the nearby McCully Fields, all fracked. And by the nature of fracked wells, they eventually run dry and new ones need to be fracked.

You can see the dilemma. If Premier Gallant sticks to his word of a province-wide moratorium on fracking, that would mean the natural gas to run the potash mine may run out or become prohibitevly expensive. PotashCorp New Brunswick’s General Manager says losing this energy source would have “profound implications”. Not sure what that means but the potash mine, with its brand spanking new facility, is a major employer in the Sussex region. I guess we are free to draw our own conclusions.

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Premier Gallant’s fracking moratorium pledge came into question recently when his Energy Minister Don Arsenault suggested the government might make an exception, maybe only have the moratorium for other parts of the province.  The Premier has distanced himself from that comment, but this problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon. And add to that, the potential lawsuit if Corridor has to stop operations. 

So far, the Premier is sticking to his guns. He says Corridor can continue to supply the mine from wells that have already been fracked, but it is unclear how long that will be a viable option. 

There may be another alternative, using a replacement fuel, but that would come at a big price both financially and environmentally because that replacement fuel would be imported oil.

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As an aside, this may be a dilemma for the environmentalists too. The natural gas from the past ten years of fracking replaced oil and all the greenhouse gases that ten years of its use would have produced. Would they really prefer a return to oil? But that’s another issue for another day.

It is apparent Premier Gallant has division within his cabinet on the moritorium issue. It seems pretty obvious his Energy Minister would make an exception for the potash mine in a New York minute. 

The now Opposition Tories have been very quick to tell voters “I told you so”. That may be premature, but you can bet they are not going to let up on it.

For the new Premier, there is no question it is a problem. The only question is how immediate a problem is it? 

Promises should mean something, and it is sad that many voters simply assume politicians break promises all the time. They don't. But sometimes the cost of keeping them is at the expense of what is best for the province.

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For example, former Premier Bernand Lord stubbornly keeping his ill-conceived promise to remove highway tolls has cost New Brunswick taxpayers dearly, and continues to do so, as cheques for the shadow tolls continue to be cut.

As a friend of mine once said - we would be setting a very dangerous precedent if we held politicians to the stupid promises they make to get elected. Wow that's cynical. But he makes a point.  

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