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Quebec Party Leader to Ottawa: Stop Newfoundland in Gulf

The head of one of Quebec's political parties is demanding that the next federal government in Ottawa impose a moratorium on oil and gas drilling on the Newfoundland and Labrador side of the border in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

According to translated media reports, Gilles Duceppe, who leads the Bloc Quebecois, said Wednesday Ottawa had "the power and the time to conduct environmental studies" in Newfoundland similar to those that will be taking place in Quebec until 2012. Duceppe said that without a moratorium, Newfoundland would be at an advantage over Quebec for drilling in Old Harry, a prospect in the Laurentian Channel that may hold 5 Tcf of gas and 2 billion bbl of oil.

Duceppe said Liberal and Conservative politicians "had badly affected fishermen by systematically promoting Newfoundland at the expense of Quebec."

Bloc Quebecois spokesman Eric Cote told NGI that Duceppe "made the declaration about Old Harry during a scrum," and confirmed that it was during a campaign stop in Iles de la Madeleine, a series of islands less than 50 miles from Old Harry.

Canadians go to the polls on May 2 to elect a new government. The country's parliament was dissolved on March 26 at the request of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose party has led a minority government since 2006. Due to their minority status, Conservatives have had to rely on rival political parties like Bloc Quebecois to pass legislation.

The provincial government of Quebec and the Canadian government reached an accord on offshore oil and gas resources on March 24, creating a joint Quebec-Ottawa oversight board and granting the province all revenues from development in its territorial waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence (see Daily GPI, March 25).

The accord recognizes the underwater boundary between Quebec and Newfoundland, which was first demarcated in 1964 but is now disputed by Newfoundland. Old Harry -- which measures about 18 miles in length in water about a quarter-mile deep -- straddles the border.

The Quebec government announced March 8 that it would conduct a two-year environmental assessment on shale gas, during which time hydrofracking could continue for exploration purposes only (see Shale Daily, March 10).

The development process already has begun in Newfoundland's territorial waters. In February Corridor Resources Inc., a junior resource company based in Halifax, NS, started the approval process with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) to drill an Old Harry exploration well on the Newfoundland side of the border. The company plans to drill in late 2012 or 2013. C-NLOPB has approved a permit allowing Corridor to develop 127,948 acres with a minimum work commitment of C$1.52 million over an initial five-year term (see Daily GPI, Feb. 25).

Quebec began working on a plan to develop its side of the Old Harry formation last October (see Daily GPI, Oct. 26, 2010). Despite this, in March a coalition of environmental groups urged the province to impose a moratorium on offshore drilling, citing the Macondo well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (see Daily GPI, March 2).

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