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You can’t eat oil – offshore drilling campaign update

“It is up to you to stop offshore oil drilling off of Nova Scotia. You can’t expect someone else to do it for you.”

This is what our guest John Weber told us on Friday night in Mahone Bay. John is a councilor in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, and a manager at the Surfrider Foundation, one of the ocean protection groups working to protect the Atlantic Coast of the US from offshore drilling. 

The good news is: our movement to stop offshore drilling in Nova Scotia’s waters is growing and has some new opportunities to build our power!

“It is up to you to stop offshore oil drilling off of Nova Scotia. You can’t expect someone else to do it for you.”

Last week was a huge week for this campaign. Along with our friends in the Nova Scotia Offshore Alliance we hosted a press conference to announce that 12 municipal governments in Nova Scotia (that’s 25% of our towns and rural municipalities!) are calling for an inquiry into offshore drilling and a moratorium while that inquiry takes place. More on that from The Star Halifax, The Coast, The Chronicle Herald, and The Advocate.

Offshore Inquiry Resolutions Map

“The economy of our town, once driven by wooden shipbuilding, is now driven by the tourism industry, and the ocean is a critical part of the industry,” said Mayor of Mahone Bay David Devenne. “Any risk for that mainstay of our economy is an unacceptable possibility and offshore drilling is just such a risk.”

“Our area has been built on the fisheries, especially scallops and lobster. Without it, we would be nowhere, there would be nothing left for us,” said Digby Deputy Warden Linda Gregory. 

Press Conference

These local communities consistently don’t have independent information about what offshore drilling would mean for their communities, and they don’t have access to decisions being made around offshore drilling. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) is primarily equipped to enable drilling to go ahead, not to be a board that enable public participation in managing offshore petroleum deposits. It bears repeating: this board’s enables offshore drilling to take place – not to enable democratic control of our shared natural resources on unceded Mi’kmaq territory. 

In addition to the 12 municipalities, last week our petition calling for an inquiry and moratorium reached 66 000 signatories from across the country. 

Click here to sign the petition if you haven’t already!

After the press conference, we were joined by two guests from the US: Mayor Sheila Davies (Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina) and John Weber (Councillor in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, and manager at Surfrider Foundation). They shared with us some of their experiences fighting offshore drilling on the Atlantic coast of the US, through this op-ed, radio interviews on News957 and CBC, and a public forum in Mahone Bay.

We learned that while the legislative situations are fairly different, there are some similar tools of suppression being used on both sides of the border. John told us that recent public consultations in the US have moved from a public forum town-hall style (ex: everyone gets a chance to speak to the panelists and the audience) to an online comment form. He described this as “extremely disempowering,” so he and Surfrider colleagues organized their own ‘consultation’ sessions, including speeches by members of the public and elected officials.

This is similar to the ‘consultation’ we experienced with the CNSOPB last year. When BP was undergoing an environmental assessment for its exploratory drilling project, we were invited to a short consultation session where the agenda included no time for questions or discussion, and there was no clear path between our input and the decision to let BP drill. Because this process was unsatisfactory, our South Shore chapter’s Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia chose not to attend this consultation.

By far the most important thing we learned from our visitors is that local voices, from both community groups and municipal governments, are so powerful. Organizing at a local level and having engaged local governments was critical for John and Sheila’s communities to be heard at a state and federal level. Together they were able to disrupt Trump’s plan to open Atlantic waters to drilling, and they are still working to build state-level opposition to drilling to protect their communities in perpetuity. In our context, this is inspiring us to continue the good work of mobilizing municipal governments to demand an inquiry and moratorium on offshore drilling, and it’s inspiring us to expand our reach to include minority government MPs and more local businesses.

Oceans know no borders, nor does the climate crisis. Our resistance to offshore drilling, too, is going beyond borders as we learn with our neighbours to the south.