Elsipogotog, New Brunswick – The appearance of SWN sub-contracted All-Terrain Vehicles on highway 11 near Kouchibouguac National Park, coupled with the construction of a fenced-in compound housing five seismic testing trucks – or 'thumpers' - at the junction of highways 134 and 11 in the town of Rexton, suggests that an attempt at an autumn season of seismic testing in Kent County, New Brunswick, is days, if not hours, away.
Opposition to seismic testing, the precursor step to hydraulic fracturing – the highly-polluting, water-intensive technique to extract natural gas deposits from shale gas formations – was fierce throughout the summer months in Kent County.
Bonded together through their shared biological imperative for clean water, alliances developed between First Nations, Acadian and other local communities. The climactic moment of the anti-shale gas summer campaign, where a 20-ton truck was seized for an evening (with RCMP later chased from the scene), resulted in SWN Resources Canada – the Canadian incantation of Texas-based gas giant SWN – retreating from Kent County for a period of about eight weeks.
Yet now they are back.
If SWN's maps and current actions are any indication of their intentions, their fall campaign will focus on two seismic testing lines far closer to Elsipogtog First Nation, one of the strongholds of resistance to hydraulic fracturing in the area.
During the summer, resistance was made difficult in no small part due to the fact that one of SWN's key seismic testing lines was located in relatively inhospitable terrain, along logging roads in the marshy area of Irving-controlled Crown land.
Indeed, Irving-owned private security firm Industrial Security Limited acted with relative impunity throughout the summer, creating impromptu road blocks at will, driving at times with reckless abandon on the highway under the guise of safely escorting SWN equipment, boxing automobiles in at times, and on at least on one occasion engaging in an alleged hit and run incident.
The seismic lines slated for the fall are a bit of a different story. Kent County is sparsely populated, but the testing lines are slated to pass through numerous small communities, villages and towns, rather than back roads far from populated areas.
For the immediate moment, the focal point of the re-energized protest movement appears to be the main entrance to the compound at the junctions of highways 134 and 11, in the town of Rexton, New Brunswick. Unverified rumours suggest the compound sits on Irving-owned land.
Aside from two dirt tracks, there seems to be only one navigable way into the compound. With five thumpers inside the compound, along with numerous boxes of currently unidentified equipment, it would appear to be a trove of equipment – which, if contained – might present a stumbling block to SWN's intentions to seismic test.
With unverified reports of seismic testing slated to begin on Sunday, if not by early next week, the time to rally appears to be immediate.
“It's important for people to come at least Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” says Louis Jerome, from Gesgapegiag First Nation. “We need people to come and stand with us and say that this is a last warning. [Seismic testing] is the real lead up to hydraulic fracturing, and we've been doing this for almost three months.
“We're asking you to bring your friends, family, all the people you can think of. People have to put their lives on hold, and think of your children, your grandchildren, your future families.”