An online petition calling on Quebec Premier Jean Charest to resign for not placing a moratorium on shale gas development in the province, among other things, had surpassed more than 224,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

Launched on Nov. 15 by the Movement citoyen national du Quebec, the online petition calls for Charest, who also is the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, to step down for failing to:

The public inquiry into government corruption was considered the primary reason for the petition, which is to remain online until Feb. 15.

Any Quebec resident may present a petition to the National Assembly through a member of the National Assembly. Amir Khadir, the only Quebec Solidaire member of the legislature, agreed to present the petition in March at the Assembly’s spring sitting opener. Petition cosponsor is Anthony Leclerc, 18, a high school student.

Since August Khadir has launched petitions on the website that include calling for “an immediate halt to gas exploration in the gulf of St. Lawrence, baie des Chaleurs, Anticost and the Magdalen Islands.” He is said to be responsible for six of the 11 petitions on the website.

In September Quebec Natural Resources Minister Nathalie Normandeau said producers would be allowed to work on preliminary shale gas development while the province’s regulatory drilling issues were reviewed (see Daily GPI, Sept. 16; Sept. 1). The province sits atop the Utica Shale, which extends south into New York and underlies parts of the Marcellus Shale.

Normandeau, who also is Quebec’s deputy premier, said the province had been clear about its plans to develop more gas resources since it adopted a comprehensive energy strategy in 2007 (see Daily GPI, June 8, 2007).

The province, a hotbed for environmental activists, plans to more heavily scrutinize gas exploration, Environment Minister Pierre Arcand said in October (see Shale Daily, Oct. 6).

According to the Quebec Oil and Gas Association (QOGA), shale gas reserves in the province could represent “many trillions cubic feet” of natural gas, representing the domestic demand for 41 to 190 years, based on Quebec’s annual consumption of 215 MMcf.

QOGA also has noted that the abundant reserves would allow the province to reduce its dependency on gas imports, which currently originate from Western Canada, and possibly be enough to allow producers to export gas outside of Quebec (see Shale Daily, Oct. 13).