QUEBEC – The new Parti Quebecois government hasn’t wasted any time hinting about a long-term ban on the shale gas industry.
Quebec’s new natural-resources minister, Martine Ouellet, says she doesn’t believe the controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale, known as “fracking,” can ever be done safely.
She made the remarks Thursday on her way into her first cabinet meeting, less than 24 hours after she was named to cabinet.
“I don’t foresee a day when there will be technology that will allow safe exploitation (of shale gas),” Ouellet said in Quebec City.
“Our position is very clear: we want a complete moratorium, not only on exploitation but also on exploration of shale gas. We haven’t changed our minds.”
Under political pressure, the former Liberal government halted shale-gas exploration last year in the fledgling industry to conduct more studies on the ecological risks. The environmental-review process was expected to take a couple of years.
Critics fear the method of unlocking natural gas from shale formations will create serious environmental problems — including the contamination of drinking water.
The industry insists that extraction chemicals are only used in small doses and the chances of them seeping into the environment are very slim.
Analysts, meanwhile, have called shale gas a potential economic game-changer.
The industry has boasted that the provincial government, which is saddled with public debt, would reap annual royalties of $1 billion from shale gas development.