Quebec will have to reevaluate the drilling request of oil company Gaspé Énergies, because Energy Minister Jonathan Julien could not justify his decision to reject the project, according to the court’s estimates.
On October 20, 2020, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Jonathan Julian, refused to issue a drilling permit to the oil company, claiming that the desired site was located less than 1,000 meters from a permanent watercourse.
Thus Legault’s government invoked Article 23 of the Regulation which respects the activities of exploitation, production and storage of hydrocarbons in the Earth’s environment. Gaspé Énergies challenged this refusal in court.
In a decision filed on Monday, Judge Christian Boutin of the Quebec Court sued Minister Julian, saying his decision was “not motivated enough”.
Although the law gives the minister discretionary power, he was unable to justify this decision, which took more than a page. “The minister mentions without real description and very briefly […] About the presence of waterways ”, wrote Judge Putin.
In addition, according to the judge, this same Article 23 is invalid within the framework of the drilling project of the Gaspé Énergie oil company, because no change to this regulation was published prior to its adoption.
The directors of Gaspé Énergies have not been informed of the amendment to the Hydrocarbon Exploitation Act.
“The article must be considered null and unenforceable against Gaspé Énergie in view of its failure to be published in the draft Regulations and, therefore, the resulting lack of consultation,” the judge notes at the end of his decision.
The file was returned to the Minister of Energy to decide again to authorize drilling, but this time taking into account the current provision and the fact that Article 23 Gaspé Energy cannot be opposed.
Therefore, Quebec may be required to give the company a permit and allow it to drill the Galt 6 well, which is located about twenty kilometers from the town of Gaspé.
At the same time, the Legault government recently announced the termination of the exploitation of hydrocarbons on its territory.
Quebec had to wait for the court’s decision in the Gaspé Énergies case before making the declaration.
However, Prime Minister Francois Legault decided otherwise during his inaugural address last October.
He also said he was prepared to pay the huge bill for the legal actions that could follow.
On Monday, Jonathan Julien’s cabinet declined to comment on the Quebec court’s decision. We analyze the decision and its implications. “We will not be making any comments at this time,” said Genevieve Tremblay, press secretary to the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources.
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