iDario Lopez-Mills, Associated Press
The exploratory drilling projects off the coast of Newfoundland will no longer have to go through the normal process of environmental assessment, Ottawa has decided to waive to accelerate their achievement.
At a time when the Trudeau government with an approach carried out in the united Nations and is committed to protect 30 % of marine environments of Canada, by 2030, it assesses a project to drill for oil in a protected area to meet its international commitments for ocean conservation. Saying rely on the ” science “, Ottawa judge that the search of fossil energy can be compatible with the preservation of ecosystems.
The federal government announced last Thursday that it has joined the global Alliance for the oceans, ” to help galvanize international efforts to achieve a conservation goal of 30 % that allows the marine environment, and economies on marine sustainable to prosper “. This grouping of States hope faireadopter this goal at the next meeting of the member countries of the Convention on biological diversity, united Nations.
The federal government already protects about 14 % of the vast marine environments of the country, through the creation of “shelters” sailors, who accounted for 4.93 per cent of the maritime territory. They are found in different regions, including the gulf of St. Lawrence but also along the East coast. The largest marine refuge located off the coast of Newfoundland, has an area of 55 353 km2 and is designated under the name of ” Closing the slope northeast of Newfoundland “. It was established in April 2019 in order to ” protect the corals and sponges, and [to] contribute to the conservation and biodiversity in the long term “, as specified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The ministry adds that this sector is associated with ” a zone of ecological and biological significance that supports a high diversity, including many species in decline “.
The international standards are clear and reject all forms of industrial activities in protected areas and areas subject to other conservation measures are effective
— Alain Branchaud
This protected area could, however, be the subject of a campaign of drilling for oil in the coming years, has found The Duty. The company BHP Canada, which has two exploration permits that overlap with the marine refuge, wishes to conduct a total of 20 boreholes by the end of the decade. The project, which was filed two months after the creation of the marine refuge, is currently being investigated by the canadian environmental assessment Agency.
The proponent acknowledges that ” the project area overlaps parts of a marine refuge “, but also an area of ecological and biological significance “designated under the united Nations Convention on biodiversity “and a” vulnerable marine ecosystem “. In the description of the project, BHP Canada, however, specifies that” no ban of marine activities, such as those that are proposed in the framework of the project is not associated with these areas.”
The oil also stresses that this maritime region, which lies in the area of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, is part of the habitat of several species of fish, birds and marine mammals, 36 species designated as endangered or of special concern on the plan of conservation “. The company promises, however, the establishment of several “mitigation measures” to reduce environmental risks, including the risk of a spill during drilling, which would be conducted at great depths.
Photo: Alexander Shields The Duty
The area targeted for oil drilling is part of the habitat of the blue whale, an endangered species.
Asked about this project, the office of the minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bernadette Jordan, has indicated that the protection of the oceans is a “priority” for the Trudeau government. “A protected area means that the ocean has a veto : nothing harmful to the ecology ocean can produce. All our decisions regarding the creation of these protections are based firmly on science. The activities of oil and gas exploration may be allowed in some shelters sailors if it is determined that the risk zone are effectively avoided or mitigated. This is part of the standard of protection in Canada for other conservation measures effective by area, including shelters marine, which assesses the activities on a case-by-case basis. “
The office of the minister added that ” the shelters sailors that overlap with areas where activities are taking place in oil and gas exploration can continue to rely for the purposes of marine conservation in Canada until the extraction starts under a production licence “. According to the rules established by the federal government, however, it is prohibited to use fishing gear to “entering in contact with the bottom” in these shelters.
The exploration activities for oil and gas may […] be allowed in some shelters sailors if it is determined that the risk zone are effectively avoided or mitigated
— The Office of the minister Bernadette Jordan
For the biologist Alain Branchaud, a specialist in the protection of natural habitats, the Trudeau government demonstrated inconsistency in the protection of marine environments. “International standards are clear and reject all forms of industrial activities in protected areas and areas subject to other conservation measures are effective, such as shelters sailors. The federal government is inconsistent in committing to reach 30 % by 2030, while allowing for exploratory drilling in shelters sailors at risk of not being recognized for the achievement of its goal “, explained the director general of the Society for nature and parks in Québec.
The project of BHP Canada in this marine refuge located off the coast of Newfoundland may not be the only one. The oil company BP, responsible for the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico in 2010, has four exploration permits in this protected area. But for the moment, no project has been presented. Two other projects totalling $ 38 drilling companies Chevron and Equinor, located near the marine refuge, in addition, the federal evaluation. In the documents submitted by such oil, it is recognized that this maritime region, account, ” several areas of ecological and biological significance “, and threatened species.
In regards to drilling projects to come, they will no longer have to go through the normal process of environmental assessment. The Trudeau government announced in June that it exempts all of the exploratory drilling carried out in the marine environment off the coast of Newfoundland, in a process that was previously in force. Ottawa, which wants to accelerate the implementation of projects, pointed out that the economic recovery is going through a oil sector as ” strong, resilient and innovative “.