Quebec is moving to ban fracking for shale gas and protect 13 waterways from oil and gas exploration, CBC News reports. But major environmental groups are warning that the plan won’t offer the protection the province needs.
“The story of the energy transition is being written, and these rules on hydrocarbons are part of that,” Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pierre Moreau said Wednesday. The fracking ban will focus in particular on the low-lying Lower St. Lawrence region, he added. The new restrictions on oil and gas drilling will mean “that any exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons will be strictly banned on the entire surface of the island of Montreal and the island of Laval.” They’ll apply to the Lake of Two Mountains, Lake Memphremagog, and the St. Lawrence River, among other waterways.
The province already prohibits oil and gas exploration in urban areas, but is now extending that policy to a one-kilometre zone around municipalities. Outside those zones, the province is also increasing the mandatory minimum distance between oil and gas exploration and “sensitive” areas.
“Wells will now need to be at least 300 metres from a private residence, at least 550 metres from a school, hospital, or public building, and 200 metres from an ecotourism site,” CBC states.
While those distances are more strict than the provisions in a set of Petroleum Resources Act amendments released last year, environmental groups are less than impressed.
“The new rules still put at risk water and natural environments located near the next drilling sites to be authorized,” said Nature Québec Executive Director Christian Simard. He called on the Couillard government to “allow Quebecers to speak out on this important issue” by holding off on any decision until after the October 1 provincial election.
Équiterre Senior Director Steven Guilbeault said the new rules appear to make it easier for cities to protect citizens and water sources from oil and gas development located too close by. But he said it would take a few days to review and confirm those “fine details”, and even if his initial assessment is right, the province is “not shutting the door on hydrocarbon development.”