The Trudeau government wants to accelerate oil drilling in the sea

Le gouvernement Trudeau veut accélérer les forages pétroliers en mer

Photo: Dario Lopez-Mills, Associated Press
The Trudeau government is conducting an online public consultation for 30 days on a draft regulation which will allow”to exclude” exploration drilling for oil and gas an environmental assessment.

As Canada is hit by a health crisis, which monopolizes the attention of the media, the Trudeau government continued its efforts to accelerate oil drilling in a marine environment, found The Duty. He is currently conducting a public consultation with the aim of eliminating the environmental assessments required for exploratory drilling to the east of Newfoundland. At least 100 of these wells are planned by 2030.

The process takes place completely unnoticed, while the Canadians are experiencing the crisis of the coronavirus, but it is nonetheless crucial to promote the development of the oil industry in the east of the country over the next few years.

The Trudeau government is conducting an online public consultation for 30 days on a draft regulation which will allow” to exclude ” exploration drilling for oil and gas an environmental assessment conducted under the rules currently in force under the Act on the evaluation of impact. “The draft ministerial regulation aims to improve the efficiency of the assessment process for the exploratory drilling for offshore oil and gas while maintaining high standards for the protection of the environment for these projects,” says the document of the consultation, which ends on 3 April.

Is it that the consultation is continuing as planned, despite the crisis of the COVID-19 ? “The Agency’s assessment of the impact of Canada has not modified the deadline for the consultation period for the time being. The Agency will consider extending the deadline in light of the circumstances related to the COVID-19 “, a-t was specified for the Duty.

The Trudeau government is continuing 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.

Le gouvernement Trudeau veut accélérer les forages pétroliers en mer

Credit: Government of Canada

Things should change shortly. The Trudeau government has in fact 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 important sector of the commercial fisheries of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, taking many ecological zones of the major and is home to several endangered species. 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.

Process criticized

According to the government, the report produced by the “committee” that 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 Trudeau 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.

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.

I don’t understand the interest to conduct such a consultation “in hiding”, at the moment, so that the impacts are related to several stakeholders who must be consulted

— Lyne Morissette

Anyway, the minister Wilkinson has published a draft regulation on 4 march. It stipulates 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. It should be noted that this rule applies even to those projects-drilling conducted in the “shelters” sailors put in place by the federal government to protect the marine environment.

Once the regulations are in force, a company’s oil or gas must 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 organization will have to ensure that the projects ” are implemented in a manner that is environmentally responsible “.

Biodiversity

Specialist of marine mammals and marine ecosystems, Lyne Morissette laments the ways of the Trudeau government. “This region does not belong to the oil industry, not that she belongs to the fishing industry. I do not therefore understand the interest of conducting such a consultation “in hiding”, at the moment, so that the impacts are related to several stakeholders who must be consulted. “

She insists on the importance of protecting the sea area located off the coast of Newfoundland. “This is an area of very high biological productivity, which is the basis of all biodiversity. It is an ecosystem that is rich, and we see more and more the interest of these sectors, for example, when we see a species move more towards the north, as is the case for the right whale. These are areas that will be critical in the coming years, in particular for species at risk. “

For the biologist Sylvain Archambault, the draft regulation is ” disturbing “. “Their goal is to speed up the approval of drilling projects,” says-t it. Fishermen’s associations also fear these drilling projects. “What are marine environments that are the sites of fishing extremely productive. After all, it is the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, ” said Mr. Archambault.

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.

Ten new drilling

The minister of the Environment, Jonathan Wilkinson, has authorized on march 16, the oil Husky Oil and Exxon to conduct at least 10 exploratory drilling in the marine environment by 2027, in an area targeted by the industry located on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, in the Atlantic. Seismic surveys and possible trials of production are also allowed.

According to minister Wilkinson, the new research project of oil and natural gas ” is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects “. The report produced by the canadian environmental assessment Agency also concludes that the risk of an oil spill is a major ” extremely low “.

Husky Oil and Exxon, two companies active in Canada, have experienced oil spills off the coast of Newfoundland in 2018 and 2019.

According to the “worst” case scenario of a spill referred to in their study of impact, a “rash” could leak more than 40 000 barrels per day. This means that in seven days, the spill may be as important as the oil spill caused by the Exxon Valdez, in 1989.

According to the study of the impact of promoters, the maritime region, where will be conducted the drilling account of ” areas of ecological and biological significance “, several species of cetaceans (some of which are threatened), and marine birds, but also an important activity of commercial fishing.

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