This hasn’t been a good week for Canadians who care about their environment. The oil and gas industry on the East Coast moved closer to exploiting the Gulf of St. Lawrence just before today’s important milestone in the Harper Conservatives’ agenda to weaken environmental assessments.
On Wednesday, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), an offshore-extraction regulatory agency, issued a “Call for Nomination” for Newfoundland ‘s section of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, giving oil companies until October 15 to express their interest in exploring and exploiting parcels of the Gulf.
Incredibly, this is being done before the C-NLOPB has conducted its promised Western Newfoundland Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to determine if it is appropriate to proceed with oil and gas development in Newfoundland ’s Gulf waters.
Meanwhile, today is the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) deadline for arguments against the elimination of oil and gas exploration activities as “designated projects” prescribed by the CEAA’s Regulations Designating Physical Activities.
“As Harper promotes extraction industries across Canada ’s north, concerted efforts are being made to push the same thing in the Gulf of St. Lawrence while Canadians aren’t looking,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands. “At the same time, there’s today’s little-known deadline for saving assessments for destructive exploration processes. From coast to coast to coast, this is a recipe for environmental disaster.”
The Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition has written to Max Ruelokke, Chairman of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board, to express its shock and concern that the C-NLOPB would issue its Call for Nominations, especially before the Western Newfoundland SEA has even begun.
“The Board seems to be in complete denial regarding the damage seismic surveys, exploratory drilling, and offshore oil and gas development cause, especially to marine ecosystems,” said Mary Gorman, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. “If the C-NLOPB isn’t prepared to assume a legitimate, precautionary and ecosystem approach as the alleged ‘regulator’ for safety and environment in our Gulf’s waters, then we should look into changing its mandate so that a genuine regulator can emerge.”
The International Ocean Noise Coalition (IONC) has written to John McCauley, Director, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, on behalf of more than 150 international non-governmental organizations concerned about the impacts of ocean-noise pollution (ONP) on marine ecosystems and their living resources.
“We urge you to include oil and gas exploration activities, including seismic surveys and exploratory drilling, as ‘designated projects’ prescribed by the Regulations Designating Physical Activities (CEAA 2012). To exclude these potentially damaging practices from environmental assessment would conflict with growing scientific evidence, as well as what is becoming standard practice by an increasing number of nations and inter-governmental organizations.
“Most scientists today recommend ecosystem-based management (EBM). The Canadian government has repeatedly expressed its support for an adoption of EBM, but it appears not to consider it when it comes to environmental assessments, particularly for seismic surveys.”
“Increasingly, with Canada’s offshore and other extraction processes, everything is open to development until citizens rise up to protect areas they hold dear,” concluded May.