Category Archives: Regulatory Issues

Ethan Hawke adds voice to no-drill plea ~ Chronicle Herald

October 27th, 2015

AARON BESWICK Truro Bureau TRURO BUREAU
Published October 26, 2015 – 8:12pm
Last Updated October 26, 2015 – 8:49pm

Hollywood star appears with natives opposing exploration in Gulf

 Mi’kmaq elders Robert Pictou and Roseanne Martin perform a traditional water ceremony on Monday afternoon in Antigonish County. They are joined by actor Ethan Hawke. (AARON BESWICK / Truro Bureau)

Mi’kmaq elders Robert Pictou and Roseanne Martin perform a traditional water ceremony on Monday afternoon in Antigonish County. They are joined by actor Ethan Hawke. (AARON BESWICK / Truro Bureau)

When Hollywood came to Antigonish County on Monday, the media followed.

Asked what bearing actor Ethan Hawke’s opinion had on potential exploratory drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Mary Gorman was quick with a response.

“The difference is that you’re here,” the co-founder of Save Our Seas and Shores told the many media outlets gathered.

Gorman joined Mi’kmaq leaders and the celebrated actor on Monday morning in Antigonish County to once again call for a 12-year moratorium on exploratory drilling for hydrocarbons in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The call was made after a traditional Mi’kmaq water ceremony was held near the spot on Pomquet Harbour where Donald Marshall Jr. was arrested for catching and selling eels in 1993. Marshall’s appeals of those charges eventually brought him before the Supreme Court of Canada — which reached the landmark ruling that the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples have a right to make a “moderate livelihood” off the fishery.

Paqtnkek First Nation chief Paul Prosper and Scott Martin, chief of the Listuguj First Nation in Quebec, said at the ceremony that their people’s right to make a moderate livelihood from the sea could be threatened by oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“We demand that the race to drill in the Gulf be stopped,” said Martin.

“No drilling without proper assessment. The social good, the Atlantic fisheries, our economy, our way of life and the life of this ecosystem must take precedence over oil.”

Corridor Resources of Halifax has the only current application in to do exploratory drilling in the Gulf. It has exploration licences for an underwater area known as Old Harry about 80 kilometres west of Newfoundland’s south coast.

It is seeking environmental approval to drill one exploration well.

Energy Department spokeswoman Sarah Levy MacLeod said Monday that if any drilling were planned for the small area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence that Nova Scotia is responsible for, the Mi’kmaq would be consulted first.

“We consult with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia through the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Consultation Terms of Reference signed in 2010,” said Levy MacLeod.

“This agreement lays out a consultation process for government to follow when making decisions that could impact asserted Mi’kmaq aboriginal and treaty rights. The process involves regular communication and meetings between government regulators and representatives of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs.”

For his part, Hawke, who has a cottage near the area where the ceremony took place, was asked by reporters what difference he thought his presence at the ceremony made.

“It’s just an opportunity to talk about” potential oil exploration in the Gulf, said Hawke.

“To actually get together and say a water ceremony is important. Your being here and all the people standing on the hill in the cold. Everybody does value the land so much, we just don’t know what to do about it. I was invited to be a part of this, so I take it seriously.”

Source: Chronicle Herald

Share Button

Ethan Hawke special guest at native water ceremony in Nova Scotia ~ Canadian Press

October 26th, 2015
Actor Ethan Hawke, right, attends the Mi'kmaq community's water ceremony on the shores of Pomquet Harbour to support the aboriginal call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, near Antigonish, N.S. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Actor Ethan Hawke, right, attends the Mi’kmaq community’s water ceremony on the shores of Pomquet Harbour to support the aboriginal call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, near Antigonish, N.S.
(Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

By: Keith Doucette

ANTIGONISH, N.S. — The Canadian Press

Published Monday, Oct. 26, 2015 5:03PM EDT

Four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke has added his star power to efforts by environmentalists and a Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq community who are trying to muster support for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Hawke was the special guest of the Mi’kmaq community’s annual water ceremony held Monday in Pomquet Harbour near Antigonish.

Hawke, who owns land in nearby St. George’s Bay, was asked to attend the event in support of his neighbours.

The actor said he wanted to stand up for “an absolutely magical place” where he has lived for parts of the summer for the past 15 years.

“I’m sure some people are wondering what I’m doing here,” said Hawke. “I’m largely here as your neighbour and your friend and a friend to this area.”

Hawke said the native community members have proven to be trustworthy stewards of the land and it was an honour to take part in their event.

The ceremony involved prayers and offerings by Mi’kmaq elders as the sound of traditional drums and the smell of burning sweetgrass filled the air.

Held each season, it honours the Mi’kmaq people’s relationship with the water, the fish, the land, and their resources.

Hawke said he’s glad his celebrity drew media to cover the event. But he also downplayed his participation.

“I know the real difference will be made in other rooms,” he said. “It’s just an opportunity to talk about it. I was invited to be a part of this so I take it seriously.”

The Mi’kmaq and environmental groups want a 12-year moratorium on any potential drilling in the gulf. They say it will take that long to complete a proper and comprehensive environmental assessment of a bio-diverse area of the ocean.

“While Canada’s thinking about drilling out there . . . we are telling them that they can’t do it without talking to the Mi’kmaq,” said Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat.

Jerome said with a new Liberal government about to take power in Ottawa Canadians need to ask their MPs what they are doing about the gulf.

“Ethan Hawke is here doing something about the gulf, what are you (MPs) doing about the gulf?” he said.

Jerome told a news conference that Atlantic petroleum boards are operating at pace where Nova Scotians don’t feel they have a say about oil drilling.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is one of the largest marine breeding regions in Canada with more than 2,000 marine species.

The area is home to endangered whales and is also home to a lucrative lobster fishery.

Source: Globe and Mail

Additional Canadian Press coverage appeared in the PEI Guardian

Share Button

Ethan Hawke special guest at native water ceremony in Nova Scotia ~ Western Star

October 26th, 2015

October 26, 2015

ANTIGONISH, N.S. – Four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke was the special guest as a Mi’kmaq community in northeastern Nova Scotia held a water ceremony to support a call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Hawke, who owns land in the St. George’s Bay near Antigonish, was contacted by the local Mi’kmaq community to attend the event in support of his neighbours.

The actor says he took part as a friend to an area where he has lived for parts of the summer for the past 15 years.

Hawke says the native community have proven themselves to be trustworthy stewards of the land and it was an honour to take part in their event.

The Mi’kmaq and environmental groups want a 12-year moratorium on any potential drilling in the gulf.

They say it will take that long to complete a proper environmental assessment of a bio-diverse area of the ocean.

Source: The Western Star

Share Button

Value of water highlighted during Mi’kmaq ceremony in Stephenville, NL ~ Western Star

October 26th, 2015

Frank Gale/The Western Star
October 26, 2015

Mi’kmaq woman Arlene Blanchard-White officiated a water ceremony Monday afternoon in Stephenville, NL (Western Star)

Mi’kmaq woman Arlene Blanchard-White officiated a water ceremony Monday afternoon in Stephenville, NL (Western Star)

Local Mi’kmaq First Nation people, along with others other concerned about the environment, gathered Monday at Stephenville Beach for a ceremony to protect the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Water sustains life, and protecting it is not only a native duty, but also a human responsibility, explained Arlene Blanchard-White in officiating the ceremony.

The water ceremony is held each season to give offerings and honour the Mi’Kmaq people’s relationship with the water, the fish, the land and their resources.
In the Mi’kmaq culture, women are the keepers of the water and that’s why four women carried out the ceremony Monday. It involved the mixing of rain, well, river and ocean waters and pouring them into St. George’s Bay.

NL Water Ceremony 2

The local Mi’kmaq didn’t carry out these ceremonies in isolation, as simultaneous events were held by the Mi’kmaq people of Paq’tnkek First Nation, Gepse’gewe’gi, Gespeg and Listuguj, who made a statement in Antigonish, N.S. The statement outlined the significance of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to both Nations and called for immediate action to protect the body of water.

Leadership of the Innu and Mi’kmaq of Gespe’gwa’gi formed a coalition in October 2013 to work together with the intent to speak as one voice to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence from potential hydrocarbon exploration.

Brycen Young, an active Mi’kmaq youth, was impressed with the ceremony, which drew just over 50 people.

“It’s important to us as Mi’kmaq people and to all humans to come out and give thanks to the water and try to protect it,” he said.

Blain Ford, who made the trip from Benoit’s Cove to participate, said as a Mi’kmaq people they take a lot of pride, honour and respect to Mother Earth and our water because if it wasn’t for the water, Mother Earth and its people would not exist.

Source: Western Star

Share Button

Ethan Hawke heading to Nova Scotia for native water ceremony ~ MetroNews

October 25th, 2015

By: Ben Cousins
The Canadian Press
Published on Sun Oct 25 2015

ANTIGONISH, N.S. — Four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke will be in northern Nova Scotia Monday to help with the Mi’kmaq community’s water ceremony and support the aboriginal call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Hawke, who owns land in the St. George’s Bay area near Antigonish, was contacted by the local Mi’kmaq community to attend the event in support of his neighbours.

“We trying to show the world that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is not available for oil exploration,” said Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat. “It’s a race to get oil as opposed to a race protect the environment.”

“When you look at the state of the environment and climate change, I think we should be racing to protect the land where we can.”

The water ceremony is held in each season to give offerings and honour the Mi’kmaq people’s relationship with the water, the fish, the land.

For two years now, the group has been saying there should be a 12-year moratorium to give time to conduct a proper study by a third-party that looks at the Gulf as a whole ecosystem.

Jerome says up until now, studies have only been done by individual provinces.

“The oil is not going to know which side of the border to stop its spill at,” he said. “It’s going to go all over the place.”

“Our salmon do not follow a provincial boundary, they go right through the channel.”

Jerome says officials told him when you combine the provincial studies together, they achieve a comprehensive study for the area.

“For us, that flies in the face of good science.”

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is one of the largest marine breeding regions in Canada with more than 2,000 marine species choosing to spawn, nurse and migrate there year round.

It is also home to endangered whales and hosts some of the largest lobster production in the world.

The Mi’kmaq say the area is a sensitive ecosystem due to its winter ice cover, high winds and counter clockwise currents that only flush into the Atlantic once a year.

Jerome says Atlantic petroleum boards are operating at pace where Nova Scotians don’t feel they have a say about oil drilling.

He says the tourism and fishing industries in the area are obviously concerned, but outside of that, not a whole lot of people really know about what’s going on.

“We want to get people in the Atlantic to become more aware that these kinds of drilling programs are proposed in their water.”

The venue for the water ceremony in Antigonish is also of historical significance.

The site was the location for the events that led to the Marshall Decision.

In 1993, Donald Marshall Jr., a member of the Membertou First Nation, was stopped for fishing in Antigonish County, N.S., for fishing eels without a license.

He claimed he was allowed to catch and sell fish by virtue of a treaty signed with the British Crown.

Six years later, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed Donald Marshall Jr. had a treaty right to catch and sell fish, thus changing the way First Nations people could hunt and catch in Canada.

Source: Metronews.ca

Share Button

Ethan Hawke to help Mi’kmaq oppose Gulf of St. Lawrence oil exploration ~ CBC

October 23rd, 2015

First Nations from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec holding event on Monday
By Elizabeth McMillan,
CBC News
Posted: Oct 23, 2015

(Leonard Adam/Getty Images)

(Leonard Adam/Getty Images)

Actor Ethan Hawke will be lending some of his star power to First Nations groups in eastern Canada that oppose oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The leadership of the Paqtnkek, Listuguj, Gesgapegiag and Gespeg First Nations will be holding a joint press conference and water ceremony Monday by the coast at 577 Summerside Road in Afton, which is in Antigonish County, Nova Scotia.

Hawke will be a special guest and is scheduled to answer questions following a press conference. The four-time Oscar nominee who is known for films such as Training Day, Dead Poets Society and Boyhood has property in the area.

Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, says First Nations groups and organizations like the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition have been working to raise awareness for years and a big name like Hawke’s can bring new attention to their concerns.

Potential oil not going anywhere

The group is calling for a 12-year exploration moratorium, which Jerome says is needed so the government can conduct a comprehensive review.

“The public should be saying the same thing the Mi’kmaq, the aboriginal people, are saying. Show us a study before you think about drilling in there,” he said.

“It’s unproven, but even if there’s oil there, it’s not disappearing.”

Jerome says people who live in the region — which includes the four Atlantic provinces and Quebec — haven’t been adequately consulted, but also haven’t been that engaged.

He hopes Hawke’s profile will encourage the public to push for more information about how drilling and any potential blowouts could affect the area.

“If there’s an oil spill it’s going to go on the shores of Newfoundland, by some spill scenarios, up all the way up the St. Lawrence River. No one really knows,” he said.

Coming on the heels of the recent federal election, Jerome hopes the event sends a message to industry and the new federal government.

“By having his (Ethan Hawke’s) presence, it raises a level of exposure to another level,” he said. “The timing turned out to be very good.”

‘Chronically’ under radar

Mary Gorman of the Save our Seas and Shore Coalition says tens of thousands of jobs in the fishing and tourism industries could be impacted by offshore drilling.

“We have been fighting this battle before Keystone, before Northern Gateway, before Energy East. All of these battles have taken precedence over our battle,” she said.

“There will be oil on the coast of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland if our politicians are foolish enough to let this proceed. And yet we chronically fall under the radar. And that’s why Ethan is helping us.”

​Hawke has voiced concerns about the environmental risks of offshore drilling before.

In 2011, he released a statement with the David Suzuki Foundation and the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition in a campaign calling for the moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling in the gulf.

The site of Monday’s ceremony is close to where Donald Marshall Jr. was arrested for fishing eels out of season, which led to a landmark 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that guaranteed aboriginal treaty rights to fish and hunt.

Paqtnkek councilllor Darlene Prosper says Monday’s events will begin with a water ceremony scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

Source: CBC News

Share Button

Ethan Hawke guest at event to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence ~ The News

October 22nd, 2015

The News
October 22, 2015

Actor, writer and director Ethan Hawke is lending his voice to the efforts to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence from off shore petroleum exploration.

Hawke, who owns property in Tracadie, Nova Scotia, is going to be a guest at a water ceremony and press conference where the Chiefs of the Paq’tnkek First Nation and the Mi’gmaq of Gespe’gewa’gi (Gesgapegiag, Gespeg and Listuguj) as they make an important statement on Monday that outlines the significance of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to both Nations and calls for immediate actions to Protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Mary Gorman, of Pictou County, has been a long time activist for the Save our Seas and Shores Coalition and said this event is significant.

“We’re very grateful to the Mi’gmaq elders chiefs and their councils for protecting the gulf of St. Lawrence from offshore oil and gas development,” Gorman said. “We never would have been able to keep the oil industry out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence for the past 17 years without the Mi’gmaq leadership.

She said it’s great to have the support of Hawke who is coming on his dime to the event.

This venue for the conference is of historical significance. The site was the location for the events that led to the Marshall Decision which gives aboriginal people the right to make a living from fishing and hunting as based on early treaties between the British and Aboriginal people.

It’s because of that right that the aboriginal community believes they should be heavily involved in consultation about projects that could impact the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Troy Jerome of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat said they are concerned because there are off shore petroleum boards that are being organized with the intention of looking at drilling off shore.

“This could totally disrupt our way of life,” he said. “We need to be consulted.”

He said they want to know what kind of effects the drilling could have. He also believes that more people throughout the Atlantic provinces need to know what’s going on.

“We think this kind of event and having a big name like Ethan Hawke could raise awareness,” he said.

The event will take place on Monday at 1 p.m. at 577 Summerside Road, Antigonish.

The water ceremony is held in each season to give offerings and honour the Mi’gmaq people’s relationship with the water, the fish, the land, and their resources.

The press conference will draw attention to the threat to the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence posed by offshore oil and gas development.

The Leadership of the Innu and the Mi’gmaq of Gespe’gwa’gi formed a coalition in October 2013 to work together to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This coalition was formed with the intent to speak with one voice to protect the Aboriginal and Treaty rights and title throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence from potential hydrocarbon exploration.

Source: The News

Share Button

Environmental groups oppose changes in N.S. offshore assessment process ~ iPolitics

October 1st, 2015

Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition and Greenpeace Canada both oppose proposed changes which would scale back responsibilities of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and give the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) the power to conduct federal environmental assessments of projects in the region.

According to iPolitics, Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada said the change is a sop to the energy industry.

Keith Stewart, climate & energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. Credit: https://twitter.com/climatekeith

Keith Stewart, climate & energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. Credit: https://twitter.com/climatekeith

“This is about gutting environmental reviews in order to fast-track oil projects, as the Petroleum Board doesn’t have the expertise or the mandate to do a proper environmental assessment,” he said in an email response. “If you’re renovating your house, it might seem faster and cheaper to have your accountant double up as the architect, but then don’t be surprised when the fancy new addition collapses.”

 

 

 

Mary Gorman, spokesperson for Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, expressed similar outrage in an email to iPolitics.

Mary Gorman, co-founder and spokesperson, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. (Credit: https://twitter.com/gorman_mary)

Mary Gorman, co-founder and spokesperson, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. (Credit: https://twitter.com/gorman_mary)

 

“Entrenching powers for industry controlled offshore petroleum boards into Canada’s Environmental Assessment Act is not responsible conduct and will not lead to a responsible authority,” Gorman said. “Rather, it deepens the conflict of interest that the C-NSOPB is already in, as both a promoter of offshore development while simultaneously protecting the environment.”

Save Our Seas and Shores expressed opposition to this change in a July 22/2015 submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

According to iPolitics, the C-NSOPB will fill the role of the CEAA when necessary. As the government explains in its regulatory impact analysis statement, this is thanks to Bill C-22, which will allow the board to conduct these assessments. Then, C-NSOPB will perform the same functions as the National Energy Board (NEB), the market regulator for interprovincial and international pipelines and power lines, does for offshore projects everywhere except around Newfoundland and Labrador, where the CEAA will continue to conduct its assessments. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) — that region’s equivalent of the CNSOPB — “is not yet in a position to assume this role,” the government says.

In the past, the C-NSOPB carried out these reviews under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, before its overhaul in 2012.

To read the entire iPolitics article, Environmental groups decry change in N.S. offshore assessment process written by Mackenzie Scrimshaw, go here.

Share Button

Analysis suggests Harper government ‘all but abandoned’ protection of fish habitat ~ APTN National News

September 2nd, 2015

National News | September 1, 2015 by APTN National News
The Canadian Press

A statistical analysis of the Conservative government’s changes to environmental laws and procedures suggests Ottawa has “all but abandoned” attempts to protect Canada’s lakes and rivers.

“Over the last decade, what we’ve seen is a not-so-gradual abandonment of the fish habitat protection field,” said University of Calgary law professor Martin Olszynski.

He has sifted through reams of data and dozens of development applications to conclude that federal protection for fisheries and waterways has been declining for more than a decade.

Olszynski found environmental oversight by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans dropped dramatically during the 2000s – a time when Canada saw huge spending in the resource industries.

And he concludes changes to environmental law in 2012 weren’t intended to cut red tape, as the government suggested, but to lower the environmental bar.

“What my data suggests is that the narrative provided doesn’t add up in terms of this unduly intrusive regulatory regime. It was never really about reducing red tape.”

Fisheries and Oceans was not immediately available for comment.

In a paper for the Journal of Environmental Law and Practice, Olszynski shows the number of proposals to the department’s Central and Pacific regions fell to fewer than 4,000 by 2014 from more than 12,000 in 2001.

The drop came in two stages.

In 2004, the government decided to minimize oversight for projects deemed low-risk, which cut the number of projects it reviewed in half. The rest of the decrease came in 2012 after the government revamped environmental laws.

Over that same period, enforcement fell off a cliff.

Olszynski reports that environmental warnings and charges under the Fisheries Act fell to about 50 from about 300. Staff time allotted to enforcement dropped to 10,000 hours from 35,000.

The department’s budget was cut by $80 million in 2012. Another $100 million in cuts are planned over three years beginning this year.

The analysis shows officials are granting approvals without seeing a developer’s plans to fix any problems, despite federal law that says such plans must be approved before a project goes ahead. Olszynski’s suggests most approvals are now granted with the understanding a developer will file a plan later.

Meanwhile, records show that the pace of development on rivers and lakes has kept roughly stable. A number of studies and peer-reviewed papers have also documented rapidly increasing impacts on forests and waterways.

The federal government has argued it’s getting out of the regulatory end, so provinces can take over and duplication is reduced.

Olszynski said that if red tape alone had been the issue, it should have been solved in 2004 when Ottawa first backed off overseeing some projects.

He writes: “(Department of Fisheries and Oceans) appears to have been exemplary in reducing the administrative burden on proponents carrying out what it deemed to be low-risk activities.

“Rather, the problem appears to have been substantive; government (or) proponents, or both, deemed actual compliance (i.e. avoidance and mitigation of impacts to fish habitat) too burdensome.”

Provincial approvals for development projects still have to abide by federal law. Olszynski said his analysis shows the department doesn’t even see many of those proposals.

Scaling back assessments for low-risk developments can be a valid way to reduce regulatory burdens, Olszynski said. But to work, he said, it requires credible oversight and enforcement.

“DFO says we will reduce the burden on you, but you still have to comply with the act. What evidence is available suggests that industry did not keep their end of the bargain.

“The strong deterrent signal wasn’t there … in terms of enforcement.”

Source: APTN National News

Share Button

Canadian agency deciding Shell’s offshore drilling includes ex-Shell official

August 27th, 2015

THE GUARDIAN – 27 August 2015

News of Tory-appointed official follows on Environment Minister granting Shell up to 21 days to stop underwater oil spills

The agency tasked with giving approval for Shell’s deep-water drilling off Canada’s east coast includes a Tory-appointed official who worked for Shell for decades, it has emerged.

Shell’s billion-dollar plans for exploratory drilling 200 km from Nova Scotia’s southern shore have been green-lighted by Canada’s Environment Minister, but they await a final review this fall by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.

The Petroleum Board includes as a board member Douglas Gregory, who spent three decades working for Shell Canada and Royal Dutch Shell.

Gregory opened Shell Canada’s exploration office in Nova Scotia and oversaw early deep-water seismic exploration off the coast before retiring in 2003.

He was appointed to the Petroleum Board by the federal Conservative government in 2007.

The conflict-of-interest revelations will provoke anger over an already controversial project that has been criticized by fishermen, First Nations and environmental organizations.

In June, Conservative Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq sparked an outcry by approving a plan that would allow Shell up to 21 days to cap any oil blowouts.

In contrast the United States requires Shell to have capping equipment on-site in Alaska within 24 hours.

Shell plans to save money by not keeping the equipment on standby in Nova Scotia, instead shipping it when necessary by boat from Norway.

An underwater oil spill off the coast could do irreparable damage to marine life and the fishing and tourism industries vital to the economy of eastern Canada.

The Conservative government has been widely criticized for overhauling Canada’s environmental laws to make it easier to win quick approval for such resource projects.

Federal environmental reviews of the sort conducted for Shell’s drilling plans now happen with shortened timelines and drastically restricted public participation, and only for projects determined by the federal government.

The Harper government has cut 40 percent of the budget of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and fired hundreds of scientists who contributed to environmental reviews.

“The Canadian system of environmental oversight wasn’t very effective to start with, but the current government has made it much worse. They’ve sidelined departments with an ecological perspective or gutted their scientific capacity, and are moving toward making captive agencies like the Petroleum Board solely responsible for environmental assessments. At this rate, Nova Scotians may be watching in horror as an oil spill continues for weeks,” said Mark Butler, policy director of the Ecology Action Centre.

Since its election in 2006, the Conservative government has appointed dozens of former industry insiders or government officials with no environmental expertise to the agencies that oversee offshore oil and gas exploration.

In what Butler decries as yet further erosion of environment protections, the Conservative government introduced legislation last month that will strip the federal environment assessment agency of its power to continue reviews of oil and gas projects around Nova Scotia and hand authority to the Petroleum Board.

Former Nova Scotia premier and provincial Progressive Conservative party leader Rodney MacDonald was another recent Conservative appointment to the Petroleum Board.

Gregory was a voting member until last year and has since become an alternate, voting when other members are unavailable, while also chairing the Health, Safety and Environment Advisory Committee.

He worked for thirty years as a manager and geophysicist and also did a stint with Canada’s largest oil lobby group.

A communications advisor for the Petroleum Board said Gregory has never voted on an issue that had to do with Shell but could not say if he has formally recused himself from all discussions around the drilling plan.

“Anything related to a conflict-of interest matter would have to be asked of the federal government,” the advisor said.

The federal government referred questions to the Petroleum Board.

A petition calling on the Board to refuse approval of Shell’s drilling plans has gathered more than 50,000 Canadian signatures.

Shell’s efforts to drill for oil further north in the Arctic have faced a global campaign, with US Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton recently adding her voice to the opposition.

Link to this story

Share Button