Penobsquis Landowner: the Other Side of the Story

by Beth Nixon, Penobsquis, NB
19 September 2014

(Beth Nixon has been lobbying the provincial government for justice for 10 years. Hers was one of 60 families that lost well water and/or springs during the industrialization of this small rural community. It was 5 years before the provincial government installed new water pipeline for these families. Penobsquis residents have still not been compensated for property damages due to subsidence as their aquifer drains into the PotashCorp mine and now have additional concerns about the impacts of fracking.  Read more on the Penobsquis Story here and here.)

Today, the premier of the province stopped by Penobsquis again as part of his campaign. To the best of my knowledge he has not met with anyone from Penobsquis during these stops, though. And the premier has ignored requests of the local landowners group to meet with him for the past 18 months…

…so it is particularly obnoxious that he is here promoting unconventional gas and fracking while ignoring the request of those stakeholders most personally affected by it.

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Sign observed in nearby Town of Sussex

Landowners here in Penobsquis are concerned about abandonment, decommissioning, and the spills and other incidents that are happening on our wellpads and with the new ‘Royalty Scheme’.

Some of us are even pro-fracking, others are concerned, and some of us are against. We have an unequal relationships with the gas company….one of those David and Goliath situations people speak of. So we find it useful to talk to each other and work together when we can. We’ve met with our local MLA once, and his assistant took part in a meeting we had with the gas company Corridor Resources.

Landowners issues include the spills, the decommissioning, the noise and pollution, and the compensation. You see Corridor is telling us landowners that the government, this Alward government, has forced them to pay us less.

We used to get a ‘production’ bonus for each well in production. Corridor says that this government made them stop doing that. Some landowners negotiated their contracts based on getting this money.

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Turkey Farm well pad

So today when I heard Premier Alward, was coming to Penobsquis I was interested in going to see him. After driving around for a bit this morning I finally found that he was back on the Turkey Farm well pad where he was making an announcement (This well pad owner now gets $6,000 less a year for this site and Corridor blames this on the Alward government). This well pad is at the edge of Penobsquis, yet only a stone’s throw from Alward’s great-great uncle’s farm, where I live….where I have invited him to come visit, so he can see our well pad and hear the stories about the spills, about Corridor breaking the contract the first day they were on site. How they dumped many loads of gravel on my parent’s land due to a survey error….and many other stories.

So I stood at the end of the public road, in front of my truck, and held the only sign I had with me:  it lists the number of jobs created by gas compared to conservation and renewable technologies. The Big Blue bus slowed, someone at the front waved. Then it drove on. Our local MLA came behind in his own bannered vehicle and I admit I did something I am ashamed of — I gave him the finger.

It hurts me that I have come to this and our democracy has come to this. That people will be voting on Monday without truth. This industry is not without “incidents”. There are spills and accidents. And it does not create meaningful employment.

IMG_9194aOur well pad has 5 wells, and there is hardly ever anyone on site. And even when someone is there, it is hardly the 100 people that this government and industry say will be the full time jobs created by 5 wells.

We are lucky to live in a democracy. We are lucky that others worked hard and fought and died for our right to have it. When you vote next Monday – please ensure you are well informed. That you have heard all sides.

The Liberals have treated us as badly as the Conservatives. Please ensure you are not voting for the Premier who listens to industry, but ignores requests from regular average New Brunswickers to meet and discuss their issues – the other side of the story.