Emotions driving Quebec fracking moratorium and fear of English-Speaking Oilpatch workers, Bouchard says

Emotions driving Quebec fracking moratorium, Bouchard says by Bertrand Marotte, February 17, 2013, The Globe and Mail
Quebec is sending a discouraging message to potential investors by dithering over development of its potentially huge oil and gas reserves, says former premier Lucien Bouchard. Those who oppose hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas have essentially won the battle because the government has indefinitely suspended all such activities, said Mr. Bouchard, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association after his client – Talisman Energy Inc. – withdrew from the group. His comments add fuel to the heated battle over Quebec’s energy future. While the industry pushes for the province to move quickly to set clear rules on oil and gas exploration, the government says a cautious approach is needed to deal with the environmental issues that surround hydraulic fracturing. … Mr. Bouchard, a senior partner at law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, says environmentalists, farmers and others in the province reacted viscerally to the sudden appearance in their backyards of English-speaking exploration crews, mostly from Western Canada and the United States, doing test drilling. … In the interim, the uncertainty in the province over what rules will apply to oil and gas extraction isn’t helping Quebec’s image, he says. “The reaction of investors can’t be good. This isn’t how you go about attracting investors, that’s for sure,” he said.

Asked about the criticism that Quebec is missing the boat, he said: “If you look around at surrounding jurisdictions, most of the activity is occurring in the United States and you see that there, since the economic crisis, they haven’t softened the rules. In fact, they’ve become more vigilant.” It’s not clear how many companies have halted activity because of the province’s stand on hydraulic fracturing. Low natural gas prices may have also deterred activity. Calgary-based Talisman, once a high-profile player in shale-gas exploration in Quebec, has stopped capital spending plans in the province but says the decision was made for business reasons and not because of the government’s planned moratorium on shale-gas activities. [Emphasis added]

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