FREDERICTON (GNB) – New rules for the oil and gas industry were released today by Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard and Environment and Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch.

The new rules are available online at two sites: the Department of Energy and Mines homepage and the About Natural Gas website. They were created following extensive consultation stemming from a discussion paper released in May 2012, entitled Responsible Environmental Management of Oil and Gas Activities in New Brunswick.

"We are pleased to share these new rules with the public and all stakeholders," Leonard said. "We have been firm in our commitment to New Brunswickers of putting rules in place that will protect the water, the environment and landowners and do so in a safe way if the oil and gas industry in our province expands. These new, robust rules will do just that."

Fitch said the rules have been developed keeping New Brunswick's particular geology and characteristics in mind.

"We are pleased with the input and expertise that have gone into developing the environmental safeguards for the oil and gas industry,” he said. “In addition to the rules, an incremental approach to development, coupled with in-depth monitoring programs, will ensure the environmental protections are in place.”

The rules focus on the following key issues:

●    protecting and monitoring water quality;
●    protecting communities and the environment;
●    well-bore integrity;
●    managing waste water;
●    addressing air emissions; and
●    public safety and emergency planning.

Leonard said the rigorous rules being released will fit in with many of the recommendations from two key reports issued in October 2012. One was by noted environmental professor Louis LaPierre of the Université de Moncton, while the other was by Dr. Eilish Cleary, chief medical officer of health.

"The goal of these rules is to protect the environment, people's health and our water," Fitch said. "We would stack our rules, taking into consideration our unique geology, against any other jurisdiction in North America."

The new rules, which dovetail with existing ones, are designed to document technological advancements in the oil and gas industry and to incorporate best practices readily to New Brunswick’s management framework.

Leonard re-iterated that the Department of Energy and Mines is working with other departments to create a new oil and natural gas blueprint. It will outline the provincial government's plan to develop New Brunswick's oil and natural gas resources, focusing on five key objectives:  

●    environmental responsibility;
●    effective regulation and enforcement;
●    community and First Nations engagement;
●    stability of supply; and
●    sustainable economic development.

The blueprint, to be released this spring, will address the longer-term environmental, social, regulatory and economic objectives and will incorporate a phased approach to future resource exploration and development.

"We have taken the necessary steps and will continue to work hard to ensure that we are ready in New Brunswick if exploration shows that we can have an expanded oil and gas industry," Leonard said. "This has been the work of many people, from many sectors, and we will continue this dialogue to ensure that we will develop our natural resources safely and effectively."