By Barbara Pike He stood at times, the calm center to a swirling storm. At times, standing next to a whiteboard quietly explaining drilling to a couple of interested residents. At other times, he was surrounded by angry, anti-hydraulic-fracturing citizens, who were neither interested in listening nor wanting facts. Tom Alexander is SWN Resources Canada’s point man in New Brunswick. In Rogersville recently, he again faced hostility and anger as he repeatedly explained the processes involved in onshore oil and gas exploration. Over and over again, he went through the procedures, the approvals, the very mechanics of drilling a well. He explained the casing, the cementing, and, yes, hydraulic fracturing. He was a portrait of patience and expertise. During a recent month, SWN held a number of open houses around New Brunswick to provide information about its exploration plans in the province. The company has invested heavily on the belief there is substantial natural gas in shale formations. The first sessions were calm, but in Rexton, a small, but very vocal group held a protest outside and were disruptive inside. Many of those same people showed up later in Rogersville. Most stayed outside waving placards and taping signs to an adjacent building. A few meandered in and out, stirring up the group outside and milling about inside. Every once in a while, they took on the SWN team as they patiently tried to answer questions and correct misinformation. It’s a tough battle because the most vocal opponents are among the most misinformed. Their strident pronouncements are taken as gospel no matter how erroneous. (As an example, one of the leaders continued shouting that the SWN permits were not legal or binding because they were signed by an acting minister of natural resources.) For those who sincerely wanted to listen, who wanted to attend to learn, it could be an intimidating environment. Not only did they have to ignore the placard waving people outside, but they had to endure the anger that at times that erupted inside the Legion Hall. There are many facets to this opposition. There is a mistrust of oil and gas companies. There is the misinformation spread by the mockumentary Gasland. And very importantly, there is widespread ignorance of the basics of oil and gas geology, exploration and development. That’s where we all need to become more involved and more engaged. There is little any of us can do to quiet the strident fanatics screaming in our faces that onshore oil and gas, or hydraulic fracturing is the ruin of our region. However, we can do more to talk about the basics of the oil and gas industry and provide Oil and Gas 101 tidbits whenever possible. Engage your family, neighbors and community in a discussion and talk about the basics. Direct them to websites that provide information about hydrocarbon formations and graphics about drilling. Some people do listen. It was interesting to see the expression on some faces change, or their stance relax as the SWN experts provided details and also showed people how far below their water table a well is drilled, and showed the size of the casings or the cementing process. Those who actually listened did begin to understand that a well drilled to a depth of two kilometers or more below the Earth’s surface is a significant distance below their drinking water. They were more informed about the numerous permits that are needed and the continual monitoring that is required of any exploration well. It was an exhausting day for the SWN team after more than four hours of talking, listening and explaining. But it wasn’t over. After breaking down the displays, putting the Legion Hall back in order, it was realized about a dozen or so of the anti-fracturing protestors were still outside, and they were harassing one of the government officials who had been helping with the open house. We waited for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police before leaving the building to drive away. And that may well be the final facet of this opposition, the brute intimidation. It’s an unnerving experience when you’re not a local, let alone when it’s your neighbor. Teams like Tom Alexander’s at SWN can’t do it alone. We all need to help carry the load and continue the education.