Quebec Banned Oil And Gas Exploration & Is The First Government In The World To Do It

But environmentalists say the fight isn't over.

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Two people sit on a picnic bench, while another two are sitting on the grass under the trees in Mount Royal Park.

Two people sit on a picnic bench, while another two are sitting on the grass under the trees in Mount Royal Park.

Environmentalists are calling a vote by the Quebec National Assembly this week one of the biggest green wins in the province's history. Quebec is the first jurisdiction in the world to ban oil and gas development, following the adoption of Bill 21 (not to be confused with the controversial secularism law).

"Quebec and Canada have done too little to reduce their greenhouse gases over the past 30 years… By becoming the first state to ban oil and gas development on its territory, Quebec is paving the way for other states around the world and encouraging them to do the same," Montreal-based environmental group Équiterre said in a press release.

But the outcome remains bittersweet for advocates.

Under the new law, drill sites will be shut down within the next three years. Those more at risk of leaking will have a tighter time frame. Nearly a thousand wells will be left behind, as a result. All will have to be repaired, decontaminated, and monitored indefinitely.

Last year, Quebec joined the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, a group of federal and state-based governments committed to phasing out fossil fuels. But many advocates say the Legault government hasn't taken enough concrete actions to reduce greenhouse gases in Quebec. Right now, the province is set to miss its 2030 target of a 37.5% reduction compared with 1990 levels.

"We have barely three years left to avoid a point of no return when it comes to global warming. The fight must absolutely continue and intensify," said Simon Guiroy of Student Climate Action Front.

But investors in the oil and gas industry are frustrated by the government's action.

“Quebec is missing an important opportunity to work with other nations to provide secure, reliable energy for our European allies. It also leaves the province highly dependent on imports of natural gas and petroleum that meet more than half their energy needs. Moreover, this does nothing to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec or globally,” Calgary-based Questerre Energy Corporation CEO Michael Binnion said in a statement.

He said the company will assess its legal options "to preserve the rights of shareholders," while waiting for Bill 21 to come into effect.

Quebec has offered to pay for three-fourths of the costs related to shutting down the in-province fossil fuel industry. Companies will also receive compensation for having their licenses revoked. While industry supporters say the compensation is too little, given their economic investment in the province, environmentalists argue that the government is being too generous.

Since 2011, at least nine petitions or declarations opposing fossil fuels in Quebec have racked up more than 600,000 signatures. The most recent, created in February by over a dozen environmental organizations, called on the government to stop all handouts to the oil and gas industry.

“While we are thrilled with this new law, we would've been ecstatic had the government not given into the industry's soapy claims and gifted them indemnities,” said Équiterre climate policy analyst Émile Boisseau-Bouvier.

Sofia Misenheimer
MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Sofia Misenheimer is an Associate Editor for MTL Blog focused on gas prices in Montreal and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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