Groups pre­pared to fight new Que­bec oil and gas reg­u­la­tions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OBITUARIES / BUSINESS - BY ROSS MAROWITS

Op­po­nents of oil and gas devel­op­ment in Que­bec say they’re pre­pared to ramp up their fight amid ex­pec­ta­tions that the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment could re­lease new reg­u­la­tions on re­source ex­trac­tion in the com­ing weeks.

At the end of last year, the gov­ern­ment passed leg­is­la­tion to en­able pro­duc­tion of oil and nat­u­ral gas. In May, Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Pierre Ar­cand said rules gov­ern­ing that ac­tiv­ity would be re­leased a month later and since then, both in­dus­try and op­po­nents have been ea­gerly wait­ing for them.

Ca­role Dupuis of the Re­groupe­ment vig­i­lance hy­dro­car­bu­res Que­bec, which op­poses oil and gas devel­op­ment, said her group will take their bat­tle to com­mu­ni­ties in an ef­fort to pre­vent an en­ergy in­dus­try from tak­ing off in the prov­ince.

“If our politi­cians aren’t there to de­fend us, the pub­lic will de­fend it­self,” said Dupuis.

Pa­trick Bonin, a cli­mate and en­ergy cam­paigner for Green­peace, said the push to­wards fos­sil fuel devel­op­ment runs counter to the prov­ince’s global com­mit­ment to com­bat green­house gas emis­sions.

“If the gov­ern­ment was se­ri­ous about its in­ten­tion to re­spect the Paris Ac­cord, then ob­vi­ously there wouldn’t be any pro­ject to get the green light,” he said.

While the prov­ince may be bet­ter known for its wealth of hy­dro­elec­tric­ity, it has plenty of nat­u­ral gas. Ac­cord­ing to both the Que­bec Oil and Gas As­so­ci­a­tion and Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Pe­tro­leum Pro­duc­ers, it’s be­lieved to have enough nat­u­ral gas to meet its needs for at least a cen­tury.

About 15 per cent of the es­ti­mated 176.7 tril­lion cu­bic feet of gas mainly in the Utica Shale for­ma­tion along the St. Lawrence River is be­lieved to be re­cov­er­able, the Cana­dian En­ergy Re­search In­sti­tute says. A sim­i­lar pro­por­tion of the 43.6 bil­lion bar­rels of oil is re­cov­er­able pri­mar­ily be­neath An­ti­costi Is­land, though on Fri­day the gov­ern­ment an­nounced an end to drilling there.

The reg­u­la­tions will per­mit frack­ing - which has riled some - but ques­tions re­main over where drilling will be al­lowed.

A de facto mora­to­rium on frack­ing has been in place since 2012, but the law passed in De­cem­ber will al­low for it as long as com­pa­nies se­cure au­tho­riza­tion un­der the En­vi­ron­ment Qual­ity Act and so­cial li­cence (though it’s still un­clear what con­sti­tutes so­cial li­cence).

Ar­cand was un­avail­able for com­ment, but a spokesman said the gov­ern­ment’s goal is to have the strictest le­gal frame­work on en­ergy devel­op­ment in North Amer­ica.

Pierre-Olivier Pineau, a pro­fes­sor spe­cial­iz­ing in en­ergy at the Univer­sity of Mon­treal HEC busi­ness school, said the gov­ern­ment can’t po­lit­i­cally af­ford to have reg­u­la­tions that aren’t strin­gent, even if the chances of wide­spread pro­duc­tion are slim.

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