QUEBEC – The Quebec government will respect a contract it signed with energy firm Petrolia for exploratory oil and gas drilling on Anticosti Island, the company’s president said Wednesday after meeting with the premier.
Alexandre Gagnon had been calling for a meeting with Philippe Couillard since the latter signalled a few weeks ago he wanted to back out of the deal.
“The project is going ahead and (the government) will respect the contract,” Gagnon told reporters following the meeting.
Couillard’s office issued a statement confirming it would respect the deal as long as it met environmental standards.
The previous Parti Quebecois government signed a contract to become a financial partner in a joint venture with Petrolia to explore a hydrocarbon deposit on the island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Couillard had said in recent weeks the decision was a “serious mistake” as drilling could affect the island’s ecosystem.
He said the exploratory well-drilling includes fracking, a controversial practice where a mixture is pumped deep underground in order to crack rocks and release natural gas, which risks affecting the water table.
Gagnon said Couillard reassured him during their meeting that the exploratory drilling will go ahead this summer as planned if the province’s Environment Department grants Petrolia (TSX-V:PEA) the permits.
Couillard told reporters before the meeting that he had doubts about whether drilling on the island was worth it, referring to a recent news report indicating the presumed deposits could not be profitable.
The premier had previously said he would “do everything” to prevent hydraulic fracturing on the island, adding that the bureaucrats reviewing Petrolia’s application for drilling permits “will do what we tell them to do.”
Gagnon said following Wednesday’s meeting in Quebec City he understood Couillard still had doubts, but the point of the project is to determine whether or not the presumed deposits are there, and if the project can be profitable.
“For now, (Couillard) has doubts and it’s up to us to do the work and show the opposite,” Gagnon said. “But he wants to do the (exploratory work) and to respect the contracts and for us that’s great news.”
Couillard’s office also said the province was also interested in Petrolia’s projects in the Gaspe peninsula.