"Rather than a moratorium, the OIQ recommends that exploration and extraction method development activities be subject to a system of special clearances issued by the ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs du Québec (MDDEP). This is a momentous and constructive recommendation," states Maud Cohen, Eng., President of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec.
According to the OIQ, the debate should concern the entire system and the resulting decisions must be strategic in nature. This basically boils down to determining whether or not shale gas exploitation in Québec is sustainable and beneficial to Quebecers.
"The availability of natural gas on potentially advantageous terms changes the energy situation in Québec and raises the possibility of using more methane in Québec's energy mix. That is why this major factor must be part of the scope of analysis," states Ms. Cohen.
The best adapted tool for this type of analysis is the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), a systematic, formal and exhaustive process that takes into account environmental considerations and impacts.(1) SEAs are very well integrated and widely used in many industrialized countries, including Canada. An SEA was even used for the reclamation of hydrocarbons in the estuarine basin and northwest section of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence under the supervision of the MDDEP.
"SEAs make it possible to evaluate the cumulative and synergic effects on a given territory. Without clear and credible answers about the effects of shale gas exploitation, the OIQ feels that the precautionary principle (Sustainable Development Act) must be applied," adds Ms. Cohen.
Performing an SEA will marshal many resources and ultimately delay the debate for several months. The OIQ feels that it necessary to invest time and money in order to make well-informed decisions about the potential development and directions of this system.
"Shale gas is definitely an interesting system. But is it the extraordinarily advantageous solution that some want us to believe it is? We should take our time and use the proper methods to find out. Not doing so, or rushing through the process, may have the opposite effect and cast this system into disrepute for good. We need to set aside the time and use methods that will allow for a serious, in-depth study," concludes the President of the OIQ.
Read the brief
of the OIQ website.
The Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec
This year, the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec is celebrating its 90th anniversary. Founded in 1920, the OIQ has a membership of 60,000 engineering professionals in all fields, except forest engineering.
The mission of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec is to ensure the protection of the public by supervising the practice of the profession within the framework of its constituent laws and ensure that the profession serves the public interest.
1 Translation of the French definition by the Association québécoise pour l'évaluation d'impacts, in its brief to the Québec government entitled L'évaluation environnementale stratégique : un outil performant et éprouvé à inclure dans la Stratégie de développement durable au Québec of December 2005.