Pro-exploration business people and citizens in Quebec's Gaspé municipality are taking a stand against a decision by city council to ban oil drilling in the area, adding fuel to Pétrolia Inc.'s controversial bid to turn Quebec into an oil-producing province.
The group – Regroupement pour l'avancement économique de la Gaspésie – says the vote to ban oil exploration is irresponsible, given the poor state of the regional economy and the need for job-creating development projects.
"The recent actions by the town council are absolutely unacceptable. For many years, the Gaspesie has been suffering from an important declining economic situation. The systematic blockage culture must cease," Gaston Langlais, spokesman for the newly formed organization, says in a news release Thursday.
The group intends to put pressure on the town council to reverse the decision and allow drilling on Pétrolia's Haldimand site near Gaspé.
Pétrolia is a Quebec junior exploration company that wants to develop Haldimand, with its estimated 7.7 million barrels of recoverable oil spread over an area of about nine square kilometres deep beneath the ground.
Gaspé council voted last month to prohibit any activity in the ground that could have an impact on the quality of potable water, either underground or on the surface, within 10 kilometres of a water-supply location.
Pétrolia's drilling rigs are located about five kilometres away from Gaspé.
The city council vote put an abrupt stop to Pétrolia's activities in the area. The company had previously won the province's permission to drill. Now, the government is seeking legal clarification whether a municipality can legally ban drilling by a company that has exploration permits from the province.
Pétrolia chief executive officer André Proulx said recently he believes the city's action is illegal.
The set-to is taking place against a backdrop of strong public opposition to plans by natural-gas producers to use the controversial technique of fractional drilling for the extraction of shale gas in the province.