Montreal

Anticosti Island: Environmental groups call for BAPE review of shale-gas drilling

A coalition of environmental groups is asking the Quebec government to publish the results of its shale-gas drilling activities on Anticosti Island.

Coalition says Quebec government being cagey about findings at 11 drilling sites completed so far

Quebec environmental groups are calling on the government to publish the results of 2015 drilling for shale gas on Anticosti Island and to hold an environmental review. (Radio-Canada)

The Quebec government is not being straightforward about the data it has on shale-gas exploration on Anticosti Island, a coalition of environmental and citizens' groups said Friday.

The coalition is asking the Liberal government to order environmental review hearings through its provincial assessment agency, known as the BAPE, and to publish the results of its drilling activities on Anticosti.

The director of Nature-Québec, Christian Simard, said there are eleven sites where drilling has been completed over the past two years.

Simard said in 2014, the findings were published on the government's website, however, this year's findings have yet to be made public.

"It is time to have an assessment, and to make it public — to open a debate," he said.

'Problem of partiality': Nature-Québec

Pauline Marois's PQ government announced early in 2014 its plan to invest $115 million to explore the oil potential of Anticosti Island with its partners Petrolia, Corridor Resources, Manuel & Prom and Junex.

Simard said the Quebec government has already spent nearly half that amount.

"Unfortunately, the government is not neutral," Simard said. He said the province has a 35 per cent stake in Anticosti Hydrocarbons, the company which holds the drilling permits on the island.

"At the same time, they do the [environmental] assessment," he said. "There is a problem of partiality — that's why we need an independent commission before we go further." 

Patrick Bonin, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, said the province should be looking towards greener energy sources if it intends to meets its greenhouse-gas emission objectives.

"What the Quebec government has in terms of a plan is to have a peak in the oil production on Anticosti by 2050, and this is exactly the moment where Canada and Quebec need to be at zero greenhouse-gas emissions," Bonin said.

Threat to island's water?

The coalition says it is worried the government could begin hydraulic fracturing next year.

Environmentalists contend that Anticosti Island's ecosystem is vulnerable, since it has limited water resources.

Joceline Sanschagrin, the spokeswoman for Eau Secours — a coalition of groups promoting responsible water use in Quebec — said fracking for shale gas requires up to 12 million litres of water per well. The water can contain up to 350 chemical products.

"Fifty per cent of this polluted water never comes back up to the surface. This residual water and sludge cannot be treated in Quebec or elsewhere," Sanschagrin said.

​BELOW: The Quebec government's interactive map detailing drill sites on Anticosti Island (French only)

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