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NEWS: St. Lawrence Coalition calls for moratorium on drilling in the Gulf

Atlantic chapters oppose oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Atlantic chapters oppose oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

The Telegram reports that the St. Lawrence Coalition – which includes the Council of Canadians as a member group – argues that drilling at the Old Harry prospect site “would take place about 300 kilometres from the Gaspé, 210 km from Prince Edward Island, 120 km from Cape Breton, 80 km from the Magdalen Islands and approximately 70 km from the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.” The article adds, “Because of this, the coalition – now claiming more than 80 member organizations, with over 3,500 individual members – is calling for a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf until a large-scale, truly regional consultation can take place. According to the group, sites for public meetings within the consultation process should include areas within Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.”

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is the world’s largest estuary and the outlet for the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean.

“Collectively, the coalition is calling for the moratorium to provide more time for authorities to evaluate potential impacts of a spill off western Newfoundland, establish integrated management of the Gulf, revise the legal and technical norms for greater protection and allow residents to make an informed, collective choice as to whether any development should happen at all. …(At a public event in St. John’s, the group) ran through the potential impact of a Gulf oil spill on fishing, aquaculture and tourism. It noted at-risk and endangered species. It highlighted the 13 species of whales found in the Gulf, the 120 Atlantic salmon rivers. There are some of the world’s largest gannet colonies, the team pointed out, with those birds known to criss-cross the Gulf.”

The Council of Canadians
In early-March 2012, Council of Canadians 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.” In late March 2011, the Council’s vice-chair Leo Broderick wrote the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board opposing the plans to drill in the St. Lawrence and calling for a moratorium.

For ten campaign blogs relating to the Old Harry project, dating back to November 2010, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22old+harry%22.

The Telegram article notes, “The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board is beginning work to update its own regional environmental assessment of the area offshore in western Newfoundland, looking at many of the same considerations (raised by the coalition).” On February 28, a media release noted, “The Board has decided that the Western Newfoundland Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Update should be completed before proceeding with public consultations associated with the Environmental Assessment for a drilling program on Exploration Licence 1105. The SEA Update will be completed in early 2013.”

Corridor Resources had originally intended to drill on the Newfoundland side of Old Harry by 2012 or 2013. That has been delayed, and it is now believed that public consultations may take place in March 2013. The Council of Canadians is considering the idea of a public mobilization tour in November 2012, a key time period to the expected date of the hearings.