Skip to content

NEWS: Board terminates public consultation on Gulf of St. Lawrence oil drilling

The Globe and Mail reports, “A former New Brunswick ombudsman who was asked to consult with an anxious public about an oil well proposed for the Gulf of St. Lawrence says he recently learned his review has been terminated and he fears that whatever replaces it will be far less comprehensive. Bernard Richard was hired by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) to obtain public feedback from people living in the Gulf region about Corridor Resources Inc.’s plans to conduct exploratory drilling at the Old Harry site off the southwest coast of Newfoundland.”

“In 2011, when memories of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico were still fresh, the C-NLOPB decided it wanted an additional level of scrutiny of the Old Harry proposal and even asked Environment Minister Peter Kent to engage the federal government. The minister rejected the request saying he believed, along with an update of the environmental assessment for the larger offshore region, a project-specific assessment ‘that will include extensive public consultation can adequately address the issues.’ It is the companies themselves that conduct project-specific environmental assessments so, in this case, the job was left to Corridor. But the board asked Mr. Richard in August, 2011, to gauge public opinion about Corridor’s findings.”

“Sean Kelly, a C-NLOPB spokesman, said the larger assessment was expected to take more than a year to complete – a first draft is not expected until next month – so there was no purpose in keeping Mr. Richard’s contract in place all that time. Former Chevron executive Scott Tessier took over on Monday as CEO of the C-NLOPB. It will be up to the new management to decide how to proceed, and there eventually will be a public consultation about the Old Harry project, Mr. Kelly said. It is unclear what form it will take. It could be as simple as online feedback, Mr. Kelly said, or it could be broader than that.”

The Council of Canadians has opposed oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for several years now.

– On November 17, 2010, we joined the call from Save Our Seas and Shores, Attention Fragile (Magdalen Islands), Sierra Club Atlantic, and the Ecology Action Centre, for a moratorium on oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

– On March 28, 2011, vice-chairperson Leo Broderick wrote the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board expressing concern that Corridor Resources could be granted a permit to drill an exploration well. Broderick wrote, “The Council of Canadians is requesting that you stop this project. We ask that you declare a moratorium on oil drilling inside the Gulf.”

– On April 7, 2011, “Atlantic Council of Canadians chapter delegates, gathered in Tatamagouche, united in concern with the proposed drilling in the ‘Old Harry’ area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (They said) the lack of public consultation and the information void around the proposed drilling has created more questions than answers.”

– On March 1, 2012, energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue wrote, “We support the call for a moratorium on all projects and requests for permits for offshore drilling in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Unlike Environment Minister Peter Kent, we believe an open, democratic process will allow Atlantic Canadians to have their voices heard, leading to right decision – no offshore drilling.”

– On September 11, 2012, CBC reported, “About 50 people from environmental groups, labour unions and the Council of Canadians staged a silent march in protest of oil and gas development and called for a moratorium on oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (during a) federal and provincial energy ministers (meeting) in Charlottetown, P.E.I.”

– On October 11, 2012, Atlantic organizer Angela Giles spoke at a media conference in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The Cape Breton Post reported, “The coalition of groups (Save Our Seas and Shores, the Sierra Club Atlantic, and Council of Canadians) said it is calling on the federal government to get rid of unelected provincial petroleum boards and to reinstate federal marine protection in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.”

More to come.