The Green Party of Canada has received a copy of a letter from Environment Minister Peter Kent to Mr. Max Ruelokke, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. Kent rejects Ruelokke’s recommendation that Corridor Resources Inc.’s exploratory drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence be subjected to a panel review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is outraged that the development of the Old Harry reserve in the Gulf of St. Lawrence will not have a proper environmental impact assessment. It appears as if drilling could begin as early as next year.
“Old Harry should have a wide ranging environmental impact assessment including economic, social and environmental impacts and allowing for intervenors including non-profits, fishers, the tourism industry and First Nations. We are extremely disappointed that Minister Kent will do nothing beyond a minimal screening of the project; it is completely inadequate. Our government is failing the people of Canada by not conducting a thorough review of this proposed project,” said May.
Kent indicated in his letter that the broader issue of oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence will be examined through an update of the strategic environmental assessment of the Western Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore area. The Green Party is calling for this strategic review to be amended into an immediate convening of a Joint Federal-Provincial Review with a role for each of the five provinces involved and full public engagement with funding for First Nations, fishers, tourism organizations and environmental groups, with access to funding for independent science for intervenor groups.
“Kent did not indicate any details of how this process will unfold,” said May. “We must not risk a major oil spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; it would be catastrophic. All development including Old Harry should be put on hold until the broader environmental assessment has been conducted.”
As MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, May asked a question on June 16th in the House of Commons about oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, pointing out to Environment Minister Peter Kent that this is “a most biologically productive region with over 2,000 marine species including endangered blue whales. It is now threatened by a deep water oil well. This is a region that touches five provinces.” She asked if Kent would agree to a Joint Panel, the highest level of assessment under CEAA. He confirmed that he had received a request from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board to refer the project to a review and promised to consider the facts in his decision.
“The fact is that the Old Harry project is not a good thing for Atlantic Canada,” said Green Fisheries Critic Janice Harvey. “It is putting in jeopardy an incredibly productive and sensitive marine region with important spawning, nursery and migratory areas for lobster, herring, snow crab, mackerel, tuna, ground fish, whales and dolphins. Fragile Atlantic salmon, cod and wolfish, fin whale and humpback whale are listed of special concern. Right whale, piping plover, leatherback turtle and harlequin duck are endangered. In light of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, how can the Canadian government allow this project to be fast-tracked without proper consideration?”
“The development of oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is opposed by First Nations in the region as a short-sighted, potentially disastrous project that ignores all that we know about the sensitivity of the region,” said Lorraine Rekmans, Green Aboriginal Affairs Critic.