Quebec climate hawks are calling for vigilance and solidarity as the fossil industry gears up to regain its footing in Quebec.
The immediate concern for Anne-Céline Guyon , coordinator of the Common Front for Energy Transition, and Aurore Fauret , Tar Sands Campaign Coordinator at 350.org, is the regulatory component of the new Petroleum Resources Act, published by the Couillard government in September 2017. It’s just one element of Bill 106, a wider Energy Transition Bill, that would allow gas companies to drill “150 metres from homes, 60 metres from protected areas, 250 metres from hospitals and day cares, and 40 metres from the waterway of the St-Lawrence River,” Guyon and Fauret write. They add that the St. Lawrence is “ a river system connected to the Great Lakes and responsible for draining no less than a quarter of the planet’s freshwater, as well as the source of drinking water for nearly half of Quebec’s population of more than eight million people.”
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So much for the “de facto moratorium on fracking first established by the Quebec government in 2011,” they note.
But Guyon and Fauret say fossil CEOs like Michael Binnion of Questerre—an Alberta gas company that’s eager to begin “actively extracting ‘clean gas’ from the agricultural lands of the St. Lawrence Valley”—are in for a rough ride.
“One of the mistakes TransCanada made with its Energy East project was to underestimate the mobilization against fossil fuels that had been brewing from all corners of the province for years,” they state. “From early 2010, a multitude of groups and a network of more than 100 local grassroots groups had been organizing — firmly rooted in their communities, spread across the entire province, and thriving from strong relationships with many municipal leaders.”
That network produced a 2013 freeze on natural gas fracking in the St. Lawrence Valley, as well as the successful Coule pas chez nous campaign in 2014. And Guyon and Fauret stress that those wins have endured beyond a moment of limelight.
“Each fight is a terrain where bridges are built,” creating opportunities to unite “an oftentimes fragmented environmental, social justice, and Indigenous rights movement in Canada,” they write. The net result of the Energy East campaign was the formation of the Front Commun pour la transition énergétique (Common Front for an Energy Transition), which now brings together more than 60 organizations from the Ottawa Valley to the Gaspé Peninsula “around the common forward-looking goal of ending the fossil fuels era.”
Now, the Front Commun is gearing up to keep elected officials accountable and exert some ballot box clout in this year’s provincial election. But Guyon and Fauret say this is no time for Quebec climate hawks to let their guard down.
“If the fossil fuel industry sees the opportunity of reopening a door in Quebec,” they warn, “it will push through.”