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Gaspé, Quebec passes water law to stop oil drilling near its wells and homes

A battle has been waging between Petrolia (an oil company partially owned by the Quebec government and one of the richest families in France) and the Town of Gaspé, Quebec (which has passed a law to protect its drinking water to stop their proposed drilling).

Last February, the Toronto Star reported, “Petrolia, a Quebec-based firm, (wants) to begin pumping the 8 million barrels of oil it discovered on the edge of town. The find is worth an estimated $1 billion… Petrolia received a provincial permit to begin work last spring. But the town of 15,000, in a region with 15 per cent unemployment, brought the battle to a head. A last-minute municipal regulation in mid-January to protect drinking water has, in effect, outlawed the project.”

In September, Agence France-Presse reported, “Petrolia, whose principle shareholder is the Quebec government with a 10.4 percent stake, holds the rights to 71 percent of hydrocarbon reserves in the province. …Petrolia has estimated that the so-called Haldimand project near the town of Gaspé holds 7.7 million barrels of oil. ….The rights are jointly held by the Bouygues family, one of the richest in France, through its Canadian investment arm Investcan Energy. Investcan Energy has invested Can$15 million in the project.”

“In order for it to proceed, however, the province must ease its strict water protection laws, which brings with it political risks.”

“Quebec Environment Minister Yves-Francois Blanchet said the province is looking at oil and gas production to further bolster its ‘energy independence’. …Quebecers are keen to reap the wealth that comes from energy resources but do not want to sacrifice clean air and water to do it. Developing the province’s energy resources has the tentative support of Quebec’s separatist Parti Quebecois government, despite objections from some of its supporters.”

And just this week, Le Soleil reported (in French) that, ‘While Petrolia wants to begin drilling in January, the Quebec government prefers that they wait until the spring. By that time, a hydrogeological study commissioned this summer by Quebec will be available. Petrolia says its has acquired the rights to drill, but will be ‘morally’ related to the study which is assessing the project’s environmental risks. That said, Petrolia filed a lawsuit in April against the Town of Gaspé to invalidate its law on drinking water.”

“Petrolia holds the permit for Haldimand No. 4 which is located 350 metres from homes and 800 meters from the nearest water well.”