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INTRODUCTION

When it comes to natural gas, New Brunswick is what is known as a "greenfield" market, meaning it has essentially no existing gas distribution facilities. Because natural gas has not been generally available here, the province has been denied the economic opportunities that could accrue from having access to this clean, less expensive fossil fuel. But now, with the development of the gas fields surrounding Sable Island, off Nova Scotia, and the imminent construction of a pipeline, which will deliver natural gas to New Brunswick, the province recognizes that it is standing at the threshold of a new and important stage in its historic evolution.

Accordingly, the Government of New Brunswick decided to undertake a thorough, open and transparent examination of all issues relating to energy. It asked the 53rd Legislative Assembly to create a Select Committee on Energy with a broad mandate. This includes an examination of the future of the electric utility industry in New Brunswick, which it will begin shortly. But its first task was to look into the implications of the arrival of natural gas in the province. In the first stage of this process, an Expression of Interest and Consultation document was issued, and interested parties were invited to express their opinions at public hearings. In the next stage, this information will be used by the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources and Energy to develop a Request for Proposals, the response to which will be evaluated, and negotiations begun with selected bidders.

The Select Committee on Energy held its first meeting on July 29, 1998, and adopted a tight timetable for public hearings, consultations and preparation of its report on natural gas. Subsequently, nine days of hearings were held in Fredericton, Saint John, Moncton, Bathurst and Edmundston. (A schedule of hearing dates and presenters is included as Appendix A. A list of individuals and organizations who did not appear but submitted written briefs is included as Appendix B.) This report is the result of that process. It presents the committee's views on the public policy and legislative issues surrounding natural gas in New Brunswick, and it provides guidance on issues that should be addressed as part of the process for awarding gas distribution franchises in the province.




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