Sept. 24, 2014
NB Premier designate says fracking moratorium a first priority once in office
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
New Brunswick premier designate Brian Gallant addresses a news conference in Fredericton, Wednesday, Sept.24, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/James West"
FREDERICTON - Brian Gallant is promising to make a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas one of his first priorities when he becomes premier of New Brunswick in the next couple of weeks.
The moratorium on fracking was a key plank in the Liberal campaign platform for Monday's election, which gave the party a majority government.
"We would want to institute that as soon as possible," Gallant said Wednesday after meeting Premier David Alward in Fredericton to begin discussions on the transition from a Progressive Conservative to Liberal government.
Before bringing in the moratorium, Gallant said he will meet with government staff to determine what mechanisms are needed to temporarily block petroleum companies from using the practice.
"We have made it very clear that we would have a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until we fully understand the risk to our water, our health, and our environment," he said.
Gallant said he also wants to consult with other provinces and states with experience on the issue.
Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New York state have moratoriums while Nova Scotia is planning legislation to prohibit fracking, which involves pumping large volumes of water and chemicals deep underground to fracture layers of rock and release pockets of gas.
"We have jurisdictions around us where I think we will be able to pull some of their experiences on how this should be instituted and the best way to go about it," Gallant said.
Exploration companies working in the province haven't commented on the election outcome.
"I'm very open to meeting with them, and I'm open to hearing their concerns, but my position and my resolve remains the same — to have a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing," Gallant said.
The Liberals won 27 seats to the Tories 21 on Monday, while the Greens won one seat.
Gallant expects it could be 10 to 14 days before he takes office.
Monday's news conference was Gallant's first since election night and he touched on a number of other key issues during the campaign including forestry and abortion.
He said he wants to see all the information that went into the new 10-year forestry plan brought in by Alward's government, which would give forestry companies get greater access to softwood on Crown land.
Gallant said there was a lot of information that has not been made public including maps to show where more cutting will be done. Once he gets that information, he said he'll meet with parties with an interest in the industry before deciding how to proceed.
Gallant said he will also follow through on a campaign promise to eliminate barriers to women seeking abortion in the province.
The lobby group Reproductive Justice NB said Wednesday it will press Gallant to repeal a section of the Medical Services Payment Act. Regulation 84-20 requires that an abortion be done at certain hospitals and only after two doctors have certified that the procedure is medically necessary.
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