BP drilled and BP has already spilled

Public forum on the TransCanada's Energy East project at Dalhousie University, Sunday October 26, 2014
Public forum on the TransCanada's Energy East project at Dalhousie University, Sunday October 26, 2014. - Tim Krochak

Op-ed published in The Chronicle Herald, October 1, 2018

This week, the Maritimes Energy Association will host its Core energy conference on Canada’s East Coast energy future. Unfortunately, far too much of the conference will focus on the energy of the past.

This summer’s extreme climate events – from wildfires to torrential rain to heatwaves – are yet another reminder that we need to stop expanding the use and production of fossil fuels, and plan for a just transition to a sustainable energy future.

Yet BP, the same company behind the world’s largest marine oil spill, is already conducting exploratory drilling near Sable Island National Reserve, putting marine life and related good jobs at risk from a serious oil spill. BP is a ‘silver sponsor’ at the conference.

That’s why this week the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS) and the Council of Canadians are teaming up organize a protest, panels and peaceful flotillas as part of our efforts to protect offshore Nova Scotia and help create offshore resistance everywhere.

What’s at stake at the Core conference

While there are good topics that we support at the Core conference, we completely disagree that offshore drilling should be a part of Nova Scotia’s energy future.

We would like to remind participants that expanding fossil fuels is not part of a green future. The conference will be examining “the long-term lower carbon emission energy transition” and “First Nations duty to consult,” both of which we agree are necessary priorities. But rushing ahead with offshore drilling, as BP is already doing, is completely at odds with these goals.

BP has re-started drilling its first exploratory offshore well near Sable Island National Park (after a forced pause due to a spill of synthetic drilling mud).

It is not time to be expanding fossil fuel production and putting good jobs in tourism, fisheries and our marine ecology at risk from a major spill.

What’s at stake for offshore Nova Scotia

In April 2018, the federal minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, invited BP to begin exploratory drilling near Sable Island. BP is the multinational oil giant behind the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 workers, and spewed oil for 61 days, devastating fisheries and tourism along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Here and now, BP reported a substantial spill of synthetic drilling fluid in June, only two months after exploration began.

BP drilled and BP has already spilled. Approval happened without public consultations in the very communities that stand to be affected most from a major spill.

The decision by federal and provincial governments to invite BP to drill offshore directly risks Nova Scotia’s fisheries and tourism industries. Given an absence of stakeholder consultation on this project, rural coastal communities must come together in solidarity to make their voices heard.

We are calling for a public inquiry into offshore drilling in Nova Scotia and a moratorium until this happens. Drilling is proceeding without regard for the impact it will have on our fisheries or tourism industries, and without meeting the highest oil spill prevention and response standards, which our communities deserve.

A recent poll found an overwhelming majority of Nova Scotians, 90 per cent, support requiring a capping stack – equipment used to temporarily seal ruptured deepwater oil wells – be located within 24-hour transport range of offshore drilling sites. While the U.K., Norway, and Alaska require this, BP’s Nova Scotian plans involve mobilizing one located in Norway, which would take at least 12 days to arrive.

Dr. Robert Bea, an engineer with 48 years of experience, described a sense of déjà vu when comparing BP’s Nova Scotia plans with its plans to drill offshore Australia. After the Australian government implemented further safety measures, on the good advice of Bea and other experts including requiring a capping stack nearby, BP withdrew its proposal to drill.

Bea, who investigated the BP Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez oil spills, concluded BP failed to properly assess, document, and validate the risk of its drilling offshore Nova Scotia. Bea found the risk of failure of BP’s operations offshore Nova Scotia to be 10 to 100 times greater than reported by BP and government sources.

I believe as Nova Scotians learn about BP and the plans for drilling offshore, opposition will grow. Offshore drilling needs to be part of our past, not our future.

Protect Offshore Nova Scotia: Creating Offshore Resistance Everywhere will include a rally at the Core conference on Oct. 2, and two public panels (one in Mahone Bay on Oct. 3 and one in Halifax on Oct. 4) on the risks and growing opposition to offshore drilling Nova Scotia.