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article imageTiny Canadian town goes up against the 'big boys' and wins

By Karen Graham     Mar 3, 2018 in World
Montreal - The tiny municipality of Ristigouche-Partie-Sud-Est, on Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula only has 157 residents, but the tiny town was able to beat a $1.0 million lawsuit brought against them by an oil and gas exploration company.
The story starts in 2011 when the province granted a Montreal-based company, Gastem, drilling permits to search for oil and gas in the eastern part of the province. The company immediately constructed a drilling platform in the municipality's territory.
However, this action raised serious concerns among the residents of Ristigouche Sud-Est because they feared for their municipal water sources. So in 2013, the town passed a bylaw that set a 2 kilometer (1.2-mile) no-drill zone around its water supply.
Gastem, which already had been working on the drilling platform for the past two years, filed a lawsuit against the town, arguing the township passed an illegal bylaw to prevent the drilling project from moving forward. Gastem claimed roughly US$1.2 million in damages, a sum that far exceeded the municipality's annual budget.
The day of reckoning
This week, in the Superior Court of Quebec, Judge Nicole Tremblay ruled that the township acted within its right to protect its water supply and uphold the public interest. She wrote: “Far from being adopted in an untimely and hasty manner, the bylaw was the result of a serious effort to address the concerns and demands of Ristigouche’s citizens. Public interest, the collective well-being of the community and the safety of residents must be weighed for all projects introduced into a municipality.”
The judge also ordered Gastem to pay half of the township’s legal fees and an extra US$7,700 to cover other expenses. Gastem has the right to appeal the ruling within 30 days.
“Reason and law prevailed today,” François Boulay, the mayor of Ristigouche Sud-Est. “We are relieved that our right to protect our drinking water is finally recognized.”
“Today, we raise our glass of potable water to the health of Quebec’s water and to all of those who supported us,” said Boulay. “Thanks to all of you, we were able to defend ourselves – and win.”
Translation: Team Copticom happily raises a glass of # drinkingwater to the Municipality of Restigou...
Translation: Team Copticom happily raises a glass of # drinkingwater to the Municipality of Restigouche South East! Congratulations on the beautiful # victory against the oil company # Gastem ! # justice
Jean-François Girard, the lawyer representing the township, described this week’s ruling as a victory, given that the lawsuit was seemingly solely aimed at punishing the municipality for taking a stand. “You have to think about it, the tax base in Ristigouche consists of 84 people,” he told Radio-Canada.
About Gastem
Gastem, the Quebec-based oil and gas exploration, and development company holds exploration and storage rights to over 1.1 million acres of land in the St. Lawrence Lowlands, the Gaspe Peninsula and the Magdalen Islands in Quebec. Gastem's wholly owned subsidiary, Gastem USA, holds exploration licenses to approximately 34,400 acres in New York State and 1,200 acres in Virginia.
Bottom line? It's nice to know that regardless of your size - if you are in the right, you can still win against the big boys.
More about Drinking water, Oil and gas exploration, Quebec, Gastem, illegal bylaw
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