Regulatory Capture and the Heist of Offshore Nova Scotia

Angela Giles
3 years ago

Regulatory capture. Oil and gas industry influencing energy policy. Companies using unproven drilling techniques. These sound like things that only happen in places with corrupt governments and no corporate oversight, or maybe the latest Hollywood release, but they’re happening here in Nova Scotia.


As BP awaits permit approval to conduct exploratory drilling off Nova Scotia’s coast in the spring, we came together with 25 other organizations to call attention to an industry takeover of our offshore resources that can only be understood as a heist.


l-r: Biologist Lindy Weilgart; Greg Eglisson - Gulf NS Herring Federation; John Davis - Clean Ocean Action Committee; Gretchen Fitzgerald - Sierra Club of Canada Foundation; Dorene Bernard - Mi'kmaw Grandmother and water protector; Marilyn Keddy - South Shore chapter, Council of Canadians and Campaign to Protect Offshore NS.


The newly formed Offshore Alliance, comprised of fishermen’s unions, environmental organizations, community groups, and us, held a media conference in Halifax today to address the fact that the federal government is attempting to transfer control of the Environmental Assessment process to unelected regulatory boards. About 75 people attended the press conference and joined in a march to deliver a letter to MP Scott Brison with the Alliance’s demands.


Click here for the media release, media advisory, and stories already out by APTN, the Nova Scotia Advocate, CBC, and the Canadian Press.


Regulatory capture

When industries’ influence on the government is too strong, government agencies can end up serving the interests of the industry they were created to regulate, instead of serving the taxpayers and adequately regulating industry. This is called regulatory capture. It is clear to us that regulatory capture is alive and well in the context of oil and gas regulatory boards, including the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB), and the National Energy Board (NEB) as the only functioning energy regulatory boards currently in Canada.


Industry influence on energy policy

The energy industry has a long history of influencing Canada’s policies and governance structures. A famous example of this is the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ asking for sweeping changes to our environmental laws to be introduced through an omnibus bill back in 2012. You may remember that they got their wish.


Industry players have increasingly greater access to policy makers than the rest of us, and this time they’re talking about our offshore resources. In the fall of 2017 the government held a consultation called the Frontier and Offshore Regulatory Review Initiative (FORRI), but only reached out to industry players to participate. A number of the Offshore Alliance members wrote letters at that time calling for wider stakeholder inclusion in the initiative.


Now, Environment and Climate Change Canada is attempting to move responsibility for environmental assessments to the un-elected and ill-equipped regulatory boards. This industry influence on policy is what has lead to regulatory capture in Canada.


COAC spokesperson John Davis holds envelope just prior to delivery as powerful drumming and singing happens in the background.


Unproven drilling techniques

BP is preparing to begin exploratory drilling in the spring on a project that would be far deeper than the Deepwater Horizon rig, which caused nightmarish devastation to the US’s Gulf Coast in 2010 and continues to wreak havoc on coastal communities. As Andrea Harden-Donahue, our energy and climate justice campaigner said in her recent blog on BP's plans for offshore NS, “BP's response strategies rely on the use of booms (in stormy North Atlantic waters) and dispersants, all of which were found inadequate by researchers examining the Gulf Horizon disaster.”


This image from, a US-based site for people involved in the fishing industry to share regional news, indicates generally where the three big oil leaseholds are located, along with the direction of the current and the ecologically-sensitive area called Georges Bank. They share our concerns in this post, titled "Oh No Canada. Nova Scotia approves oil exploration lease next to Georges Bank, entrance to Gulf of Maine".


The Council of Canadians opposes BP's dangerous proposal for deepwater drilling offshore Nova Scotia because of the lack of Indigenous and community consultation, and the risks it poses to our water, coastal communities, existing industries, and climate.


As we’ve seen with fracking, pulp and paper, uranium, coal and other resource-extractive industries in Nova Scotia, Mi’kmaw and settlers alike are tired of the boom-bust cycle and the destructive long-term consequences and are standing up and saying no. Water is life, and helping the few at the top get richer is no longer something we support.


Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier McNeil, take note.


Supporting this Alliance was mostly done through the South Shore chapter and the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS, a project of the South Shore chapter), which was very active with planning and executing today’s successful event. We are working with them to host a tour along the South Shore in March to raise awareness and build opposition ahead of BP's anticipated exploratory drilling this spring – stay tuned! We plan to host a series of meetings and public panels featuring experienced voices on BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster, protecting Nova Scotian water and fisheries, and climate change. More details of this to come.