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Quebec premier says he's not interested in exploiting shale gas deposits

MONTREAL – Premier Philippe Couillard has ruled out exploiting Quebec’s shale gas reserves — at least for now.

Quebecers are largely against hydraulic fracturing and exploiting the natural resource in today’s market is not economically viable, he said Tuesday.

Couillard made the comments shortly after Quebec’s environmental review board concluded the ecological and social risks associated with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” outweigh the financial benefits.

Fracking is a process whereby a pressurized fluid is injected into shale rock in order to crack the rock and release underground natural gas deposits.

The environmental agency noted that fracking risks contaminating surface and underground water basins and that citizens living along the St. Lawrence River, where the deposits are located, are against the practice.

“I don’t think that there is much interest in developing this resource, uniquely on the economic side,” Couillard told Radio-Canada, the CBC’s French-language service. “And in any case, the social acceptability (for fracking) is not there.”

Quebec imposed a moratorium on drilling exploratory fracking wells in 2011.

Couillard didn’t close the door to fracking in the future, however, and said his government is not opposed to developing the province’s energy resources.

Quebec last May launched what it called a “strategic environmental assessment” of the province’s natural resources.

The government’s assessment includes a review of major energy projects that have been proposed such as TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline and the project to reverse the flow of Enbridge’s 9B oil pipeline.

The review is also studying the potential to drill for oil on Quebec’s Anticosti Island.

The final report is due in the fall of 2015.