The Canadian Press reports today that, “The (Quebec) provincial government says it’s moving cautiously toward allowing energy companies to explore the St. Lawrence River Valley.” The Globe and Mail adds that, “Thousands of metres beneath Quebec’s fertile and heavily populated St. Lawrence River valley, geologists believe up to 50 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves may be locked in hard shale. The rough preliminary estimate would place the field on a short list of the largest of its kind in Canada.”
– “Exploration companies reach the gas through a recent innovation in drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. Thousands of litres of water, sand and chemicals are blasted into the rock to break it up and release the gas.”
– The Montreal Gazette reports that, “There are big problems with this process, the most alarming one being the danger that underground aquifers can become contaminated. Further, it emits considerable greenhouse gases. And up to 40 per cent of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing make their way back to the earth’s surface. There, they must be treated, and disposed of in some cases as hazardous waste.”
REVIEW AND PUBLIC HEARINGS
– “Environment Minister Pierre Arcand and Natural Resources Minister Nathalie Normandeau… announced Sunday that the government would launch an environmental study and public hearings into shale gas drilling. …The government is reviewing potential regulations on exploration for natural gas, and plans to table a bill this spring.”
– “The province has asked the environmental review agency to complete its work by Feb. 4. New legislation promises to be in place by the end of the spring session.”
– “But the decision to hand over the debate on the increasingly thorny issue of using water, sand and chemicals -some of them toxic – to force natural gas from shale deposits, to the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement is drawing mixed reviews from groups that have been tracking the industry.”
– “In June, the House of Commons supported a motion to initiate a comprehensive review of federal rules on unconventional oil and gas development.”
DRILLING ALREADY UNDERWAY
– “Normandeau said there would be no large-scale projects in Quebec before 2014 (but) exploratory drilling has already started…”
– “Before Quebec has even drafted its first oil-and-gas law to regulate the industry, exploration companies have obtained 600 permits and are drilling a half dozen wells to test the viability of Quebec’s gas reserves.”
– “About 40 protesters repeatedly shouted down the ministers at Sunday’s news conference. Greenpeace Quebec director Eric Darier said in an interview that there are concerns gas could leak into groundwater during the extraction process. He said gas development should be put on hold until legislation is in place.”
– “Many of the protesters were residents of Saint-Marc-sur-Richelieu, a small town about a 40-minute drive south of Montreal, where a mix of recently landed commuters and farmers have successfully stalled an early attempt at exploration by an Australian company. …Quebec environmental groups and municipal associations have asked for a moratorium on drilling until more questions are answered.”
– “(Equiterre) points to ‘unanswered questions’ about the mining process-questions about possible contamination of the water table, as well as the amount of greenhouse gas created by hydraulic fracturing…”
The Canadian Press report is at http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/08/29/que-shale-gas.html. The Globe and Mail article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/quebec/exploration-for-natural-gas-causes-consternation-in-quebec/article1689467/. The Montreal Gazette articles are at http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Shale+hearings+fall/3458446/story.html and http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/There+need+rush+natural/3392410/story.html.
For Council of Canadians campaign blogs on hyrdraulic fracturing, please go to http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=%22fracturing%22.