Shale gas drilling worries some Quebecers

Shale gas exploration along the banks of Quebec's fertile St. Lawrence River has worried residents, town leaders and environmentalists.

Shale gas exploration along the banks of Quebec's fertile St. Lawrence River has worried residents, town leaders and environmentalists, who say projects to extract the natural resource are forging ahead in a regulatory vacuum.

The St. Lawrence River's south shore is fertile farmland and rich in shale deposits. ((CBC))
Shale gas is considered an increasingly important source of natural gas in North America, with the potential of significantly boosting the world's energy supplies.

The south shore lowlands along the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City are rich in shale bedrock, which traps gas in fissures one to four kilometres below the ground's surface.

Quebec is still reviewing potential rules and regulations for shale gas exploration, and plans to table a new bill sometime in the fall.

But drilling for wells has already begun in several municipalities, including in St-Marc-sur-Richelieu, south of Montreal.

Calgary-based company Talisman Energy has already drilled several wells in the region, angering local municipal leaders who say the burgeoning industry needs to be regulated first.

"We are really not pleased, because we have been excluded from the process," said federation president Bernard Généreux.

Exploratory drilling for shale gas has already started in some areas. ((CBC))
Residents in St-Marc-sur-Richelieu have asked for a moratorium until environmental studies are done to gauge the impact on local water tables.

There are legitimate environmental concerns about water table contamination, Généreux added.

Shale gas extraction involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into the ground, potentially jeopardizing drinking water supplies, he said in an interview with CBC's French-language service.

Quebecers aren't opposed to natural resource extraction but want to be informed about all the risks and advantages, he said.

Talisman has met with some residents in prospective drilling areas in the past, and is open to future encounters.

"We do not want to be just an operator in a municipality, we want to be a member of a community," said Talisman spokesman Vincent Perron.

The Liberal government plans to host regional meetings and a parliamentary commission before it crafts a new shale gas law, said the ministry of natural resources.