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South Shore chapter opposes Shell’s oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean

The Council of Canadians South Shore chapter is working to defend the Atlantic Ocean from oil drilling through its project, the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS). In doing so, they are raising concerns about the regulatory body, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB).

Peter Puxley, a member of the Coordinating Committee for CPONS, writes in today’s Toronto Star, “Shell Oil’s Stena IceMAX drill ship, drilling for oil on March 5th, two kilometres below the surface of the Atlantic on the edge of the Scotian Shelf, was the site of what regulators euphemistically call an ‘incident’. Battling unexpectedly high waves, the drill ship crew successfully secured the well and disconnected the ship from the wellhead to protect the operation. Shortly after, the riser, a 2,100 metre-long protective series of 21-inch diameter pipes, each weighing 20 tonnes, broke free of the drill ship before it moved clear of the site. The riser pipes fell to the ocean floor missing the wellhead by a mere 12 metres.”

Puxley’s op-ed continues, “A Shell investigation of the ‘incident’ was monitored and matched by an internal review by the regulator, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. The federal/provincial CNSOPB is the equivalent of the National Energy Board, regulating oil industry activity in our offshore. In June, after receiving Shell’s report on the event, Stuart Pink, the CNSOPB’s chief executive officer, declared, ‘We are satisfied that the cause of the incident has been properly determined and that appropriate corrective actions have been taken so that drilling may resume safely.'”

He then highlights, “The CNSOPB released only a summary of Shell’s investigation report, omitting key facts, such as the near hit at the wellhead when the riser pipes hit the seabed, and the poor preparedness of personnel for handling the technology connecting the riser stem and the drill ship. Those facts, and the full extent of what might better be described as a potential disaster, rather than a mere ‘incident’, came to light when the Halifax Examiner obtained the full report through a freedom of information request.”

Puxley concludes, “There may have been a time, before we truly understood the risk of further developing our non-renewable, dirty energy resources, or before we truly appreciated the importance of sustainable resource industries, such as the fishery or tourism, when risk assessment could be left to a self-serving industry. But knowing what we know now, to continue with that model of regulation is clearly senseless. The lesson of Shell’s recent ‘incident’ at its Cheshire well is that we need to democratize the process of deciding if we can safely drill for oil, and whether and where the risks of doing so are acceptable. Until we take steps to ensure full and informed public involvement in those decisions, further approvals for drilling exploratory wells in our vulnerable offshore can’t be trusted and should be annulled.”

The South Shore chapter is encouraging people to join their campaign to protect offshore Nova Scotia by contacting them at southshore.cpons@gmail.com

Further reading
South Shore chapter opposes Shell offshore drilling in Shelburne Basin (May 27, 2016)