The ocean drilling be exempt from an environmental assessment

In a move highly anticipated by the oil industry, the Trudeau government announced Thursday morning that it exempts all of the exploratory drilling carried out in the marine environment off the coast of Newfoundland, the environmental assessment 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 “.

“The oil industry offshore Newfoundland and Labrador ensures the economic prosperity of the province and the rest of Canada, providing thousands of good jobs. This industry demonstrates a resourcefulness and a spirit of innovation, making it an important element of our future based on the growth of its own. This is why the federal government is so determined to maintain the competitiveness of this sector on a global scale “, said the minister of natural Resources Canada, Seamus O’regan, by way of a press release.

“Our government recognizes that the ability of Newfoundland and Labrador to bounce in the wake of the pandemic COVID-19 will depend greatly on the ability of the offshore area to be strong, resilient and innovative “, he added.

Forages en mer exemptés d’une évaluation environnementale

Photo: Government of Canada
The exclusion zone of the environmental assessment, has an area of 735 000 km2.

The development of the new regulations has, however, started well before the current crisis. The Trudeau government had commissioned in 2019 a ” regional assessment “, which covers a maritime area of more than 735 000 km2 located in the Atlantic. This vast area, which includes the very important sector of the commercial fisheries of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, taking many ecological zones of the major and is home to several threatened species, including marine mammals endangered.

The region is also home to the bulk of the exploration permits held by oil companies in the marine environment in the east of the country. The regulation formalized this Thursday by the federal liberals is therefore anticipated that all exploration wells drilled in the area of 735 000 km2, will be exempted from the review process of the Act on the evaluation of impact.

The Trudeau government continues its efforts to ease the environmental regulations that target the oil industry. Until now, oil company who wanted to carry out a first project of drilling of an exploration permit located in the waters east of Newfoundland and Labrador was to file a notice of the project and produce an impact study. A review was then conducted by the canadian environmental assessment Agency, which produced a report for the minister of the Environment. This last decided then to allow, or not, the project.

Billion barrels

A company’s oil or gas must now, 90 days prior to the commencement of drilling, file a “notice” of the project to the government, including technical information. The proponent then worked with the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador offshore petroleum board, which manages the development of the industry. The proponent must also provide a “follow-up” operations. He may carry out seismic surveys, accompanied by a program of “monitoring” of this operation, which represents the major risks are well documented for the marine fauna.

This settlement is good news for this province of the Maritimes. Newfoundland and Labrador hopes that at least 100 exploration wells to be drilled by 2030 to increase oil production over the next few years. The objective would be to produce daily more than 650 000 barrels.

Reacting Thursday to the announcement of the federal minister of natural Resources of Newfoundland and Labrador, Siobhan Coady stressed that the province has ” a potential resource of 52.2 billion barrels of oil “, and that, taking account only a portion of the maritime territory open to oil and gas exploration. She said they hoped to “great discoveries” over the next few years.

Report critical

According to the Trudeau government, it is quite reasonable to do so, since the report produced by the committee which has led the regional assessment, ” concluded that the effects of exploratory drilling offshore oil and gas are well-known, leading to disturbances in minor, localized, and temporary, and are not likely to be significant if mitigation standards are put in place “.

The report of the committee shows, however, very critical of the process imposed by the federal government. It places particular emphasis on “very short period” that was granted ” to carry out its task “. “This has not only limited the ability of the Committee to prepare the report, but has also reduced the public’s confidence in the work of the Committee and the opportunities for others to contribute. “The members were appointed on April 15, 2019, and their work had to be completed in the fall of 2019.

Moreover, the committee points out that, ” too often, the scientific expertise of the federal government was not available or accessible in support of its work “. Such access was, however, intended, one can read in the document of 234 pages. “In particular, it has been envisaged, at the outset, that the government experts would participate directly in the planning of different components of the regional assessment, data analysis and writing. With a few notable exceptions, this situation has not materialized. This is an untenable situation which has greatly hindered efforts, ” the report says.

Legal Action

The government, for its part, said Thursday that its new regulation was ” informed by the views of stakeholders obtained during extensive public consultations on the working document on the draft ministerial regulation “. The public consultation on the draft regulations have been carried out at the height of a national crisis of the COVID-19.

Environmental groups have also launched a legal action which challenged the new regulation that exempts from future drilling of an environmental assessment. “The new Law impact assessment has been put in place to protect the environment, improve the evaluation process and making decisions more transparent “, recently reminded James Gunvaldsen-Klaassen, a lawyer for Ecojustice.

However, “one of the first actions of the government under this new law was to exempt them from an assessment” of the future wells planned in an ecological area “important,” and this, ” in a time of climate emergency “.

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