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Fracking planned for Anticosti Island in the St. Lawrence

The Quebec government has indicated it plans to invest as much as $115 million into oil exploration on Anticosti Island, an ecologically sensitive island situated on top of the Utica Shale deposit at the outlet of the St. Lawrence River about 900 kilometers northeast of Montreal.

Anticosti Island

While the amount of oil on Anticosti Island is unknown, it has been speculated that it could be up to 45 billion barrels of oil. It is most likely that the oil would be extracted through 15 to 22 fracking wells. In August 2013, Petrolia proposed to use propane, rather than water, to frack some 300 million barrels of oil to save on the costs of building infrastructure on the island to treat the wastewater produced from the drilling.

The island is 1½ times larger than Prince Edward Island and about one-quarter the size of Belgium.

The government will be partnering with three companies that currently own the permits for the island – Québec City-based companies Petrolia Inc. and Junex Inc., as well as Halifax-based Corridor Resources. The exploration will be done by Maurel & Prom (France’s second largest oil and gas company), Ressources Quebec (a government agency), and an unspecified third company.

Quebec premier Pauline Marois said there could be $45 billion in royalties, profits and taxes for the province over the next thirty years. She also said that this project is a step toward ‘energy independence’ for Quebec given the province imports about $14 billion worth of oil per year.

Our allies Équiterre, Greenpeace, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique, along with Amir Khadir of Québec Solidaire and others have expressed their opposition to the drilling on Anticosti Island.

The Council of Canadians joins with them and opposes fracking on Anticosti Island.

Anticosti Island

We are also keeping an eye on potential ‘trade’ implications.

The Financial Post has reported, “When asked why the government would back fracking on Anticosti and not elsewhere, Quebec environment minister Yves-François Blanchet said the island is big and sparsely populated while the St. Lawrence lowlands has a lot of farms.”

It remains to be seen if this will have an impact on the NAFTA Chapter 11 challenge by Delaware-based Lone Pine Resources Inc. That company is claiming $250 million in damages because of Quebec’s ban on oil and gas exploration permits for deposits under the St. Lawrence River upstream of Anticosti Island.

And with France’s second largest oil and gas company involved in exploration on Anticosti Island, we’ll also keep in mind potential implications further down the road with respect to the Canada-European Union free trade agreement.

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