MONCTON, N.B.—New Brunswick Premier David Alward and the Elsipogtog First Nation have agreed to continue talks today in an effort to resolve a growing dispute over shale gas exploration.
Alward and three of his cabinet ministers met Sunday with Elsipogtog council members and other opponents of the shale gas industry at a hotel in Moncton, N.B., in an effort to end a protest that has closed a highway in eastern New Brunswick for a week.
Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock said nothing during the meeting changed their view that energy company SWN Resources should leave the province.
“In a nutshell, we want the company out of our province and the province wants to do business with the company,” Sock said following the three-hour meeting.
“We basically put our issues on the table and the province did the same, so I had to ask for a follow-up meeting.”
Alward said the meeting gave both his government and Elsipogtog members an opportunity to express their respective views in a discussion he described as “respectful.”
“People had a chance to voice their concerns and we had an opportunity to discuss the work that we’re doing in New Brunswick as well,” Alward said.
The RCMP blocked Highway 134, near Rexton, last Sunday after a protest over shale gas exploration by SWN Resources began spilling onto the road.
Protesters subsequently cut down trees across another part of the highway and have blocked an entrance to a compound used by SWN Resources to store exploration equipment.
On Thursday, a New Brunswick judge issued an injunction at the request of SWN Resources that would force the protesters to remove their blockade and allow the company access to their site.
The RCMP have not yet enforced the injunction, and Sock said he hoped it would not happen while talks with the government were underway.
Opponents of the shale gas sector say the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract the resource could pollute drinking water. Proponents of the industry say such concerns are overblown and don’t take into account the possibility of replacing coal and oil with cleaner burning natural gas.