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Quebec to Implement Interim Shale Gas Rules

Details are emerging of how the government of Quebec plans to allow companies to drill for shale gas in the province while it conducts a two-year environmental assessment of the growing industry.

In a statement Thursday by the province's environmental ministry, Quebec said it will enact two new shale gas regulations within 30 days.

The first law will require companies to obtain a certificate of authorization from Quebec for all drilling work used in the exploration or exploitation of oil or natural gas resources. But companies must first hold public hearings at their expense and are required to advertise the public hearings through local newspapers and on the Internet. The environment minister may also designate an observer or a moderator.

The second regulation will require companies to disclose to the environmental ministry the methods used to drill and complete wells, including a detailed list of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and any geological information from drill sites. They will also have to disclose their plans for disposing of wastewater and what effects drilling would have on air and water quality.

Calgary-based Talisman Energy Inc. is the largest acreage holder in Quebec's portion of the Utica Shale with 756,000 net acres. Spokesman David Mann said Friday that he had not yet seen the details of Quebec's proposals but said it sounded like the province was adhering to the industry's generally accepted best practices.

"Conceptually, it sounds pretty good," Mann told NGI's Shale Daily. "A lot of this is fairly common practice to begin with. It may be nuanced slightly differently so that you have to do things with a different set of approvals or within a different time frame, but we've been doing that on an ongoing basis for several years now."

But Andre Belisle, president of the Association Quebecoise de Lutte contre la Pollution Atmospherique (AQLPA), said environmental groups are opposed to the province's plan and are continuing their calls for a complete moratorium on drilling.

"Very little of what the minister has announced will be supported by the environmental groups or the population," Belisle told NGI's Shale Daily on Friday. "It is very peculiar to announce that the companies will hold hearings with people and will report to the government [because] for emissions of all kinds they always very understated the reality. They don't have any confidence from the people anymore."

Belisle said Quebec should continue to gather information about shale gas and await a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which should be completed by mid-2012 (see Shale Daily, Feb. 22).

"Meanwhile the companies have to find ways to solve the problems they have created," Belisle said, asserting that 14 wells in central Quebec are leaking methane into underground water supplies. "We would not accept any more drilling if they can't do the job properly."

The Quebec government announced March 8 that it would conduct its two-year study of shale gas at the suggestion of a report by the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (see Shale Daily, March 14; March 10).

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