Not in our Gulf

John Brannen
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Board gives petroleum exploration, drilling in Gulf of St. Lawrence a go while environmentalists demand moratorium

A recent report giving the green light to petroleum exploration and drilling activities off the western coast of Newfoundland and Labrador has several environmental groups up in arms.

Mary Gorman of Merigomish took part in a peaceful march in Quebec hosted by St. Lawrence Coalition opposing oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Gorman said more than 200 native and non-native people attended the event. Jérôme Spaggiari photo

And they wanted the four Atlantic premiers to put it on the agenda as they met yesterday to discuss a variety of issues affecting the region.

The coalition of fishing, environmental, tourism, and indigenous groups want the area’s provincial heads of government to work together to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

A 713-page report released last month from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board noted that while the western region was ecologically significance, petroleum activities could be undertaken. 

That report has Mary Gorman of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition confused and dismayed.

“The report goes on to say how sensitive the environment is and then concludes that drilling can go ahead,” she said. “It’s as if all the pages preceding the conclusion came from a different report.”

A video simulation from the David Suzuki Foundation that shows what could take place if an oil spill were to take place in the Gulf of St. Lawrence concludes that all provinces around the gulf would be affected.

“Newfoundland’s oil industry will have everything to gain from opening up the Gulf to oil – and other industries and provinces have everything to lose,” Gorman said. “This is a precious, shared ecosystem. The Premiers need to be talking about working together to protect it.”

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board is responsible, on behalf of the Governments of Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador, for petroleum resource management in the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area.

The board’s role is to facilitate the exploration for and development of the hydrocarbon resources in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area while keeping worker safety, environmental protection, effective management of land tenure and maximum hydrocarbon recovery and value.

Gorman believes that in the Gulf of St. Lawrence mitigation for environmental damage, or worse – and oil spill, isn’t simply a question of money.

“Who is going to be held responsible when there’s a spill and the inshore and mid shore fishery has been wiped out,” she said. “What will tell our children and grandchildren when the environment is utterly beyond repair?”

She said a moratorium on petroleum exploration and drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is the way to proceed since the Gulf is already suffering environmentally.

“The science is clear that the Gulf is on the knife’s edge in terms of industrial development," said Dr. Irene Novaczek, science advisor to the SOSS‐PEI Chapter. “ We know our Premier is concerned and we hope he will bring these concerns to the table at these meetings.”

“We have been calling for a stop to oil and gas development in the Gulf for over a decade," says Gretchen Fitzgerald of Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, “Dangerous oil development could go ahead by the end of this year. It’s about time it made it on the agenda when our Premiers talk.”

A release from the Premier McNeil’s office late yesterday afternoon noted that the Atlantic premiers signed a memorandum of understanding that will establish common training, certifications and standards to help apprentices complete training and work within the region more easily.

While the Gulf of St. Lawrence wasn’t officially on the agenda, the SOSS coalition hoped it was brought up informally at meetings with the Atlantic premiers yesterday.

 

john.brannen@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn

Organizations: Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, Seas and Shores Coalition, David Suzuki Foundation Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter SOSS coalition

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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