A small municipality in the Canadian province of Quebec that was facing a million-dollar lawsuit from an oil and gas exploration company has won its court battle, bringing an end to a 4-year ordeal that began when residents took steps to protect their water supply.
“Reason and law prevailed today,” François Boulay, the mayor of Ristigouche Sud-Est, a township of 157 people on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, said. “We are relieved that our right to protect our drinking water is finally recognized.”
The clash traces its roots to 2011, when the province granted a Montreal-based company, Gastem, drilling permits to search for oil and gas in the eastern part of the province. Construction began on a drilling platform in the township’s territory.
Amid concerns from Ristigouche Sud-Est residents over how the drilling would affect municipal water sources, the town passed a bylaw in 2013 that set out a 2-km no-drill zone around its water supply.
Gastem shot back with a lawsuit that claimed residents had created an illegal bylaw to prevent the project from moving forward. The company’s initial CAD 1.5 million claim for damages was later reduced to CAD 984,676—a figure that was more than three times the township’s annual budget.
After years of mounting anxiety among residents, a judge at the superior court of Quebec ruled that Ristigouche Sud-Est was within its rights to protect its water supply.
“Far from being adopted in an untimely and hasty manner, the bylaw was the result of a serious effort to address the concerns and demands of Ristigouche’s citizens,” Judge Nicole Tremblay wrote in her decision. “Public interest, the collective well-being of the community, and the safety of residents must be weighed for all projects introduced into a municipality.”
In the absence of any existing provincial laws to protect water sources, the municipality had the right to create its own, the judge added. She ordered the company to cover half of the municipality’s legal fees as well as provide an additional CAD 10,000 to cover other costs incurred as a result of the lawsuit.
Gastem, which has 30 days to appeal the ruling, did not respond to a request for comment.
Read the full story here.
Don't miss our latest HSE content, delivered to your inbox twice monthly. Sign up for the HSE Now newsletter. If you are not logged in, you will receive a confirmation email that you will need to click on to confirm you want to receive the newsletter.
17 - 19 Mar 2020
- Bogotá, Colombia
Call for papers open
15 - 18 Jul 2019
- Houston, Texas USA
Join this multi-society conference on carbon management
1 Nov 2019
- Bali, Indonesia
Registration Coming Soon
19 - 20 Jun 2019
- Fontainebleau, France
Generating trust, enabling engagement and stimulating innovation
22 - 24 Jul 2019
- Denver, Colorado, USA
Book your place at this event today
HSE Now is a source for news and technical information affecting the health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility discipline of the upstream oil and gas industry.
©2003-2019 Society of Petroleum Engineers, All Rights Reserved.