05/15/2013 04:58 EDT | Updated 07/15/2013 05:12 EDT

PQ proposes 5-year ban on shale gas exploration in the St. Lawrence Valley

The Parti Québécois wants a 5-year moratorium on shale gas exploration and drilling activities in the St. Lawrence River valley.

Sustainable development and environment minister Yves-François Blanchet tabled legislation this morning that would cover more than 50 municipalities, from Montreal to Quebec City and into the Eastern Townships.

The bill proposes stiff fines, from $10,000 to $6 million, for individuals or companies caught violating the moratorium.

Blanchet says he wants to give the province's environmental review agency, the BAPE, time to finish studies it has already launched into possible pitfalls surrounding shale gas including the controversial extraction process known as fracking.

Then the minister wants the national assembly to pass a broad-reaching bill covering all oil and gas exploration in Quebec.

Anticosti Island —which technically falls in the St. Lawrence lowland and is said to have vast oil and gas resources — is exempt from the moratorium.

According to Blanchet, many Quebeckers are concerned about shale gas activities, and he called on the opposition parties to move quickly to pass the bill.

At present there is a moratorium in place by cabinet order. The proposed bill would replace that.