Letter to the editor 2, May 28, 2020

Open letter to Premier François Legault

Monsieur Legault,

We are writing to express our concern about the relationship your government is developing with the Albertan company Questerre Energy Inc. which has set its sights on fracking for shale gas (gaz de schiste) in Quebec.

You have long been a supporter of fracking in Quebec, even before you became premier. As leader of the CAQ in opposition, you criticized the Liberal Government of Philippe Couillard for blocking fracking on Anticosti.

Questerre has its eye on the St-Lawrence Valley which is rich in shale. It is also the most populated part of Quebec and the most productive in terms of agriculture. Questerre holds many exploration licences in the St-Lawrence Valley and the CEO of Questerre, Michael Binnion, has expressed his wish to drill 10,000 fracking bores between Montreal and Quebec City. This is not surprising coming from a man who is something of an evangelist for the fracking industry and collaborated with the Conservative party of Canada on the development of their environmental policy.

Recent events lead us to think that your government is not being open about its intentions with regard to fracking. You have said there will be no fracking in Quebec until it becomes socially acceptable. Is social acceptability the only thing holding you back?

As you know, in December 2016, the Couillard government forced through Bill 106 on hydrocarbons which appeared to offer an open bar to fracking companies. The bill would have enabled fracking operations to be held almost anywhere in the province, without consulting municipalities and citizens. Companies could have used municipal water supplies for fracking operations and evicted people from their properties.

In June 2018, after strenuous efforts by municipal governments and citizens opposing this bill, the Couillard government created some additional regulations linked to Bill 106 which banned fracking in the St-Lawrence Valley, as well as in lakes and rivers. Four months later in October, 2018, Questerre launched legal action against the government of Quebec and its population, demanding these new regulations be cancelled, and arguing that those regulations were blocking the company from proceeding with their plans. The same month, your government was elected to power.

In April 2019, Questerre abruptly announced that it was suspending legal action against Quebec and since then, discussions between the company and your government have continued behind closed doors. Then, in December 2019, you hired Alain Sans Cartier - a top administrator at Questerre - to a key position in your executive council, advising the government.

Naturally, these events lead us to question your actions. Why did you hire a Questerre official to advise your government? Do you agree that the fracking industry would increase greenhouse gas emissions and use billions of litres of fresh water? Do you agree that blasting toxic chemicals underground can contaminate water sources? Or do you believe that the only problem with fracking in Quebec is that most Quebecers are against the development of this industry?

And finally, does your government intend to enforce the regulations passed by the Ministère de l’ Énergie et Ressources naturelles under Philippe Couillard’s government (banning fracking in the St-Lawrence Valley and in our lakes and rivers), or are you going to prioritize the more relaxed rules of the Ministry of the Environment of Quebec?

We wrote to our Member of the National Assembly Marilyne Picard about this subject in January of this year but received no answer.

Yours sincerely,

Katherine Massam, Charles St-Pierre, Hélène Letourneau

Comité exécutif de Citoyens au Courant.

Citoyens au Courant is a local citizens association active since 2013 in Vaudreuil-Soulanges - which is the area in Quebec most affected by oil and gas pipelines. The group’s aim is to bring pertinent information to the population about oil and gas projects that could affect drinking water, our health and our local economy.

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/lescitoyensaucourant/