Professor cautions about oil and gas in the gulf8/30/2012
CORNER BROOK — Angela Carter says the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board is presenting conflicting commitments with regard to oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The board is conducting a western Newfoundland strategic environmental assessment to determine if it is appropriate to proceed with oil and gas development in Newfoundland's gulf waters. However, at the same time, the former assistant professor of political science and environmental studies with Grenfell Campus, who is now with the University of Waterloo, said the board's allowing the advancement of exploration and development.
Corridor Resources Inc. and Ptarmigan Energy are in the final stages of approval to conduct exploratory drilling and seismic surveys between Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands.
The Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, also known as the St. Lawrence Coalition, is calling on provincial leaders around the gulf to declare moratoriums on oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities in the gulf, including drilling and seismic surveys.
Protests are expected to continue at the same time federal, provincial and territorial ministers of energy and mines are meeting in Charlottetown, P.E.I. in September. The coalition will be holding what it calls a "quiet walk" to demonstrate the respect and awe Eastern Canadians have for the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Meanwhile, Carter says the conflicting actions of the board presents a dilemma.
"Either you are going to be careful about development and you are going to engage the public in a real way, or you are not," she said. "It looks like the board has made a decision that it is going to move forward with west coast oil development irrespective of what comes out of that strategic environmental assessment."
That risk to the credibility of the process expands to questions of the motives of the board and ultimately the federal and provincial governments, according to Carter.
There is the possibility of an economic boom from oil and gas, but there are also risks of environmental and socio-economic disaster, argues the university professor.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environment Canada have released spill projections from the Old Harry well, which is about 70 kilometres directly away from Codroy Valley. There is a great probability of oil reaching the shores of western and southwestern Newfoundland if there was a blow out.
If through the assessment it is deemed appropriate to proceed with oil and gas development in western Newfoundland, which Carter said she "feels pretty strongly it is not appropriate, given the risks to the gulf," there has to be very clear and strict regulations that monitor its impacts on all aspects of the environment.
She said people have an opportunity to give opinions on these matters. Public consultations will be held pertaining to these various steps, including the strategic environmental assessment.