Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard Reneges on Promise to Stop Fracking in St. Lawrence, Drill, Bébé, Drill by Alberta Oil Magazine, September 26, 2016
Quebec has come under fire from environmentalists for allowing fracking on an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard says he’s sticking to a deal inked by the previous Parti Québécois government to allow test drills on Anticosti, a 200-kilometer long island known for its salmon fishing. Couillard had previously said he’d can the project, telling CBC News “the destruction of a natural environment like Anticosti will not bear my signature.”
Quebec City-based fracking firm Petrolia, will draw up to 30 million liters of water at three test sites, much of it from rivers on the island. The wastewater will be treated and dumped into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The agreement with Petrolia was signed before the 2014 election. “The contract is there. We have to follow it,” Couillard says. “It doesn’t mean that we’re happy. We’re going to protect that unique ecosystem, I can tell you that.” …
Critics call on Couillard government to rework Bill 106 by Felicia Parrillo, September 18, 2016, Global News
WATCH CLIP AT LINK ABOVE: Bill 106 is set to be voted on in the National Assembly in the upcoming weeks. Some are speaking out against it with serious concerns about its potential environmental effects. As Felicia Parrillo reports, critics are calling on the Couillard government to go back to the drawing board.
Politicians, citizens, and environmentalists are sending a united message to the Couillard government about Bill 106.
Back in June, the Quebec government tabled the bill.
It would make way for “Transition énergétique Québec,” a corporate body promoting energy innovation in the province.
But the second part of the bill proposes the Petroleum Resources Act – which outlines a framework for controlled oil and gas development.
Those opposing the latter part of the bill say there are a number of reasons why it shouldn’t pass.
“It allows fracking,” said Carole Dupuis, from Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbures Québec (RVHQ), a Quebec citizens’ group. “Quebec has said no to fracking – we said no over and over again, over the years. We don’t want fracking, it’s dangerous for the water, it’s dangerous for many reasons and it destroys communities.”
Critics argue the first and second parts of the bill quite simply contradict each other and so they’re calling on the government to rework it.
“We’re saying to the Couillard government, it’s time to separate this bill because if you don’t, we’ll do all we can to stop it,” declared Manon Massé, Québec Solidaire MNA.
Throughout hearings last month, energy minister Pierre Arcand, maintained that the controversial bill was misunderstood. [Intentional Confusion? All the better to frac you with!]
Some have expressed concern that land could be used for drilling without consent, but the minister says no expropriation can be done without a government decree and permission of a judge.
Members of the National Assembly are expected to vote on whether to pass the bill in principle, in the upcoming weeks. [Emphasis added]
Quebec political and environmental groups say the government is trying to sneak a fossil fuel bill in the larger Bill 106.
The Parti Québécois, Québec Solidaire, Greenpeace and community groups held a news conference Sunday to denounce the Liberals’ Bill 106 which would implement Quebec’s clean energy plan as well as open the province to oil and gas exploration.
The united front follows fears that Bill 106 will be passed into law shortly after the next parliamentary session starts on Tuesday.
The proposed law would create Energy Transition Quebec, an agency charged with implementing the government’s ambitious clean energy plans. [Copying the Alberta Model? The Rachel Notley govt’s propaganda scam of a clean energy plan is mainly lots of bitumen smoke covering the real intent, enable continued expansion of the tarsands and dramatically increase fracing, claiming it’s clean and green]
It would also put in place the Petroleum Resources Act, which lays out the government’s plan to oversee the sustainable development of oil resources.
Carole Dupuis from the hydrocarbon awareness group, the Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbures Québec, said they want the government to separate the bill in two — one for oil and gas exploration, and the other for Quebec’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“This bill will allow hydraulic fracturing all over Quebec,” Dupuis told CBC News.
“We know that’s a very dangerous thing to do.”
Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Pierre Arcand said in a written statement that the objective of the bill is not to promote oil and gas development, but to help regulate the industry. [Like what the Alberta Model (AER) tries to say it’s objective is?]
Québec Solidaire MNA Manon Massé said this bill tramples on Indigenous rights.
“I’ve spoken with Indigenous groups and they are livid that they are being treated as if their territory doesn’t belong to them,” Massé said.
Greenpeace believes it doesn’t make sense that the government is combining what should be two bills.
“What they are trying to do is hide the fossil fuel law in a bigger project,” Greenpeace’s Patrick Bonin said.
He added that “people have said ‘no’ to Anticosti shale gas. We’re quite scared.” [Emphasis added]
Bill 106: Mayors call for overhaul of Petroleum Resource Act by Shaun Michaud, August 27, 2016, Montreal Gazette
Three hundred and thirty-one towns across the province say Quebec is going too far with Bill 106, which gives companies the right to expropriate land to extract oil.
The mayors of eight municipalities, mostly rural, made their case Friday in Montreal against the Petroleum Resource Act, part of Bill 106, which they say could damage their drinking water. [What better way to let industry get away with contaminating drinking water aquifers and water wells, including municipal, than by deregulating?]
“When you have the Union des producteurs agricoles, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Chambre des notaires, environmental organizations, citizen groups, and municipalities all saying no — it seems to me like the sign of a social consensus against hydrocarbon exploitation,” said sociologist Richard Langelier, a lawyer by training, whom the mayors hired as an adviser.
The government’s plan with the Petroleum Resource Act is to create a framework for controlled oil and gas development, but critics contend it gives too much power to the industry.
The group of mayors, which included the mayor of Anticosti, are members of a committee that represents 331 Quebec municipalities who want the Petroleum Resource Act overhauled.
If the government were to adopt this law — “and that’s what they’re planning to do this fall” — it would remove all municipal powers, said François Boulay, mayor of Ristigouche Sud-Est near Baie des Chaleurs in the Gaspé. “Any new company that comes into the territory has carte blanche to proceed as they wish,” Boulay said.
According to the mayors, between 2010 and 2012, several towns in the St. Lawrence Valley adopted a bylaw stipulating that their drinking water sources had to be a minimum of two kilometres away from natural gas and oil facilities. If passed, Bill 106 would reduce that distance to 500 metres from the well head and 400 metres from the underground water source, they said.
“We’ve been trying to convince other municipalities and a fair number of them have joined the municipalities who’ve adopted a resolution asking the Environment Minister to allow us to increase the distances under our water protection bylaw,” said Boulay.
Véronique Normandin, press attaché for Energy Minister Pierre Arcand, said in an email that the minister was “open to making improvements on Bill 106” concerning drinking water. Normandin added that the bill is environmentally friendly.
“(It) is innovative in the sense that it expects companies will own higher liability insurance. [What good is liability insurance when your drinking water aquifer is frac’d and more and more insurers refuse to cover frac damages after they happen?] It’s a new condition that aims exactly to guarantee the security of goods, people and the environment,” she said.
The mayors argue that the bill would strip them of their control over their towns’ futures. Article 55 grants the right to natural resource companies to expropriate landowners for industrial development without having to consult the municipality.
“They’re only informed 30 days before a natural gas or oil company is accessing the territory,” Langelier said.
Normandin countered that “expropriation would only be used as a last recourse and would be done according to prevailing Quebec rules.” [Then why is Bill 106 needed and who wrote it? Michael Binnion, CEO Questerre, with a little deregulatory help from Encana and the AER?]
She added that expropriation was allowed only at the exploitation phase, not the exploration phase, and only if a landowner and a company were unable to strike a deal. [Which happens often in Alberta, where Quebec’s Bill 106 was likely copied from]
“The Minister repeated it several times, expropriation can only take place if public interest justifies it and a judge would rule on the matter,” she said. [Next deregulation to go with Bill 106, will be the Bill to remove public interest from the mandate of the energy regulator in Quebec, again, copying the Alberta Model]
The mayors are expected to meet again at a general assembly of the Fédération Québécoise des municipalités on Oct.1. to share their concerns with other mayors across the province. [Emphasis added]
Quebec mayors unite against bill they say poses threat to drinking water by CTV Montreal, August 26, 2016
WATCH CLIP AT LINK ABOVE: Mayors unhappy with energy law
A group of Quebec mayors said a new energy law will pose a danger to their communities’ clean drinking water.
Several Quebec mayors are vowing to fight a new law that they say would take away their power to protect their communities’ drinking water.
Bill 106 is meant to provide a framework for energy exploration in the province but the mayors said it gives too much power to oil companies to push ahead even in regions that oppose them.
“Right now, we have oil companies that have claims on territory,” said Anticosti Mayor John Pineault. “Those claims are going to change categories. They’re going to become a property if they wish.”
Pineault said that means land could be expropriated against owners’ wishes and overrule municipal regulations protecting drinking water.
“We have very little fresh water on the island and when… it takes 16 to 20 million litres to frack one well, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Ristigouche Mayor Francois Boulay said his small town’s attempt to fight oil exploration ended with them being sued for $1.5 million.
“If it’s adopted, it basically strips us of any say in the matter and gives a white card to companies… to come in to use water, our drinking water, that’s used in the process of fracking,” he said of Bill 106.
The group of mayors said they are determined to remain in solidarity with each other. Austin Mayor Lisette Maille said even though her own town isn’t threatened, she will stand with those who are. “Even though we don’t have the threat in our municipality, if it’s not this time, it could be something else next time,” she said. “So, we have to be strong and firm against the government and say you have to work with the citizens.”
Hearings on Bill 106 ended last week and a vote is expected to take place in the fall. [Emphasis added]
Critics slam Quebec bill on oil and gas development by Philip Authier, August 18, 2016, Montreal Gazette
It would be hard to believe Energy Minister Pierre Arcand did not see the hornet’s nest lying in the middle of the trail.
Blame it on the bungled Anticosti Island oil drilling issue. Or the hundreds of millions in cost overruns at the greenhouse-gas-producing cement plant in the Gaspé into which the government has poured taxpayer dollars while preaching internationally about curbing emissions.
Mistrust in the Couillard’s government’s plans to reduce the use of fossil fuels by 40 per cent by 2030 is running high.
That was abundantly clear this week as hearings into the province’s new 2030 energy policy, now packaged in the form of Bill 106, opened at the National Assembly.
It’s not so much the first part of the bill — quietly tabled in June — that rankles. That section creates a new agency, Transition énergétique Québec (TÉQ), which has the mandate to support, stimulate and promote energy transitions, innovation and efficiency in Quebec.
As the committee heard, companies involved in making Quebec’s economy greener and less reliant on oil are delighted and want to get aboard the bandwagon as the government struggles to decarbonize the province.
But the second part of the bill, ominously tagged the Petroleum Resources Act, is a whole other kettle of fish. Tucked in the back pages, the act appears to contradict the intention of the first section and has gone over poorly. Very poorly.
The government’s intention in the petroleum part of the bill is to create a framework for controlled oil and gas development but in the process — critics say — it has allocated far too much power to the industry, which already has a black eye — especially in the province’s regions.
The fact hearings into the bill are happening in the dead of summer, when many people are on holidays, has only fuelled suspicion.
“I guess we have quite a hill to climb to demonstrate to the people that hydrocarbons are in the public interest,” a candid Arcand said after a first day in the legislature’s Red Room, spent listening to groups rip the oil side of bill.
“I understand certain people don’t want us to make use of hydrocarbons but all governments have, over the last few years, issued permits (for exploration and drilling). Everyone today recognizes it is not realistic to deny the reality (that Quebec requires oil) before us.
“We are not here to promote hydrocarbons. We are here to create a framework for what already exists.”
It was not just the usual environmental groups lining up to trash the bill and send the committee into a heated debate over the merits of local oil production and personal property rights.
Citizen’s committees, First Nations, municipalities, Quebec’s powerful famers’ lobby, the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), and even the province’s notaries stepped up to the plate, pressuring to have the bill radically changed.
Social acceptability was the buzzword all week.
“If this is in the public interest, why isn’t it written in black and white in the bill?” UPA vice-president Pierre Lemieux asked the committee after asking Quebec to exclude the four per cent of Quebec land devoted to growing food and dairy products from hydrocarbon development of any sort.
“If we destroy our pantry, what will future generations do?” Lemieux added. “It’s all well and good to say these (oil) wells will be sealed and closed but who is going to guarantee they will remain watertight? Who is going to guarantee we will always have clean water to continue to farm in as clean a manner as today’s consumers demand?”
One clause of the bill irked many groups in particular; the one that appears to grant oil companies the right to expropriate unwilling landowners to get at the black gold beneath their property. [The Alberta Model, at Questerre, CAPP, et al’s service!]
Although the intention of the bill is to establish a licence and authorization system applicable to exploration and the production and storage of petroleum — the existing regulatory system dates back to 1965 — Clause 55 has raised eyebrows because of the powers it grants oil producers.
It specifically says the holder of a production licence has a “right of access to the territory subject to the licence.” In theory, it must obtain written authorization from the owner at least 30 days in advance in order to access the site and perform the production work.
But the clause adds: “If no agreement is reached, the holder may, for purpose of performing the work, acquire the real rights or property by expropriation.”
Arcand has spent the better part of the week trying to calm fears about what that means.
He has specified the bill does not allow expropriation for simple prospecting purposes. An expropriation clause already exists in the province’s mining act but nobody has been expropriated for resource development since 1870.
Ultimately, he said, no expropriation can proceed without a government decree and the permission of a judge who has to rule it is in the public’s interest, as Quebec’s Civil Code states.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding (about the bill),” Arcand said, noting Bill 106 is designed to create an “extremely strict” [DEREGULATORY] framework for the industry [TO ENABLE A FRAC FRENZY LIKE IN ALBERTA].
“If this bill was not adopted, the happiest people would be the oil companies,” Arcand told reporters at the legislature.
Not everyone is convinced, starting with Quebec’s influential notaries. In an open letter made public Aug. 12, Gérard Guay, president of the Chambre des notaries, said in their view Bill 106 puts Quebecer’s “financial and legal security” in peril.
Worse, oil companies that retain development rights over thousands of hectares of land in Quebec, including the environmentally sensitive Gaspé region, now may be tempted to exercise them given their improved legal footing.
“What we have before us is expropriations that are not justified in the public good as Quebec’s Civil Code requires but expropriation in favour of private companies that want to make profit off resources,” Guay said.
The oil and gas lobby has responded, saying Quebec’s production potential has been vastly underestimated and undervalued. [Is’t that what the lobby always says when citizens loudly and unitedly yell no?]
Appearing before the legislature committee Thursday, David B. Lefebvre, general manager of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association, specified the industry is not actually interested in the right to expropriate.
“We don’t want to own the land on which we’re working,” [Because industry wants to hang the landowners with all the liabilities, notably when the frac frenzies bring endless bankruptcies and leaking abandoned energy wells and waste pitts] Lefebvre said. “All we ask is to have access rights.”
[Expropriating access, or forced access, is worse than expropriating the land. Forced entry doesn’t need to give oil and gas companies title to the land, just the right to force their way onto any privately owned lands, any which way they want, wherever they want, without having to pay property taxes, with what ever harms and damages and toxic chemicals hung on the private landowner, church, school, municipality, hospital, farmer and his/her family be damned. And by leaving the now right-less and most likely poisoned “landowner” as owner, all the messes and toxic liabilities are on that “landowner” and never on any oil or gas company. They get to pollute & poison as much as they want, for free.]
“My concerns remain,” Parti Québécois energy critic Alain Therrien responded, later describing Bill 106 as a “botched effort.”
Corporate Quebec believes there are advantages in a homegrown oil business, despite Premier Philippe Couillard’s regularly stated aversion to all things carbon.
“Yes, we need to reduce our greenhouse gases but it is utopian to think we are going to completely change our consumption habits overnight,” Martine Hébert, vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Independent Business, told the committee on Tuesday.
“If we were wise enough in Quebec to make hydro power such a collective success, I don’t see why we wouldn’t have the same success with the responsible use of our hydrocarbons.”
And the committee was reminded that Quebecers’ love affair with vehicles — the sale of trucks and vans now outstrips regular cars — continues to grow.
“The great majority of citizens use gas-powered vehicles, use products made with hydrocarbons,” Conseil du patronat president Yves Thomas Dorval told the committee. “So in reality there is social acceptability (in oil) because citizens use it.”
Hearings into the bill wrap up Friday. [Emphasis added]
Bill 106: The Couillard Government Persists in its Dismissive Attitude Press Release by The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, August 16, 2016, Canada News Wire
At the outset of the special consultations and public hearings on Bill 106, an Act to implement the 2030 Energy Policy and to amend various legislative provisions, the AFNQL denounces the contempt, disrespect and the irresponsibility of the Government of Philippe Couillard.
“With Bill 106, the Government of Quebec confirms it incompetence and arrogance as it relates to the management of the territory and resources that First Nations want to share in respect and harmony with all Quebecers. Once again, this is a sloppy and flawed consultation process. Why is Philippe Couillard looking for confrontation, whereas by his own words reconciliation should be on the agenda”, said AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard.
Whereas Premier Couillard knows what the obligations of his government are in this matter, Bill 106 contains major flaws in First Nations consultation and accommodation. In addition to having not respected the recognized processes, this Bill is full of uncertainties and unknowns. Among other things, there is a total lack of recognition for Aboriginal title, Aboriginal and treaty rights, no mention of the protection, occupation and use of the territory by First Nations, no consultation in the granting of exploration licences for companies.
“I have to remind that the responsibility of a Premier is, before all, to unite, promote progress, and not to divide, provoke antagonism and jeopardize [THAT’S THE ONLY WAY COMPANIES CAN FRAC COMMUNITIES AND WHY GOVT’S BEHAVE AS ATROCIOUSLY AS THEY DO, EVERYWHERE COMPANIES WANT TO FRAC] equitable development for all. Such a lack of leadership is both disappointing and very worrisome”, concludes Chief Ghislain Picard.
About the AFNQL
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador is the political organization representing 43 First Nations Chiefs of Quebec and Labrador. www.apnql-afnql.com.
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador [Emphasis added]
(Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)
A week of hearings aimed at laying out how Quebec will drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next 14 years and manage its own petroleum resources is underway at the National Assembly.
Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Pierre Arcand tabled Bill 106 in early June.
The proposed law would create Energy Transition Québec – an agency charged with implementing the government’s ambitious clean energy plans.
In 2015, Environment Minister David Heurtel announced what some consider a bold greenhouse gas emission target, a cut in emissions to 37.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.
The agency is to be funded by royalties from energy distributors and through a new fund dedicated to clean energy projects.
Bill 106 also includes measures to fund the infrastructure necessary “for the electrification of shared transportation services.”
Plan to exploit petroleum resources
As well, the bill includes provisions to put in place the Petroleum Resources Act, which lays out the government’s plan to oversee the sustainable development of oil resources while making sure people, property and the environment are safe.
The law governing the Quebec Energy Board is also to be modified, to include a new process to mediate consumer complaints. It also would include measures to improve the delivery of natural gas.
Environmental, business and energy interests from across Quebec and from elsewhere in Canada are scheduled to appear at the hearings.
The Parti Québécois’s energy critic, Alain Therrien, has called on the Liberals to divide the bill.
In a news release, Therrien said it’s “contradictory to include in a bill about greenhouse gases a bill about Quebec’s clean energy transition.”
He believes both issues pose significant challenges and merit their own bills and separate debates. [Emphasis added]
Québec finally proposes a legislative framework specifically and wholly devoted to the exploration and exploitation of petroleum resources in Québec by Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, August 15 2016, Lexology
Bill 106, An Act to implement the 2030 Energy Policy and to amend various legislative provisions, tabled on June 7, 2016 by the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Pierre Arcand (“MENR”), provides for the introduction in the body of Québec laws of the Petroleum Resources Act (these provisions of Bill 106 referred to below as the “Petroleum Resources Act“), the first such law wholly devoted to exploration and production of petroleum resources, as well as to the storage of such products and the junction, by means of a pipeline, of petroleum production sites to a distribution or transmission network. Thus, the provisions of Quebec’s Mining Act concerning exploration and production of petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoirs rights shall cease to apply to such activities. This paradigm shift will have a significant impact on the realization of petroleum resources exploration and production projects due to the even greater importance given to involvement of the public in the process for the awarding of required licences and authorizations by the Petroleum Resources Act and the submission of petroleum resources exploration and production projects to an examination by Quebec’s Régie de l’énergie and to the scrutiny of the environmental impact assessment and review procedure.
At this juncture, whereas the Petroleum Resources Act lays down the general principles that will apply to petroleum resources exploration and production activities, this legislative framework provides that it will also be completed by a series of regulations of the Government of Quebec, such that measuring the full extent of the obligations and conditions which developers will be facing in exploration and production projects will have to wait until such regulations can be reviewed.
The Protection of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change Take Precedence over the Development of Petroleum Resources
From the outset, Bill 106 provides in section 1 of the Petroleum Resources Act that its purpose “is to govern the development of petroleum resources while ensuring the safety of persons and property, environmental protection and optimal recovery of the resource, in compliance with the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by the Government“. Hence, along with Bill 102 (An Act to amend the Environment Quality Act to modernize the environmental authorization scheme and to amend other legislative provisions, in particular to reform the governance of the Green Fund), Québec reiterates its intention to prioritize the achievement of its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets by integrating “climate change” in the project analysis grid.
Indeed, Bill 106 makes the award of certain licences and authorizations required pursuant to thePetroleum Resources Act, specifically production licences, drilling authorizations and junction pipeline authorizations, subordinate to obtaining required authorizations pursuant to the Environment Quality Act. Hence, the MENR will not issue these licences and authorizations unless the applicant has secured the required authorizations pursuant to the Environment Quality Act beforehand. The same goes for a permanent well closure and site restoration plan, which must be submitted along with the application for drilling authorization and which can only be approved by the MENR after having obtained a favourable decision from the Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (“MSDEFCC”).
Furthermore, at the very end of a project, after the performance of the work set out in the permanent well closure and site restoration plan, the MENR will not return the financial guarantee filed along with the application for the drilling authorization and the permanent well closure and site restoration plan without having obtained a favourable decision from the MSDEFCC.
Awarding of Exploration, Production and Underground Reservoir Licences Process
We note that several of the provisions of the new legislative framework repeat certain of the existing equivalent provisions of the Mining Act as they apply to exploration and production of petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoirs. Thus, several of the principles already found in the Mining Act, for example, the legal qualification of certain rights as real and immovable mining rights are repeated, but often with modifications. The following therefore highlights some of the applicable provisions of thePetroleum Resources Act without always expressing whether they are entirely new in reference to those of the Mining Act.
As is the case in other jurisdictions, for example in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, exploration licences are awarded by auction following a regulated auction process. An exploration licence, which is valid for an initial term of 5 years and renewable for the terms and subject to the conditions prescribed by government regulations, entitles the holder thereof (i) to explore for petroleum resources or an underground reservoir in the territory covered by the licence; and (ii) to extract petroleum resources and to dispose of it (extraction tests) or to use and underground reservoir for a trial period.
The holder of an exploration licence who makes a significant discovery or a commercial discovery, as these expressions are defined in the Petroleum Resources Act, must notify the MENR of such a discovery.
Production or Storage Licence
The holder of an exploration licence who makes a commercial discovery must, within 4 years following the discovery, submit a petroleum production or storage project to the Régie de l’énergie and apply to the MENR for a production or storage licence.
Before being authorized to proceed with the project, the developer will be required:
- to obtain a favourable decision from the Régie de l’énergie;
- to obtain an authorization from the Government of Québec pursuant to the Environment Quality Actfollowing the environmental impact assessment and review procedure;
- to obtain a production or storage licence.
The MENR reserves the right to award by way of auction a production or storage licence in a territory that is no longer subject to an exploration, production or storage licence if the MENR considers that such territory presents, as the case may be, an economically workable deposit or an economically usable underground reservoir. Bill 106 does not, however, provide a definition of what is considered an “economically workable deposit” and an “economically usable underground reservoir”, possibly meaning the decision to auction off such a licence may be at the entire discretion of the MENR.
A production licence, which is valid for an initial term of 20 years and renewable for the terms and subject to the conditions prescribed by government regulations, gives the holder thereof the right to produce petroleum. A storage licence, which is valid for an initial term of 20 years and renewable for the terms and subject to the conditions prescribed by government regulations, entitles the holder thereof to use an underground reservoir to store materials the Government determines by regulation.
Other Required Authorizations
In addition, activities related to petroleum resources exploration and production activities are subject to authorizations or licences, for instance geophysical or geochemical surveying, stratigraphic surveying, drilling, or completion activities, as well as major maintenance work on a well (workover and reconditioning).
Temporary or Permanent Closure
The cessation of activities at a well triggers a duty on the part of the holder of a licence to obtain an authorization for temporary or permanent closure. A government regulation will determine under what circumstances a temporary discontinuation will be deemed to be permanent, which will contribute to the predictability of projects. Please note however that a temporary closure cannot exceed a period of 4 years.
A permanent closure authorization triggers a duty to perform the work set out in the permanent well closure and site restoration plan, which must be submitted along with the application for the drilling authorization, as well as any other work that may be prescribed by regulation.
Greater Participation by the Public and More Transparency Required of the Industry
Monitoring Committee to Foster the Involvement of the Local Community
As of the exploration phase, the Petroleum Resources Act requires that an exploration licence holder establish a monitoring committee, to foster the local community’s involvement in the exploration project as a whole. [Blanket approval like in Alberta?]
Committee members are selected in accordance with the process determined by the licence holder. A majority of the committee members must be independent from the licence holder and the committee must include at least one member representing the municipal sector, one member representing the economic sector, one member of the public and, if applicable, one member representing a Native community consulted by the Government with respect to the project. All members of the committee must be from the region in which the territory subject to the licence is located. Should the project move to the production phase, this same monitoring committee will remain in place.
It is to be noted that such a committee is already a requirement of the Mining Act, but for projects that have reached the production phase.
Bill 106 provides for other measures seeking to enhance transparency and foster participation by the public. For example, when an exploration licence is awarded on private land or land leased by the State, the exploration licence holder will have to notify the owner or lessee and the local municipality of the licence obtained within 30 days after the licence is registered in the public register of real and immovable rights concerning petroleum resources rights.
Information Provided to the MENR
Among the information that the holder of an exploration or production licence is required to provide to the MENR, we would mention the following:
- the annual report of the Monitoring Committee;
- the annual activities report, that can also be sent to the Autorité des marchés financiers at the same time as the statement required under section 6 of the Act respecting transparency measures in the mining, oil and gas industries, in this latter case, the Autorité des marchés financiers having the obligation to forward the report to the MENR (exploration and production phases);
- the monthly report detailing the amount of petroleum extracted during the previous month (production phase).
Public Register of Real and Immovable Petroleum Rights and Land Register
The Petroleum Resources Act provides for the creation at the MENR of a public register of real and immovable rights concerning petroleum resources, whose purpose and use will be substantially equivalent to those applicable to the register presently existing pursuant to the Mining Act. Thus, this latter register will cease to apply to petroleum resources rights. In addition to equivalent recordings to those presently made at the present register, additional recordings are provided for in the case of the new register concerning petroleum resources rights, for example:
- certain authorizations granted (geophysical or geochemical surveying authorization, stratigraphic surveying authorization, drilling authorization);
- certain notices given (notice of a significant discovery, notice of a commercial discovery, notice of the commencement of drilling work, well completion authorization, workover and reconditioning authorization, temporary or permanent closure authorization);
- permanent well closure and site restoration plan;
- the MENR’s declaration of satisfaction confirming that the permanent well closure and site restoration work was completed to its satisfaction.
The Petroleum Resources Act therefore broadens the ambit of the register, thus adding to the quantity of information available to the public.
It is also worth mentioning that the Petroleum Resources Act provides for the entry of certain declarations in the land register, for example, in the case of a drilling authorization, a declaration of the well’s location, within 30 days after the work begins.
Public Nature of the Information
Bill 106 also provides that some information transmitted to the MENR in the context of exploration and production activities will be made public. Taking into account the nature of some of the information and the commercial interests involved, such information will, however, remain confidential for a period of time; for instance, two years after the permanent closure of a well in the event of documents or information provided following the drilling of a well and five years after the completion of the work in the case of geophysical or geochemical or stratigraphic surveys.
Increased Liability for Petroleum Exploration and Production Project Developers and Enhanced Protective Measures
Special Liability Scheme
A special liability scheme is set for a holder of an exploration, production or storage licence, as well as in the case of the holder of a junction pipeline authorization. Thus, The developer’s liability will be considered engaged without regard to actual fault for an amount per event up to an amount prescribed by government regulations. The holder will be required to provide the government with evidence of their solvency in respect of such amount. Beyond such amount, the Petroleum Resources Act provides that a holder may be required to make reparation for the injury caused by its fault or that of its subcontractors or of its employees in the performance of their duties. The holder also retains its right to remedy, for the entire injury, against the person who committed the fault.
The type of injury to which this liability scheme applies includes injury caused by or in the course of the activities carried on by the developer, including the loss of non-use value relating to public resources, in particular due to emanations or migrations of gas or spills of petroleum or other liquids.
Please note that the developer cannot escape liability by proving that the injury was caused by an event of force majeure. [Including if the regulator and holder blame nature for harm caused by the holder?]
The MENR may require the developer to remedy the situation in the event of a spill of a liquid, or an emanation or migration of gas from a well or junction pipeline if it poses a risk for human health or safety or the safety of property. If there is no other solution, the MENR may also order the developer to seal off the source of the spill, emanation or migration. [And if the holder can’t stop the migration, as is most often the case, or doesn’t want to spend the money or makes a lame attempt, worsening the migration or spill?] Should the developer fail to comply with such an order from the MENR, the MENR may cause the remedial or sealing work to be performed at the developer’s expense. [And if the developer refuses to pay, is the bill passed onto to the taxpayer?]
Protective Measures to be Defined
The Petroleum Resources Act provides that specific protective and safety measures must be implemented by licence holders, junction pipeline authorization holders or any other person in charge of a well or pipeline. Failing compliance by such holder or person to such a protective or safety measure, the MENR may cause the required work to be performed at the holder’s or person’s expense. [Again, what if the holder/developer refuses to pay?]
Finally, the Petroleum Resources Act sets out transitional provisions that will ensure the continued application of the rights granted under the Mining Act, in particular with respect to exploration licences and authorizations issued prior to the eventual coming into force of the Petroleum Resources Act. However, Bill 106 does not stipulate any specific provisions regarding rights granted in the Saint-Lawrence River or An Act to limit oil and gas activities which prohibits any petroleum and gas activities in that part of the St-Lawrence River upstream of Île d’Anticosti and on the islands situated in that part of the river (except for an underground reservoir production lease bearing number 1990BR301) and exempts any holder of a licence to explore for petroleum, natural gas and underground reservoirs from performing the exploration work required pursuant to the Mining Act until a date to be determined by the government.
It appears from our analysis of the provisions of the Petroleum Resources Act as it is proposed in Bill 106 that Québec intends to revisit and to strengthen the legal framework applicable to petroleum resources exploration and production projects, from the very beginning of any such project. As well, as already mentioned, the legal framework that will be established by the Petroleum Resources Act will ultimately be supplemented by a certain number of [DE]regulations that will follow. It will only be once the Petroleum Resources Act has been passed and be in force the regulations have been enacted that it will be possible to more completely assess the true ambit of this paradigm shift, which will definitely have significant repercussions for the development of any Quebec petroleum resources project.
Canada: Welcome Clarity For Quebec’s Oil And Gas Industry: The New Petroleum Resources Act Is Introduced by Erik Richer La Flèche, Stikeman Elliott LLP, July 11, 2016, mondaq
Mindful not to repeat the mistakes of its predecessors, Premier Couillard’s government continues very deliberately to lay down a modern [TRANSLATION: MASSIVELY DEREGULATE?] and comprehensive [TRANSLATION: PROTECT INDUSTRY, AND ONLY INDUSTRY?] framework for hydrocarbon exploration and production in Quebec.
After many studies and considerable consultation [OR AFTER OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY LAWYERS WROTE THE BILL?], Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pierre Arcand tabled Bill 106 before the National Assembly on June 7, 2016. Bill 106 (An Act to implement the 2030 Energy Policy and to amend various legislative provisions) does three things:
It creates Transition énergétique Québec (“TEQ”). The mission of TEQ is to prepare an energy transition masterplan and to support, financially and otherwise, energy transition, innovation and efficiency in Quebec.
It adopts measures to increase electric transport and amends the Act respecting the Régie de l’énergie to increase gas pipeline capacity in and to Quebec. In recent years, a couple of very large industrial investments along the St. Lawrence River have had to be shelved for lack of readily available gas pipeline capacity. Quebec wants to avoid a repeat of this unfortunate and embarrassing state of affairs.
Finally, it enacts the Petroleum Resources Act (“PRA”), Quebec’s first modern statute dedicated to the development of oil and gas. The PRA is a comprehensive statute with more than 260 sections.
It is designed to (i) foster the exploration of hydrocarbons in Quebec, (ii) ensure that any ensuing production is optimal, economically sound, uses best environmental practices, and has local and First Nations acceptance, and (iii) ensure that there are sufficient funds available when the time comes permanently to close wells and restore sites. [“BEST PRACTICES” IN THE OIL AND GAS INDUSTRY ARE VOLUNTARY, UNENFORCEABLE, USELESS FOR HARMED LANDOWNERS, COMMUNITIES AND CITIZENS.]
The following points, relating to the process that Bill 106 would establish, are of particular interest:
New exploration licenses will be awarded by auction. Up to now they have been awarded using the “free entry system” in the same manner as mining rights.
Current exploration licenses will be recognized under the PRA.
An exploration license holder may apply to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources for a production license. Such license will be issued if (i) the Régie de l’énergie has issued a favourable decision regarding the application (the content of such application will be set out in regulations but will have at a minimum to describe the project, including its production plan and methodology), and (ii) the Government of Quebec has authorized the applicant’s production project pursuant to section 31.5 of the Environment Quality Act. A Section 31.5 authorization may only be granted after completion of a satisfactory environmental assessment. Such assessment may involve public hearings.
Entrusting the Régie de l’énergie instead of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources with the review of the merits of any production license application has the dual merit of better insulating the approval process from politics and ensuring that government is able to secure, without civil service constraints, the specialized talent required properly to examine and evaluate production license applications. After all, this is a very new field of endeavour for Quebec.
Quebec public opinion: a growing consensus
Concerns have been raised about the PRA and Quebec’s “open door” to oil and gas. Critics contend that such a move is inconsistent with Quebec’s commitment to transition away from hydrocarbons. Government and business counter that the PRA is congruent with Quebec’s recently issued 2030 Energy Policy. The 2030 Energy Policy was well received across the spectrum and is viewed as green and ambitious while at the same time recognizing that (i) oil and gas is Quebec’s number one import (the annual import bill fluctuates but is consistently above $10 billion and adds substantially to Quebec’s chronic balance of payment deficit), (ii) in 2030 Quebec will require oil and gas to meet 39% of its energy needs, (iii) natural gas can displace dirtier fuels in shipping, trucking and remote northern areas, [FRAC’D UNCONVENTIONAL GAS IS DIRTY, NO MATTER HOW IT ENDS UP BEING USED] and (iv) Quebec industry requires oil as a raw material (what has come to be known in Quebec as ” social oil”).
Also helping to create a consensus in favour of the PRA is the fact that many of the current oil and gas projects are in the Gaspé Peninsula, an economically challenged region in need of jobs. [THE USUAL PROMISED BRIBE. A FEW LOUSY (WHO WANTS TO BE POISONED WITH SECRET CHEMICALS?) JOBS IN EXCHANGE FOR POLLUTED OR LOST WATER, DIVIDED COMMUNITIES AND FAMILIES, HARMED HEALTH, AND POLLUTED AIR, LAND, FOOD, AND RIGHTS.] At least one authoritative opinion poll has found that more than 50% of Quebec adults are in favour of local production while fewer than 25% want to continue to rely on imports for all of the province’s oil and gas needs.
Where Bill 106 goes from here: the legislative process
Parliamentary commission hearings on Bill 106 have been scheduled for August 16-19, 2016 so as to allow early adoption during the National Assembly’s Fall session.
Regulations are unlikely to be published before adoption of Bill 106. These regulations, at least as they pertain to the PRA, promise to be comprehensive.
Other recent developments
The lack of a modern regulatory framework has not stopped Quebec from moving forward on oil and gas. Pétrolia Inc. announced on June 16, 2016 that Ressources Québec, a subsidiary of state-owned Investissement Québec, had invested $8.5 million in its Bourque Project located near Murdochville in the Gaspé Peninsula. Other work continues elsewhere in Quebec, including oil production testing.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. [Emphasis added]
Questerre reports on new Quebec oil and gas law and results from AGM Press Release by Questerre, June 8, 2016, Canada News Wire
Questerre Energy Corporation (“Questerre” or the “Company”) (TSX,OSE:QEC) reported today that the Government of Quebec has introduced Bill 106 to modernize hydrocarbon legislation in the province.
Michael Binnion, Chief Executive Officer of Questerre, commented, “The Quebec Government did what it said it would do. It has been a six year process including the most comprehensive environmental studies in Canada as well as extensive public consultations. By slowing down and respecting legitimate stakeholder concerns we have achieved a balanced outcome. While far from a green light, we have a path forward to resuming activity for our Utica gas discovery in selective communities.” [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
2016 09 18: Did Petrolia intend to frac all along? After promising for years it would not, Petrolia planning to “artificially stimulate” Haldimand oil wells in Gaspé. “Town council cannot accept fracking near homes, near water wells,” Mayor Daniel Côté said.
2016 06 17: “A New Step Forward!” Quebec introduces draconian oil & gas bill to give companies more rights than property owners, Days later authorizes Petrolia Inc to frack Anticosti: “This resounding success on the regulatory front is essentially due to the work of Petrolia, accompanied by the experts at SNC-Lavalin….”
2014 12 16: Quebec’s Premier Declares Province-wide Shale Gas Ban after Environmental Review Board (BAPE) says Fracking Not Worth The Risk, “Too many negative consequences to the environment and society…risks to air and water quality…noise and light pollution” ]