Quebec government loses key court case to prevent natural gas exploitation as province seeks to ban fossil fuels production 

The Quebec government lost a key court battle against natural resources company Utica and its subsidiary, Gaspé Énergies.

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The Quebec government sought to block a natural gas exploration project in Gaspésie by invoking an obscure clause. 

Prior environment minister Jonathan Julien invoked an obscure clause in 2020 prohibiting most hydrocarbon exploitation within 1,000 meters of any natural waterway to block Utica Ressource’s project. 

The Quebec government had previously invested 10 million in taxpayer funds into the project before revoking its permit in 2020. As of today, the government still possesses a 17% stake in the project it is trying to block. 

Utica Ressources took the Quebec government to court, arguing the project demonstrably had no impact on natural waterways and contesting the grounds for their refusal to issue a drilling permit. 

Quebec’s court sided with Utica and ruled that the grounds for denying the permit were “insufficient”. 

On October 19, 2021, the Legault government announced it would permanently ban oil and gas exploitation and exploration on its territory. 

Legault’s party, the Coalition Avenir Quebec was elected in 2018 as a center-right coalition. However, throughout its mandate, Legault’s party has strayed to the left. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, the Quebec government stood out as one of the most authoritarian provincial governments in Canada, imposing a nightly mandatory curfew for several months. 

This latest decision to ban oil and gas exploitation reinforces the shift to the left seen in the Legault government. 

Independent reports have shown the province is home to massive reserves of natural gas, a low-impact source of energy commonly hailed as the key to the energy transition.  

At a time where natural gas prices are skyrocketing and global supply cannot meet demand, experts say the decision strays away from common sense. 

The Quebec reserves could bring billions in tax revenues for the government and bring much-needed private-sector jobs to a stagnating economy. 

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