By Konrad Yakabuski
MONTREAL — The Globe and Mail
Dec. 10, 2015
Blame Al Gore. No sooner had the former-U.S.-vice-president-turned-enviro-evangelist praised a beaming Philippe Couillard’s “incroyable” efforts to combat climate change than the Quebec Premier lost it when a reporter confronted him with an inconvenient truth: His government is putting up most of the cash to explore for oil and natural gas on pristine Anticosti Island.
Mr. Couillard, who usually keeps his emotions in check, unleashed a searing bolt of anger at the Paris climate summit last week when he was compelled to square his promotion of all things green and hydroelectric with his government’s plan to drill for fossil fuels on Anticosti in partnership with Petrolia Inc., Corridor Resources Inc. and France’s Maurel & Prom S.A.
“I have no enthusiasm for hydrocarbons,” Mr. Couillard shot back. The oil and gas industry, he added, “should decode [from that comment] that I have no enthusiasm for developing hydrocarbons in Quebec. The future of Quebec does not rest on hydrocarbons, absolutely not.”
Just before its 2014 defeat, the Marois government took a 35-per-cent stake in Hydrocarbures Anticosti, leaving its three private partners each with 21.67 per cent. The province agreed to put up $56.7-million of the first $100-million in exploration costs. Petrolia plans to begin fracking exploratory wells on Anticosti in 2016 with commercial production slated for as soon as 2020.
That is, however, if the Couillard government gives the green light to proceed. After Mr. Couillard’s unexpected outburst in Paris, that condition is far from assured, leaving Petrolia and its partners to twist in the wind.
Mr. Couillard just threw a barrel of cold water on the industry’s optimism. While he criticized the PQ’s state-led plan to substitute the government for the private sector, the Premier had initially been supportive of exploration on Anticosti. Now he complains that he’s “stuck” with an agreement his predecessor signed, since the government would incur undisclosed penalties to break it.
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