Protection of water and drilling: the regulation would not apply for Gaspé

Gaz de schiste – Gaspésie et Anticosti mis de côté Translations by Les Ami(e) du Richelieu of 2 press releases from a citizens’ group against fracking forgotten by the Quebec government’s bill for a 5 year moratorium on shale gas fracking. In Quebec, it seems we are not all created equal. May 16, 2013.

Shale gas moratorium: Gaspésie Peninsula and Anticosti pushed aside Translation by Les Ami(e) du Richelieu, May 16, 2013.
The group called Tache d’huile (oil stain) is disappointed upon hearing the announcement of the government moratorium that excludes important vulnerable regions. “The announcement of a moratorium is in itself good news for the regions involved, and it’s all thanks to the citizens’ mobilization without which public health would have been compromised. For the excluded regions, it’s nevertheless a slap in the face.” says Maude Prud’homme, spokesperson for Tache d’huile.

To limit the moratorium to shale gas and only in the St. Lawrence Lowlands is an imposture: it does not address the crux of the problem, which is fracking. Fracking is necessary, and even Pétrolia admits it, for a profitable exploitation for oil in Quebec. “There is no scientific basis to exclude the rest of Quebec, like the Gaspésie Peninsula and Anticosti Island, in this moratorium. It’s creating double standards: a second class citizenship takes place and shows very little consideration for future generations. This narrow moratorium confirms the sacrificed zones,” continues the spokesperson for Tache d’huile. … “One thing is for sure, the oil industry’s interests are protected here, not the population nor the environment… and human rights are flouted” says Maude Prud’homme.

Environmentalists are outraged by the back-stepping imposed by Quebec to protect drinking water Translation by Les Ami(e) du Richelieu, May 16, 2013.
Tache d’huile condemns the new regulation that wants to impose on Quebec municipalities the separation distance from 2 km to 300 meters that protects drinking water sources and artesian and surface wells. “We depend on municipalities to contest the abolition of their right to fulfill their obligation to protect the right to drinking water for their citizens. Water is primarily the responsibility of municipalities and is mostly municipal taxes that finance water of quality.” says one of the spokesperson of Tache d’huile.

The Baie des Chaleurs coalition Éco-Vigilance says that the municipalities are favourable to the bylaw voted by Gaspé and many have voted in such a bylaw, like Ristigouche Sud-Est where Gastem was to drill a well near an inhabited region. Gaspé had determined a 2 km protection zone for the residences and had received the approval of the Fédération québécoise des Municipalités and also from the Conférence Régionale des Élus.

For the environmentalists, the distance of 2 km is a minimum and takes into account the drilling techniques using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that can go on for distances up to 5 km. Using the following information provided by Richard Langelier, the architect of the bylaw for the separation distances with municipalities correspond to:

1- The advice of independent experts that suggest that the distance of 2 km is really a minimum radius of protection (Marc Durand);

2- The historical experience of contamination with hydrocarbons. The Mercier lagoon (where pollution has spread over 4 km today) is a sorry example, and…

3 – Other studies available on this subject.

Actions to come…

The members of Tache d’huile will incite municipalities to oppose the abrogation of their power to regulate and maintain the distance limits of 2, 6 and 10 km until complete hydro-geological studies are done, not on a case by case basis. The members will send a letter to the municipalities about this. “We shall participate in the public consultations on the regulation to protect drinking water sources, but the application of the principle of precaution on the protection of drinking water demands an immediate suspension of all exploration and exploitation until a credible provincial environmental public hearing is held on this question. This laisser-faire is dangerous! We must have a provincial moratorium on fracking!” insists Maude Prud’homme, spokesperson for Tache d’huile.

Reaction to the announcement of hydro-geological studies

We salute the decision to do hydro-geological studies before drilling, even for exploratory purposes, because that is a minimum: to drill blind is terribly dangerous. That said, the fact of doing hydro-geological studies does not guaranty the preservation of the quality of water.

“Risking the quality of water is not an option, because we cannot lose it without gravely compromising public health and the quality of the environment. The proposed regulation is unacceptable. The distance of 300 metres between a drilling well for oil and gas and a drinking water source is too little and the impacts on ecosystems is much too risky. We must rise against this servility of the government to the oil companies.” concludes Michel Goudreau, spokesperson for the coalition Éco-Vigilance Baie-des-Chaleurs.

Tache d’huile is an alliance of long time and newly arrived people in the Gaspésie region, young and old of the area that hold dear the respect of the ecosystems and communities of the peninsula. Tache d’huile stands in solidarity with similar groups in the Gulf, in the Magdalene Islands and on Anticosti Island.  [Emphasis added]

Protection of water and drilling: the regulation would not apply for Gaspé Translation by Les Ami(e) du Richelieu, May 19, 2013, of  Protection de l’eau et forage: le règlement ne s’appliquerait pas à Gaspé by Paul Journet, May 17, 2013, La Presse
The regulation to protect drinking water from drilling was not written to solve differences between Pétrolia and Gaspé, and may not even apply in this case. “We have not written this rule because of Pétrolia. We shall then adopt our evaluation of this case from this regulation, and not the other way around,” says the Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet. The Quebec-based company Pétrolia holds the provincial permits to drill for oil in Gaspé, at about 350 meters from the closest house. Last December, the municipality voted in a bylaw to ban drilling near drinking water sources, thus trying to stop Pétrolia. All parties said that they where well within their rights. After accepting to postpone momentarily the drilling Pétrolia finally sued Gaspé. The Council of Ministers gave it’s approbation to a bill Wednesday. After trying to urgently vote it in, Mr Blanchet finally accepted a consultation period that would take place during the next few weeks. He proposes to ban all drilling for research or exploitation for gas or natural gas within 300 meters of a source of water dedicated to human consumption. In the case of drilling with fracking, the minimum distance would be 600 meters. With this comes the obligation already in force to obtain a fracking certificate. “It’s the safest standard in North America, he boasts. “The innovation is the fact that on top of the minimum distance, we require a hydro-geological study. Depending on the results, the protection zone could increase significantly over the 300 meter mark. We replace across the board regulation with science, it’s the philosophical core of the regulation.”

But that applies only to the requests for permits to come. For a well already drilled, like the Pétrolia one, “it’s hard to go back on the localization”, admits the Minister. For the moment, Quebec does not intend to go back on the permit already given out and decide on the litigation. Mr Blanchet announced that Quebec will pay for the hydro-geological study on the Haldimand #4 Pétrolia well that would have been necessary under this future regulation. This regulation does not only include the conditions to give out a permit. It also requires measures of surveillance for future drillings. A minimum of 3 monitoring wells for groundwater must be drilled near the well. The monitoring must go on for 10 years after the capping of the well. This measure would not be applied retroactively “But, surely, we will invite Pétrolia insistently so that they try to comply as much as possible voluntarily to this regulation.” says the Minister. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

Quebec tables bill to block shale gas fracking ]

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