Former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard is stepping down as head of the Quebec Oil and Gas Association as uncertainty continues over the future of shale-gas development in the province.
Mr. Bouchard was appointed two years ago to help improve the industry’s image, particularly with regard to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which chemicals and water are injected into the ground to release natural gas from rock formations.
He is leaving following Talisman Energy Inc.’s decision to pull out of the association; it was Talisman that paid his fees.
Last October, Talisman stopped committing any more money to shale-gas exploration in Quebec.
This was soon after the new Parti Québécois government expressed major concerns over the safety and environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing.
On Wednesday, the government said it will introduce an indefinite moratorium on shale-gas activities in the populous St. Lawrence Valley.
The moratorium won’t be lifted until an exhaustive environmental assessment is completed that could last up to two years.
Talisman spokesman Tom Neufeld said on Thursday the decision to withdraw from the Quebec Oil and Gas Association is not related to the government’s actions.
“It was a business decision that reflects the fact that Talisman has no plans for capital spending in the near future in the province,” he said.
He added that Talisman has made no final decision on its plans in Quebec.
Among the factors the company cited for its exit from the lobbying group are the current low price of North American dry natural gas and Talisman’s shift in strategy to focus on core assets that generate cash in the short term.
“Talisman would like to thank outgoing Quebec Oil and Gas Association president Lucien Bouchard for his service over the past several years. His determination, dignity and sound advice to the association have been greatly appreciated,” Talisman said in an e-mailed statement.
Mr. Bouchard stepped in two years ago to replace former Hydro-Québec president André Caillé, who drew fire from critics for allegedly misinforming residents on pollution and water-contmination risks from shale-gas drilling.
Mr. Bouchard continues to practice with the law firm of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP.
“Talisman has greatly appreciated the Quebec Oil and Gas Association’s work in building a dialogue with Quebeckers about the potential of the province’s emerging oil and gas industry,” the company said in the statement.
Mr. Bouchard could not be reached for comment on Thursday.