The Superior Court of Quebec has struck down a municipal bylaw adopted by the town of Gaspé to protect its drinking water from oil drilling by Pétrolia, a Quebec City-based energy company. The court says that the town infringed on provincial jurisdiction when it passed the bylaw.
The Globe and Mail explains, "The bylaw prohibited the introduction into the ground of any substance that could have an impact on the quality of underground or surface water within 10 kilometres from a municipal surface water site."
The town passed the bylaw after the provincial government had issued the permit to the company to drill for oil in the area.
The company's drilling site is just 800 metres from the nearest water well and 350 metres from homes.
After the ruling, Gaspé mayor Daniel Côté commented, "The priority for us has always been the protection of residents’ drinking water. Therefore, more than ever, we would like the Quebec government to react quickly and we ask that it move rapidly to adopt the water-protection law it has been promising for more than a year."
Pétrolia, an oil company partially owned by the Quebec government and the Bouygues family (one of the richest families in France), is pursuing a $1 billion find of nearly 8 million barrels of oil on the edge of the town. It is expected that the company will resume drilling after a hydro-geological study is released in March.