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UPDATE: Council opposes Corridor drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

The Council of Canadians has written the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board expressing its concern that Corridor Resources could be granted a permit to drill a deep water exploration well in the Laurentian Trench, north of the Magdalene Islands, and that only a screening level of environmental assessment is being planned.

Council of Canadians vice-chair Leo Broderick writes, “This area of the Gulf called ‘Old Harry’ is a very productive, diverse and important marine environment that is already under great stress from marine shipping, decades of overfishing, 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 highlights, “The Council of Canadians is requesting that you stop this project. We ask that you declare a moratorium on oil drilling inside the Gulf. And we also ask that you initiate a strategic environmental assessment with a full panel review and a regional public consultation process (i.e. public consultation meetings in all affected provinces). The Council of Canadians believes this matter is important to all Canadians, and your Board must ensure there is an opportunity provided where citizens can debate and decide on what is in the best interest of the Canadian people, the economy and the environment. We all must have time to take a hard look at the science, and to review the new information coming from the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.”

The ‘Old Harry’ field is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which straddles Quebec’s boundary with Newfoundland. 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. Corridor plans to drill on the Newfoundland side of ‘Old Harry’ by 2012 or 2013.

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 Deepwater Horizon disaster could happen in that area. An oil spill in this area could have devastating consequences on Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Quebec Minister of Natural Resources Nathalie Normandeau said last fall that the ‘Old Harry’ site holds an estimated two billion barrels of oil and five trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Last week, just prior to the federal election, the Harper government and the Charest government signed a deal that allows for oil exploration in the St. Lawrence. It is believed that Quebec will lift its moratorium on exploration in its Gulf waters by late 2012.

Last November, the Council of Canadians 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.

A recent Halifax Chronicle Herald article on the Corridor Resources application is at http://thechronicleherald.ca/Business/1234890.html.