71 Quebec municipalities defend their drinking water and municipal by laws from possible oil and gas industry lawsuits translation by Les Ami(s) du Richelieu, February 16, 2014 of Quelque 50 municipalités à la défense de l’eau potable by Lapress.ca
About 50 mayors got together yesterday afternoon in Saint-Bonaventure, in Centre-du-Québec, to create a defence fund against the possible legal challenges to their municipal bylaws that oversee gas and oil projects. This initiative, under the direction of lawyer Richard Langelier, attempts to collect at least $100,000. The fund would help the 71 municipalities that have voted in regulations that oversee drilling to defend themselves when appealing possible lawsuits brought on by oil companies.
“People realize that the battle going on right now in Gaspé or in Ristigouche impacts everybody. If we obtain the validation that the Gaspé bylaw does not contravene Québec laws, it is all the municipalities that will then be protected,” explains Mr Langelier.
February 10, Judge Benoît Moulin of the Superior Court of Quebec ruled against the Town of Gaspé and for the oil company Petrolia.
This ruling, that will be executed after March 11 if Gaspé does not appeal, invalidates a bylaw that bans all drilling susceptible of harming the quality of groundwater within a zone of 2 kilometers around artesian wells.
“Many people have studied this ruling and think that it has errors of law,” says lawyer Monia Minville, representing Gaspé in this legal case.
The judge missed the mark
As per Guillaume Rousseau, professor in municipal law at Sherbrooke University, the ruling brought down by the Superior Court invites challenge because it includes “important flaws”.
“Judge Moulin mentions a clause in the Law on land planning and urban affairs that says that all municipal bylaws cannot oversee mining, gas or oil activities. But this Gaspé bylaw does not apply under this law, but rather under the Law on municipal jurisdiction,” says Rousseau.
“There is also jurisprudence (from Superior Court among others) that says that one must not come to the conclusion that a municipal bylaw is ineffective if a provincial law already exists, but only if the law and the bylaw are in direct conflict, like when the law forces one to do something illegal in a municipal bylaw”, adds Rousseau.
The Town of Gaspé has still not confirmed if it would appeal. For now, the mayor Daniel Côté has asked the province to vote in quickly a regulation to protect drinking water, something that was promised a long time ago. “If the regulation is voted in by Quebec, it would make the bylaw of Gaspé ineffective because an article in the Law on the quality of the environment would have precedence. That is what the town of Gaspé wished would happen”, explains the lawyer that represents Gaspé, Mrs Minville. The province of Quebec has still not announced when this regulation will be presented. If provincial elections are set off within the next few weeks, the delay could incite Gaspé to lodge an appeal. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Quebec to seek ban on shale gas fracking: Minister [Headline changed to: Quebec gas in peril as PQ signals ban at 7:47 PM EDT] by Sophie Cousineau and Bertand Marotte, September 20, 2012, The Globe and Mail
Quebec’s new Natural Resources Minister, Martine Ouellet, has made up her mind. Even though she is ordering a new independent inquiry into shale gas exploration and exploitation, she would ban the industry and its controversial hydraulic fracturing outright.
“I don’t see the day when these technologies can be used in a safe way,”said Ms. Ouellet, as she walked to her first cabinet meeting Thursday in Quebec City.