Former Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, who now serves as president of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association (QOGA), said the organization welcomed the provincial government's response to a report on hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) in the Utica Shale play.

"The recommendations pave the way for a thoughtful and prudent approach that will reassure Quebecers regarding the possibility and desirability of developing the province's gas resources responsibly," Bouchard said Monday. "The government has our support to quickly put in place the measures required to conduct a thorough study and promote an informed debate regarding the collective decisions to be made."

The Quebec government announced March 8 that it would conduct a two-year strategic environmental assessment of shale gas, at the suggestion of a report by the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE). Hydrofracking would be allowed to continue in the province, but companies would need to go through an approval process to do so (see Shale Daily, March 14; March 10).

Quebec officials also said a committee of local and provincial government officials, and industry experts would be formed to administer the assessment. In a statement, QOGA said the committee "must be struck as soon as possible before late April in order to get underway this already overdue review and analysis to which all are invited to contribute."

Bouchard, who served as Quebec's premier from 1996 to 2001, previously served as Canada's Minister of the Environment and once was Head of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. He was tapped to lead QOGA in January, an organization established in April 2009 to represent oil and gas interests in the province (see Shale Daily, Jan. 27).

"[It is] important to take advantage of this opportunity to develop a world-class environmental, technical, and fiscal regulatory framework that is thorough, competitive, and effective," Bouchard said. "Particularly as regards fiscal regulation, it is essential to carry out in-depth comparative analyses that will guarantee the government receives a fair share of gas profits while ensuring that exploration license costs and mining royalties are compatible with the industry's competitive nature."

The former premier hinted that QOGA didn't agree with all of BAPE's findings in its report or the provincial government's response, but he didn't mention anything specific.

"We could potentially -- and this is certainly the case of the association -- distance ourselves from certain observations and recommendations made by BAPE and by the government in its response," Bouchard said. "But we have to agree that they suggest a wise approach that puts the debate back on track."