“For us in the North, climate change is not a distant future. It’s our current reality. It’s already here and impacting our people. With Canada’s recent approval of Equinor’s massive offshore oil project Bay du Nord, damages to our way of life will only worsen. With Equinor’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, now is the moment to flag the local community’s concerns about this mega-project.”
This is what Inuk land protector Amy Norman wrote in the Toronto Star last week in the lead-up to Equinor’s AGM.
Echoing her call, the Council of Canadians and many other like-minded organizations across Canada came together last week to voice our collective opposition to Bay du Nord. In Norway, we and our allies projected images onto the building where parent company Equinor was holding its AGM. The Sierra Club Canada Foundation was on the ground to take our opposition directly to Equinor shareholders and executives. And in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, people including from the Avalon chapter, gathered outside Equinor’s Canadian office to make sure they knew we don’t want Bay du Nord here.
Check out a video of the projection in Stavanger, Norway, here, and one from the rally in St. John’s NL here. Media from St. John’s here and here and an opinion editorial examining the economics here.
Canadian environmental groups are also going to court to overturn the federal government’s approval of the Bay du Nord project. Last week, Ecojustice filed a lawsuit challenging the project on behalf of Équiterre and Sierra Club Canada Foundation, on the basis that it clashes with Canada’s international obligations, legislated climate goals, and the urgent call to reduce global emissions.
Just over a month ago, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Stephen Guilbeault announced the Canadian government’s approval of the proposed Bay Du Nord project. He did so despite the warnings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the world’s top climate scientists – just two days earlier. The IPCC’s latest report outlines the urgent need for governments to shift away from fossil fuel projects immediately.
Bay du Nord (BdN) is a deepwater offshore oil project from majority-owner Equinor, the massive Norwegian energy company. The project proposes to extract 200,000 litres of oil per day from the Flemish Pass, located about 500 Nautical miles east from the coast of Newfoundland in the Atlantic Ocean. The proposal is one of many in the Flemish Pass, Canada’s first deepwater drilling site in Canada, with this project going about 1200m (4000ft) deep. But Bay du Nord is the first project to pass its regional assessment, as part of the Impact Assessment process, as well as the first to receive approval from the Canadian government. It is expected to come online in 2028.
Equinor is a publicly traded company with about 110,000 shareholders. The Government of Norway owns 67 per cent of these shares, making it the largest stakeholder and, as the representative of the Norwegian people, accountable for decisions the company makes.
Why we oppose this project
BdN’s approval by the Canadian government should not have happened. Scientists have been telling us for years that we must shift away from fossil fuels if there is any hope of avoiding the extreme human suffering outlined in the last IPCC report. Even the Liberal MP for Fredericton, Jenica Atwin, shared her frustration with this approval in a public Facebook post.
This kind of deepwater drilling is extremely dangerous due to a higher risk of accidents and spills. The Flemish Pass is known for turbulent weather and massive icebergs. And due to the distance from shore, it is more dangerous to transport workers (who typically fly by helicopter from the St. John’s area) and supplies (which are transported by boat and helicopter). As with other offshore projects we’ve opposed, a lack of immediate access to a capping stack is another major concern, with risk of spills and blowouts putting a catastrophic risk on NL’s economy, coastline, and surrounding environment.
If all of this weren’t enough, we will have to pay more to make the project happen. It is technically happening in international waters and, as such, will also be bound by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Article 82 of that convention allows countries to extract oil from beyond their 200-nautical-mile limit, but the country must pay a royalty on that oil – potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.
Organizing for Power
But this is about more than just concerns with deepwater drilling and royalties: this is a moment. A moment where our government has gone too far. A moment where we the people have had enough of the same old story. A moment where corporations and governments must be held to account for their destructive projects, their promises to act for the climate, and their abject failure to do so.
We’re frustrated, and decisions like this make us feel disempowered. But this is a time when organizations and individuals must come together to strategize, and to organize. Together, our collective power can win.
We’ve been working for weeks towards the plans for Equinor’s AGM last week, having conversations and working with people on the ground in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Norway. We’ve been meeting with people across Newfoundland and Labrador to imagine what a just transition might look like for their communities, because it is clear to us that transitioning off fossil fuels is the only way forward.
We will continue doing this work because holding governments and corporations to account is what we do. We hope you will join us.
Want us to continue organizing? Please contribute!