01/07/2015 12:07 EST | Updated 03/09/2015 05:59 EDT

The Gas Industry Has Descended Upon Quebec

The gas industry has descended upon Quebec like a conquistador avidly claiming the nation's resources without a thought for its population's welfare. By acting like a 16th century conqueror, the gas companies have collided head on with plain common sense.

David McNew via Getty Images
LOST HILLS, CA - MARCH 24: Pump jacks are seen at dawn in an oil field over the Monterey Shale formation where gas and oil extraction using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is on the verge of a boom on March 24, 2014 near Lost Hills, California. Critics of fracking in California cite concerns over water usage and possible chemical pollution of ground water sources as California farmers are forced to leave unprecedented expanses of fields fallow in one of the worst droughts in California history. Concerns also include the possibility of earthquakes triggered by the fracking process which injects water, sand and various chemicals under high pressure into the ground to break the rock to release oil and gas for extraction though a well. The 800-mile-long San Andreas Fault runs north and south on the western side of the Monterey Formation in the Central Valley and is thought to be the most dangerous fault in the nation. Proponents of the fracking boom saying that the expansion of petroleum extraction is good for the economy and security by developing more domestic energy sources and increasing gas and oil exports. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

On November 15, 2014, the BAPE report (#307) was made public. This report essentially stated what citizens' groups had been saying over the last five years. On page 397, the conclusion is crystal clear: "...the enquiry commission is of the opinion that it has not been demonstrated that exploration and exploitation of shale gas in the St-Lawrence lowlands using hydraulic fracturing techniques would be advantageous for Quebec."

Among the minority of people who don't agree, there is Mr. Raymond Savoie, President of Gastem, who states that he is "flabbergasted"; on Radio-Canada, he has said that he would have hoped for "equitable treatment."

In the Yamaska valley, we know Mr. Savoie well since his company holds the claims for the drill sites located in Saint-Louis, Saint-Thomas d'Aquin, Saint-Barnabé-Sud and La Présentation. In September 2010, his collaborators at the Quebec Oil and Gas Association (QOGA) had organized three conferences to inform the population; it was more a proclamation of the triumphant conquest of Quebec by hydraulic fractures. On September 28, in Saint-Hyacinthe, the confrontation with the conquered citizens became explosive; Mr. Savoie was no doubt "flabbergasted" to see the citizens proclaim, in their own way, the Liberal slogan, "Maîtres chez nous (Masters of our own house)."

In 2007, Gastem and its affiliate Forest Oil descended upon Saint-Louis where they started work right in the middle of the village. At the onset, some citizens even thought that the preliminary landscaping efforts were for a residential development. Scanty information came to them late and a long time after the work had begun. The following year, a second phase began along with fracturing. Yet again, it was STEP-ASIDE-SONNY because we paid $0.10/h for the claims under your feet and it's not your home anymore. Over a 93-day period, the inhabitants of Saint-Louis had to endure the noise, the dust and the smells emanating from Gastem's operations that were underway a mere hundred meters from their patios. And, Mr. Savoie is "flabbergasted" that such blatant bullying is hotly denounced!

There are several ways for Gastem to show a lack of respect for Quebecers. On its website, everything is in English, including the press releases. "Gastem is a Quebec-based oil and gas exploration and development company holding exploration and storage rights to over 1.1-million acres." Funny, wasn't it Premier Robert Bourassa who declared that French was our official language? And this ex-member of Bourassa's cabinet is "flabbergasted" because the Quebec population is refusing his implicit "speak white" tactics!

Activities performed by subcontractors hired by gas companies have not always been exemplary. In May 2010, an enormous landslide in Saint-Jude buried four people. The inhabitants were shaken and they treaded carefully, as if on eggs, fearing that the unstable clays would give way to another landslide. The firm Séismotion requested a "seismic research program," but there was never, ever any mention of dynamiting.

Nonetheless, a mere two months after the tragedy, these men set off explosive charges in a wooded area about 1 km away from the landslide site. Did these explosions put the safety of the inhabitants of Saint-Jude in jeopardy? At any rate, citizens were shocked when they felt a second series of tremors under their feet. As in the other two cases of dynamiting that I am aware of, any information disseminated to the community is based on an approach that is anything but truthful. By acting in this manner, can Mr. Savoie really be "flabbergasted" that his industry is perceived as an invader?

The gas industry has descended upon Quebec like a conquistador avidly claiming the nation's resources without a thought for its population's welfare. The 1.5-million dollar lawsuit against the municipality of Ristigouche-Sud-Est (total population 168) is yet another example of Gastem's unacceptable behaviour. He must be "flabbergasted" that the state of New York has just banned fracturing; that is also bad news for Gastem's stock value!

By acting like a 16th century conqueror, the gas companies have collided head on with plain common sense. The population says NO to the idea of profits for the industry while the population will inherit only the costs and the environmental mess. The BAPE confirms this. The conclusion of these hearings provides an "equitable treatment" of the scientific, economic and social realities of fracking. So, Mr. Savoie, why be "flabbergasted"?

Strange! I thought that business men had to be in touch with reality!


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