Junior exploration company Pétrolia Inc. has won a court battle to strike down a bylaw adopted by the town of Gaspé that bans oil drilling too close to the municipality's drinking water supply.
The Superior Court of Quebec released a decision on Monday that rules the municipality improperly ventured onto provincial jurisdictional ground in December 2012 by adopting the bylaw.
Quebec City-based Pétrolia went to court arguing it had all the necessary provincial exploration permits for drilling on its potentially rich Haldimand site near Gaspé. The bylaw prohibited the introduction into the ground of any substance that could have an impact on the quality of underground or surface water within 10 kilometres from a municipal surface water site.
"The judgment confirms the primacy of the Government of Quebec's jurisdiction over natural resource exploration regulation," Pétrolia said in a news release Tuesday.
The company said it plans to await the release of the hydrogeological study commissioned by the provincial government before resuming drilling.
"We are pleased with Judge [Benoît] Moulin's decision. Pending the publication of the hydrogeological study scheduled for March, we will continue to work with the municipality and the Gaspé community in order to keep everyone informed of our activities with regard to health, safety and environmental compliance issues," said Pétrolia chief executive Myron Tétreault.
"Our goal is to resume work in accordance with our permits and their corresponding timelines."
Municipal authorities said they want to study the court decision before commenting further on it.
"The priority for us has always been the protection of residents' drinking water," Gaspé mayor Daniel Côté said in a news release after the ruling. "Therefore, more than ever, we would like the Quebec government to react quickly and we ask that it move rapidly to adopt the water-protection law it has been promising for more than a year."