March 10, 2016 6:36 am
Updated: March 10, 2016 10:33 am

Petrolia says Quebec will allow Anticosti drilling to go ahead

WATCH ABOVE: Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has given energy firm Petrolia the OK to start exploratory drilling for oil and gas on Anticosti Island. Global's Kelly Greig reports.

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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.

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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.

READ MORE: Head of energy company still waiting for a meeting with Quebec premier

The previous previous Parti Québécois 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.

READ MORE: Quebec to explore Anticosti Island oil reserves

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.

READ MORE: Quebec’s Anticosti oil-exploration plan is risky: critics

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.

READ MORE: Quebec OKs Anticosti Island surveys for oil

“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.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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