Montreal – About 3,000 people marched on Saturday to call for an end in Quebec to shale gas exploitation and a technique known as “fracking” that has triggered strong opposition from environmental groups.
The demonstrators marched through downtown Montreal, chanting slogans against drilling.
“Quebec should take a turn for renewable energy, especially new energy sources which are green,” said Amir Khadir, a member of the provincial assembly who came on bicycle to join the protest and has organised a petition against shale gas exploitation that has gathered 100 000 signatures.
Most of the protesters said a decision by Quebec authorities to study the issue was insufficient, and called for a moratorium on exploration of the shale gas reserves found four years ago in the Saint Lawrence valley and for environmentalists to be included on a panel to be set up to study the issue.
“Eight of the 11 members of a study panel have ties to the promoters of exploration, industry or the government,” maintained Lucie Sauve, a member of a gas shale scientific collective.
Backers say the vast reserves in North America could ease dependence on imported energy. However, some argue that the method risks contaminating underground water sources.
Hydraulic fracturing involves forcing chemicals deep into a well to dislodge natural gas from shale thousands of feet below the surface.
In Quebec, large sources of shale gas are believed to be located in the St Lawrence valley, and Quebec authorities are studying the potential environmental impact of drilling in the area.
The Quebec Association to Combat Air Pollution was one of the organisers of the protest.
In March in face of protests, the Quebec authorities were forced to suspend exploration and to launch the study into the environmental impact.