Editor’s note: This is the second part of a feature focusing on a local group’s moratorium campaign on drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The first part appeared in Monday’s paper.
Map shows location of the proposed activity
PICTOU – Pictou County council is reserving their decision on whether to support Save Our Seas and Shores in a moratorium for drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence until after they meet with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
What they’ll hear from CAPP will likely be very different from what Mary Gorman, Trudy Watts and Greg Egilsson presented on Jan. 13.
Paul Barnes, Atlantic Canada manager with CAPP, feels confident in their ability to protect the gulf and those working in it.
“The offshore industry has a strong track record in Canada and other areas. We’re committed to exploration in a safe manner,” Barnes says.
That record is clear in the draft SEA update.
It says there has been one blowout event to date in Canadian waters that resulted in the release of hydrocarbons in the ocean and air.
“A blowout is an unplanned and uncontrolled release of petroleum from a subsea oil or gas well after a failure in the drilling system and its associated pressure control mechanisms, resulting in the continuous discharge of hydrocarbons into the surrounding waters,” the draft SEA update explains.
It was an exploration gas well offshore of Nova Scotia and released approximately two million cubic metres of gas and 48 cubic metres of condensate per day for 13 days in February 1984.
They list 14 large spills from offshore wells worldwide, including the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which had a spill size of approximately four million barrels.
Gorman, Watts, and Egilsson all cite this as an example of trauma that can be caused on the marine life, fisheries and tourism following a spill.
Thousands of dead birds, hundreds of dead turtles, lung disease in dolphins and a drop in Louisiana tourism is a small sample of the impact the spill is believed to have had.
Gorman expects that if a spill were to occur during exploration in offshore Newfoundland, it would impact Pictou County as well as every other shoreline connected to the Gulf of St. Lawrence due to the nature of the currents.
On top of affecting fisheries and tourism, Gorman believes property values in the area would drop and our entire way of life would change.
A spill would threaten Pictou County residents’ standard of living, she says, including using local beaches for swimming and kayaking.
“It’s time we stop taking it for granted,” she says of the beauty in the area.
In correspondence to C-NLOPB, Corridor Resources Inc. says that they believe the likelihood of an extremely large spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to be one out of every 25,216 wells drilled based on statistics from CAPP.
Corridor Resources Inc. says they are confident they can drill in the well on Old Harry prospect safely and responsibly.
“The drilling process and its interaction with the marine environment are well understood and the environmental impact assessment process purposely identifies appropriate mitigation, where needed, to protect and safeguard marine life,” a statement from the company says.
SOSS doesn’t believe oil companies and boards are equipped to handle cleanup either, especially when it involves ice.
This issue was raised during consultations for the SEA update as well.
The draft report states that any drilling proposal must include a response plan, and documentation that proves they have the financial resources to respond to a spill.
The plan usually includes three different responses for three different types of spills, from small spills only using on-site resources to contain to full blowouts that require national to international attention.
A field exercise is conducted each year by operators, it says.
In July, the C-NOLPB announced they would be extending the public review of the draft report until the end of September.
A final report has not been released yet.
There are seven exploration licences in the western offshore area.
Seismic surveys have been conducted in that area, as well as the drilling of nine wells from mostly onshore locations.
Barnes notes past activity in that region as an example of their strong communication with fishermen.
“It demonstrates both industries can work together.”
Gorman isn’t so sure of co-existence.
She says there is no right time for oil-related activity with different stages of life happening year round. She’s concerned that ocean acidification and hypoxia, lack of oxygen in seawater, will continue to worsen, affecting many ecosystems.
Acidification limits the ability for organisms to form calcium carbonate skeletons or shells, leaving lobster and shellfish especially vulnerable, according to a report from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“The atmosphere and oceans can’t handle any more carbon,” Gorman says.
SOSS recently received word that seven P.E.I. municipalities are supporting their moratorium to go along with the lengthy list of organizations of co-signers.
SOSS suggests Atlantic Canada become a model of renewable energy rather than relying on fossil fuels.
“No generation has the right to live for ourselves alone,” Gorman says.
Pictou County committee-of-the-whole will hear from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers representatives on Feb. 25 during a COTW meeting at council chambers.