The are most likely to suffer from the new Trans Canada highway between Moncton and Fredericton is Sussex. That region is now no longer on the Trans Canada highway and is somewhat orphaned outside the urban zone of Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.
However, this community has a very interesting asset called natural gas at the McCully field. The actual amount is unknown but the firm developing the field believes there are significant deposits (based on their successful drilling to date) and there are alway working wells which are feeding the potash plant out there.
I was talking with one of the local mayors in that area today and he is very excited about a proposal that the communities in the area have put together. They are essentially looking to set up an Energy Park near the natural gas wells. Their innovative idea is to leverage some of that gas for local economic development.
The logic is simple. If they can get the developer of the field to offer the gas to local users at market rates less transportation and distribution costs (because it doesn’t have to feed into the main pipeline) and if they can get the province to forego any royalties on the gas, they would have a relatively cheap supply of natural gas and could use it to attract industry – including a natural gas fired electricity plant.
Now, I am not an engineer but prima facie this looks like a very interesting concept. Imagine a 20-30 year or more supply of natural gas at well below the cost in other locations. That surely would be enticing to a variety of industries that use large amounts of natural gas.
Trouble is, according to this mayor, neither the New Brunswick government or NB Power has any interest in the concept at all which is extremely frustrating to him. Here the local community has come up with a very interesting concept with little or no risk to the provincial government and there is zippo interest.
Yes, Enbridge has a contract to distribute natural gas in the province. But this deal was signed based on economic factors not using McCully. Further, Enbridge has no plans to supply Sussex with natural gas anytime soon (from the Sable supply).
Yes, this could be perceived at some level as competition for Irving -although I think this is a stretch arguement.
Yes, the province would have to forego potential royalties off the gas used locally (not on any gas shipped out of the region). But wouldn’t the economic benefits of jobs, taxes and economic life for this community outstrip the somewhat small level of royalties?
What I don’t get is why the province shows no interest. The Federal government spent hundreds of millions to support offshore oil & gas development off NL and NS but the provincial government won’t even entertain a potentially valuable onshore project such as this?
Sure, it would mean that Sussex would have cheaper power than other areas of New Brunswick. Sure, that may go against some time honoured principle of equality of power rates across New Brunswick.
But why would we deny a community the ability to leverage its natural resources for local benefit? Why not bulldoze the potato fields in northwestern NB because there are none in southeastern NB? Why not shut down the forest industry in central and northern NB because there is less of it in southern NB? Why not shut down the fishery because it only benefits coastal communities?
This is nuts. Sussex has natural gas. A proven field. The developer is in the process of securing funding to build a lateral pipeline to get this gas connected to the maine Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline so he can get the gas to New England as fast as it can be pumped out of the ground.
The local communities in the Sussex area have put forward a proposal that could secure the local economy for a generation.
And nobody wants to talk about it. I haven’t even read anything in the media about it. Some enterprising journalist should pick up on this story and run with it. Tell the public what this could mean for Sussex and ultimately New Brunswick. Tell the public that those poor folks out in the Sussex area can’t even get a decent hearing. Tell the public that here is a community that wants to pick itself up and be a serious economic engine in the province and good luck getting a single politician or government bureaucrat to go to bat for the idea.
That’s the state of our union, folks.