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Trudeau to decide if oil & gas exploration in Gulf of St. Lawrence will be extended to 2021

On September 16, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) announced it wants to issue an extended licence to Corridor Resources Inc. for deepwater oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

This offshore drilling would take place at a site known as Old Harry, which is situated midway between Quebec’s Magdalen Islands and Cape Anguille, the most western point of land on the island of Newfoundland.

APTN notes, “The Gulf of St. Lawrence is one of the largest marine breeding regions in Canada, with more than 2,000 marine species choosing to spawn, nurse and migrate there year round. It is home to endangered whales and hosts some of the largest lobster production in the world.”

It has also been estimated that there might be as much as 39-trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.5-billion barrels of oil there.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is about one-sixth the size of the Gulf of Mexico and there are concerns that an incident similar to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster could happen in that area. An oil spill would have devastating consequences on Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The Council of Canadians has opposed the plan to drill for oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence since November 2010.

Council of Canadians vice-chair Leo Broderick wrote the C-NLOPB years ago to highlight, “Old Harry is a very productive, diverse and important marine environment that is already under great stress from marine shipping, decades of over-fishing, land based pollution and now climate change. What we need to do is rehabilitate and conserve this Canadian treasure. What we do not need is petroleum development in this area with its many environmental problems and huge potential for an accident like the one in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Broderick requested that the C-NLOPB stop this project, declare a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and that the Board initiate a strategic environmental assessment with a full panel review and a regional public consultation process including meetings in all Atlantic provinces.

In November 2010, we joined with Save Our Seas and Shores and other allies to call for a moratorium on oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In April 2011, our Atlantic chapters issued a statement that noted, “The lack of public consultation and the information void around the proposed drilling has created more questions than answers.” In September 2012, Broderick participated in a silent march in favour of a moratorium as energy ministers met in Charlottetown. And in October 2012, our Halifax-based organizer Angela Giles raised concerns about the C-NLOP’s consultation process at a media conference in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

More recently, Broderick raised his disappointment in January 2016 when then-Fisheries minister Hunter Tootoo visited Prince Edward Island. The Guardian reported, “PEI environmentalists are calling for some facetime with the minister. The Council of Canadians is a member of the Save Our Seas and Shores PEI, which is a coalition of organizations and individuals against oil drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Broderick says, ‘It is disappointing that Minister Hunter Tootoo has not included consultation with environmental groups like the SOSS in his first official visit to PEI.'”

Significantly, CBC has also reported, “Innu, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq leaders say too little is known about the possible effects of oil and gas projects on what they say is the Gulf’s fragile ecosystem. A recent Supreme Court ruling [in favour of the Tsilhqot’in title claim] gave aboriginal groups greater control over ancestral lands, and requires governments to consult and accommodate First Nations needs before deciding how those lands are used. The native groups believe that ruling applies to natural resource exploration in the waters off the coast.”

Corridor’s current exploration license expires on January 14, 2017. The C-NLOPB want to extend that license until 2021. The proposal requires the approval of the provincial and federal governments.

For blogs from over the past six years on this situation, please click here.