Faced with increasing public concerns and pressures over shale gas exploration and production, the Québec Government announced on August 29, 2010 a series of government actions that will be implemented to ensure the "sustainable development of the shale gas industry". The first of these actions has been to require that the Bureau des Audiences Publiques sur L'environnement (BAPE) consult the public and stakeholders on the manner in which shale gas exploration and development activities will be controlled. The BAPE commission will examine the concerns to ensure that the information necessary for an in-depth assessment of the situation is compiled, shared and discussed appropriately. The BAPE's report is expected to be tabled next February and will contain its recommendations on how to oversee the shale gas industry to ensure the protection of the environment.
A second action will be to pursue the drafting of the proposed Hydrocarbons Act with the input and cooperation of municipalities, the public, industry, agriculture and environmental groups. Three advisory committees have been established: a hydrocarbon liaison committee, an environmental advisory committee and an advisory committee of industry representatives. The first of these committees is made up of elected officials from the three administrative regions located between Montréal and Québec City where natural gas potential is significant, representatives of the Union des producteurs agricoles and of municipal and government agencies. The committees will examine the environmental, social and economic challenges of hydrocarbon exploration and development in the Province with the view of recommending provisions that should be included in the above proposed legislation. According to the Ministers, it is hoped that this process will enable Québec to "introduce methods to develop its hydrocarbon potential that are in compliance with the highest environmental and social standards".
The Government will also set up a designated website to provide information on shale gas to the public . A comprehensive information guide for municipalities as well as a document detailing the government's courses of action will also be published. In addition there will be a series of meetings scheduled between the Minister, experts from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife, the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, the Ministère de la Sécurité Publique, and local elected officials and citizens to present this information. The third action will be for the Government to sign a memorandum of understanding with the shale gas industry that will detail the best practices the industry will be required to implement. This is expected to also involve a social agreement between industry, government and the public.
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