The New Brunswick government is introducing a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing that the Premier says won't be lifted until five conditions are met.
Those conditions include a process to consult with First Nations, a plan for waste water disposal and credible information about the impacts fracking has on health, water and the environment, Brian Gallant said Thursday.
"We have been clear from Day 1 that we will impose a moratorium until risks to the environment, health and water are understood," Gallant told a news conference in Fredericton.
"We believe these conditions to be very reasonable."
Gallant said he also wants the development of a royalty structure and a "social licence" ensuring that the public accepts fracking before the moratorium would be removed, though he acknowledged that has yet to be defined.
He said his government supports job creation but added that it needs to be done in a diversified and sustainable way.
"We're not interested in putting all of our eggs in a single basket," he said.
A number of companies are currently exploring for shale gas in the province and Corridor Resources recently fracked wells in the Penobsquis area that are used to supply gas to the nearby Potash Corp. mine.
Gallant said such operations would be allowed to continue under the legislation, as long as they don't rely on fracking. "We'll certainly also always listen to businesses that may have concerns and try to mitigate some of the impacts if they believe [them] to be negative on their operations," he said.
Sheri Somerville, a natural gas adviser with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the industry is disappointed with the government's decision. "We've been saying all along that a moratorium is unwarranted and that we've been doing this safely here in New Brunswick for at least a decade and in other jurisdictions in Canada for more than 60 years," Somerville said.
She said each energy company operating in the province will have to make its own decision on how to react but there are concerns that it could put a halt to exploration.
"This could certainly have a detrimental impact on future investment and industry progress for the province." she said. "It might result in a missed opportunity."
Stephanie Merrill of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick welcomed the legislation. "It's really refreshing to see the Premier be so concerned about the environment and our water," she said, adding that she hopes the moratorium is permanent.
Mark D'Arcy of the Council of Canadians, who has attended anti-shale gas rallies across the province, said he believes many New Brunswickers support the government's decision.
"This is a great Christmas present," he said.
Nova Scotia, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have also passed moratoriums on fracking, though they vary in scope.