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The town has, in effect, outlawed the Haldimand 4 project, leading to a pitched battle for the hearts and minds of Gaspe residents.
MONTREAL—The incessant hum of the generators continues, but the drills, trucks and heavy machinery have returned to their outposts in northern Ontario, Newfoundland and Alberta.
What remains is sky-high unemployment that rivals that of Portugal, Ireland or Zambia and the century-old dream of pulling oil from the rocky treasure chest that is Quebec’s Gaspé region.
That, and a raging dispute pitting Gaspé Mayor François Roussy against Petrolia, a Quebec-based firm that was set to begin pumping the 8 million barrels of oil it discovered on the edge of town. The find is worth an estimated $1 billion, but the mayor says it’s only enough to meet Quebec’s gasoline demands for 28 days.
The dispute has been simmering since Petrolia received a provincial permit to begin work last spring. But the town of 15,000, in a region with 15 per cent unemployment, brought the battle to a head.
A last-minute municipal regulation in mid-January to protect drinking water has, in effect, outlawed the project.
Known as Haldimand 4, Petrolia was just a few days from the start of an estimated 15-year drilling operation. It’s located 350 metres from the home that Pelope Adzakpa bought two summers ago with his wife and two children.
The noises emanating from the drilling site wake the junior college teacher up at night, he says, and remind him of the menace lurking just beyond the trees.
“Normally when we buy property here in a calm area, we have done it for the quality of life,” said Adzakpa, whose house sits at the end of Forest Street, closer than any other residence to the drilling site.
“It was really a deception for us to learn after moving here that there was going to be a project like that. Imagine if you were in our place.”
The dream of homegrown Quebec oil has existed for more than a century, going back to a time when residents of the Gaspé region, a rugged and picturesque area where the St. Lawrence River opens out toward the sea, found black gold naturally oozing from the rocky ground.
But successive provincial governments opted to focus their energies on developing metal mining, forestry and hydroelectricity. They were content to import oil from more traditional petroleum producers in the Middle East and Africa.
The metal has been mined out of the Gaspé. The mills have shut down. Though tempted by the economic benefits, many Quebecers are even hesitant about percolating plans for a pipeline that would bring oilsands crude out through the province’s territory on its way to waiting tankers on the East Coast.olin
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2013/02/01/gasp_mayor_franois_roussy_at_odds_with_petrolia_over_oil_drilling_project.html