Category Archives: Newfoundland

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

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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

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Groups band together to fight oil exploration on Gulf of St. Lawrence ~ APTN news

July 21st, 2015

July 21, 2015

by Danielle Rochette

APTN National News

Eighteen organizations spread out over four provinces are banding together and calling on the federal government to stop any kind of oil exploration work in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The group sent a letter Tuesday to Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and Minister of Environment Leona Aglukkaq. [See press release here]

“As fisheries representatives active in all parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we are writing to inform you that we will oppose any petroleum development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence without prior consultation and a thorough understanding of the impacts to our seafood industry,” the letter states.

It’s not clear who penned the letter.

The Nutewistoq M’igmawei Mawiomi Secretariat is one of the organizations that is part of the coalition.

The group pointed out that the process that will allow companies to explore for oil, will also allow them to circumvent the environmental or consultation process.

“Given that exploratory drilling has been downgraded to a simple ‘screening exercise,’ which does not necessitate consultation with existing users, we demand that the Old Harry prospect be put to a full review panel as is warranted by public concern under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act” the letter states.

A Mi’kmaq group out of Quebec is already lobbying the Quebec government to put in place a 12-year moratorium on exploration work in the Gulf. [See APTN story here: Nations band together to fight future oil exploration in Gulf of Saint Lawrence]

There is also a coalition made up of environmental groups and First Nation communities fighting any kind of oil work. They’re concerned that thousands of fisheries and tourism jobs will be at stake if there is a spill in the Gulf.

“We would also like to remind the federal government that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a common body of water and that spills occurring in one area cannot be contained by provincial delineations,” they say in the letter.

The Gulf waters touch five provinces, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Source: Groups band together to fight oil exploration on Gulf of St. Lawrence – APTN National news

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‘Nothing alive’ in Port au Port Bay because of oil spill, fisherman says ~ CBC news

June 18th, 2015

CBC News Posted: Jun 10, 2015 10:25 AM NT

Reports of oil spilling into Newfoundland’s Port au Port Bay from old drilling sites is a growing concern for fishermen in the area.

Fishermen and residents in the Port au Port region are reporting a significant amount of oil seepage in the ocean waters surrounding the area. (Submitted to CBC by Aiden Mahoney)

Fishermen and residents in the Port au Port region are reporting a significant amount of oil seepage in the ocean waters surrounding the area. (Submitted to CBC by Aiden Mahoney)

Bill O’Gorman, a scallop diver and chair of the local fishery committee, says it’s been trying to get Ottawa and the province to clean up the area around Shoal Point for years after a noticeable decline in marine life in the region such as scallops, lobsters and barnacles.

“There’s nothing alive over there,” O’Gorman said. “There’s nothing sticking to the boats anymore, or the wharves. You don’t find that any more because there’s a constant spill and a slick — an oil slick that’s there every day, and every night, all the time.”

Photo: Aiden Mahoney

O’Gorman says oil leakage is nothing new for the area, as drilling operations have been taking place there since the late 1800s.

“There’s been oil leakage there for the last 50-60 years,” he told CBC News.

“Fisherman have been using that oil to stain their sheds and to oil their rollers and to paint their fence posts.”

He blames the spill for the collapse of the region’s scallop fishery, and has been trying to get some level of government to do something about it.

“We would like to see some department, provincial or federal, remedy this situation,” he said.

“This is going to cause a complete collapse of the fishery in Port au Port Bay.”

O’Gorman said he has video that proves the oil slick has intensified as of late, and said at this point you can clearly dip your hand in the water and pick up crude oil as a result.

He said, if it comes to it, the committee will start looking at ways to get attention such as protests and marches.

As well, he worries about how future drilling activity will compound the problem if something isn’t done to clean up the damage that is already done.

“It’s about time that something was done about it,” he said.

“If they can’t control traditional drilling that happened 50 and 75 years ago, what are they going to do with this new technology, fracking?”

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Interprovincial Panel Explores Impacts of Fossil Fuel Development in Newfoundland

February 15th, 2015

On Sunday, February 1st, 2015, a public forum and panel discussion was held in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland at the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University. Forum Photo Irene with CaptionThe panel included Irene Novaczek, adjunct professor of Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island; Chief Mi’sel Joe of the Conne River Mi’kmaq Tribal Nation; and economist Michael Bradfield, a member of Nova Scotia’s review panel for hydraulic fracturing..
The forum and panel presentations made the connections between the issue of Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking in Newfoundland and Labrador and broader regional concerns related to oil development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The meeting was well attended, as well as informative, with many community members sharing viewpoints in a lively public forum on the health and welfare of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, oil development and fracking.

The forum was organized and hosted by representatives of the Social Justice Co-operative and Newfoundland and Labrador representatives of the  Save our Seas and Shores  organization  as well as other supportive individuals in the community.

For further coverage on the public forum, The Western Star and The Telegram have published excellent articles on the event. Bob Diamond’s Letter to the Editor of the Western Star offers a wonderful summary of the afternoon panel and discussion. The public forum is available to view in its entirety here.

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Widespread collapse of scallop fishery reported in Port au Port Bay, Newfoundland

February 7th, 2014

Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee


February 7, 2014

Fishery Committee Concerned about Collapse of the Scallop Fishery and Threats to the Marine Ecosystem in Port au Port Bay

The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee is intending to act on their concerns about the collapse of the Scallop Fishery and threats to the local Marine Ecosystem,

The Committee which met Monday evening, February 3, 2014 in Port au Port East has created subcommittees and an action plan to deal with their concerns.

Scallop fishermen in the Port au Port Bay Region reported that they have never experienced such a widespread collapse of the scallop fishery in the local bay. Laboratory test results on scallops submitted to the Federal Department of Fisheries last November have been inconclusive as to the cause of the collapse. The committee was also disappointed that the scallops were not tested for petroleum contaminants. The fishermen also report that  sea urchins have gone and there is a big decline in  rock crab.

Local fishermen believe that environmental pollutants, possibly from oil/industrial developments in the area, may be contributing to the drastic decline in scallops. Fishery Committee member Captain Gus Hynes says that he and his crew are quite concerned that developments have been occurring around Port au Port Bay without due regard to their impact on scallops and other marine species.

Fishery Committee members believe that past government environmental assessments done under the jurisdiction of the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board are not adequately protecting fishery interests and the marine environment. The 2007 Environmental Assessment for the Port au Port Bay Exploration Drilling Program at Shoal Point makes no mention of the potential high risk and vulnerability of the site to tidal surges, coastal erosion and other impacts from extreme weather related to climate change. The risks associated with rapid rate of coastal erosion caused by extreme weather and tidal surges in the area are self evident such as the recent wash- outs of sections of the Piccadilly Main Road; Fox Island Road, and the main roadway to the Shoal Point drilling site.

Bill O’Gorman, scallop diver and Fishery Committee spokesperson, says the name of the area “Shoal” Point should have set off enough bells and red lights to warrant at least some reference in the 2007 Environmental Assessment to the risk involved with drilling at such a vulnerable site. ‘The alarming fact is that drilling was approved on an exposed shoal at the tip of a point jutting out some eight kilometres towards the centre of Port au Port Bay.” Mr. O’ Gorman believes that the environmental and health risks of oil drilling on a shoal are more serious today due to  increasing extreme weather, rising ocean levels and tidal surges – all related to climate change

Boswarlos resident, Andrew Harvey,  a fisherman for thirty-seven years, has been recording storms and other weather conditions in the Port au Port Bay area.  He has noticed the increasing frequency of storms and the intensity of the storm surges.  Andrew speculates, based on the rate of coastal erosion at Shoal Point that the latest  drill site at  the end of the point will be ” pretty well washed away within the next five to ten years”

Other problems at Shoal Point that concerns the Fishery Committee are pollution issues and lack of remediation and environmental restoration at abandoned drilling sites at Shoal Point. “There was no mention in the 2007 Environmental Assessment of past oil drilling sites that were once on land and are now off shore with oil from derelict pipes polluting the coastal environment.” Many area residents and tourists such as Bill Duffenais and Karen Smith, who have a cabin and shed threatened by coastal erosion at Shoal Point, have reported the presence of drilling pipes jutting vertically out of the water off Shoal Point. Troy Duffy, local Environmental Protection Officer and members of the Fishery Committee have   verified and documented the existence of these pipes, oil slicks and smell of petroleum in the area. Larry Hicks, a Provincial Department of Resources geologist, has indicated that there may be as many as fifteen abandoned drilling sites in the Shoal Point area which are in various states of deterioration.

There were also no public consultation meetings or forums conducted as part of the  original 2007 Environmental Assessment Process which ended with the approval of the last drilling project at Shoal Pont. The Fishery Committee believes that this environmental process facilitated by the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (C -NLOPB0) was invalid, undemocratic and failed the residents of the region. The C-NLOPB were in conflict of interest by being responsible for facilitating oil and gas development and also being responsible for worker safety and environmental protection. The Fishery Committee supports Judge Robert Wells main recommendation in his Report on Offshore Safety that the Federal and Provincial Governments should create a Safety and Environmental Protection Agency separate from the C-NLOPB.

Related to the 2007 Assessment was the 2010 request from Shoal Pont Energy to amend the 2007 Environmental Assessment to allow Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking). Fracking possibly would have been approved at this site if it were not for the intervention of the regional Fracking Awareness Groups and others.

With reference to the Provincial Government’s Turn Back The Tide Climate Change Initiative the Fishery Committee is calling upon the Provincial Government to do a study and assessment of climate change impacts on Shoal Point and other sensitive areas such as the coastal road near Fox Island River.

The Fishery Committee is requesting that the Provincial and Federal Governments should say no to Hydraulic Fracturing at Shoal Point due to well documented, unacceptable risks. As an alternative they should do what they are promoting in the provincial government’s Turn Back The Tide Advertising Campaign – act on climate change by developing new and clean renewable energy – wind, tidal, thermal and solar.

The objectives of the Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee  are:

1.  Determine why the scallops are dying in Port au Port Bay.

2.  Study and monitor the marine ecology of Port au Port Bay

3.  Promote a healthy marine ecosystem

4.  Preserve the species that are dying off

5.  Preserve the fishery as a way of life.



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Port au Port /Bay St George Fracking Awareness Group in NL responds to SEA

September 18th, 2013

Port auPort
Here is the The Port au Port /Bay St George Fracking Awareness Group’s letter to Scott Tessier, Chair and CEO of the
Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB)

Dear Mr Tessier:

Re: The C-NLOPB, and the Western Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area Strategic Environmental Assessment and Update Report

The Port au Port/ Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Group was formed on February 18, 2013, to develop strategies dealing with the potential social, health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing planned for Shoal Point on the Port au Port Peninsula. The Fracking Awareness Group is actively involved in increasing public awareness regarding hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas exploration in Western Newfoundland. Our group has organized seventeen community public presentations and a well attended public Forum on hydraulic fracturing which was held at Port au Port East in April of this year.

The Fracking Awareness Committee submits the following comments regarding the role of the C-NLOPB, the Strategic Environmental Assessment Process, and the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Update Report.

Underlying Systemic Contextual Problem

We begin with reference to Section 2.2 Spatial and Temporal Boundaries and Figure 1.1 in the SEA Update Report and an underlying systemic problem. The spatial and temporal areas that have been delineated in the Western Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area in the SEA and the Update Report are integral to the larger Gulf of St. Lawrence marine and coastal ecosystem.

It is our view that you must establish an appropriate governance and regulatory regime for the whole spatial – temporal area before you start dividing it and selecting parts to develop petroleum resources. Before an offshore petroleum development agency, such as the C-NLOPB, gives licences, authorizations to oil and gas companies for exploration and development within specific spatial and temporary boundaries, we should first have some form of legitimate democratic governance and management system for the larger spatial context – the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Oil and gas and other developments in the Gulf region should be reviewed and approved subject to a democratic process which includes legitimate collaboration, cooperation and consultation with and between the federal government, provincial governments,, communities, industry, NGOs and especially the general public.

With reference to the Federal and Provincial Government, the C- NLOPB and the regulation of oil and gas development, Scott Vaughan, Canada’s Federal Government Commissioner of the Environment in January, 2013, reported that environmental protection (which includes regulating) is not keeping up with resource development, leaving people and their environment exposed to the risks of oil spills, pollution and damage to fragile habitat.

Independence and objectivity of the C-NLOPB? Conflicting mandate –

We are concerned about the independence and objectivity of the C-NLOPB. We support the recommendation of Judge Robert Wells, in his report on offshore safety in the oil industry, that there should be a separate independent regulatory agency for worker safety and environmental protection. Our Group believes that the C-NLOPB and the Provincial Department of Environment and Conservation as partners in the conjoint regulatory body, should not be both a facilitator of oil and gas development and a regulator for worker safety and environmental protection.

The C-NLOPB is increasingly losing credibility and legitimacy with the general public. The Board is conducting a strategic environmental assessment to supposedly determine if it is appropriate to proceed with oil and gas development in Newfoundland’s gulf waters and, at the same time, it is allowing seismic testing, issuing licenses, making land ownership and control agreements with oil companies and otherwise facilitating oil and gas exploration and development.

Mitigation Focus

The C-NLOPB has a conflicting mandate for petroleum industry development, worker safety and environmental health. Its focus is on oil and gas exploration and development backed up by industry consultants who focus on ‘mitigation’ of negative impacts, instead of protecting vulnerable and poorly understood ecosystems.

Impartiality of Consultants

AMEC Environment & Infrastructure(AMEC) is a division of AMEC, one of the world’s leading engineering, project management and consultancy companies whose clients include BP and Shell. According to the company’s website, the company is on the London Stock Exchange in the Oil Equipment and Services Sector, and offers services which extend from environmental and front end engineering design before the start of a project to decommissioning at the end of an asset’s life.

Federal and Provincial Policies- Energy Production and Climate Change

The petroleum sector also has to operate within a national policy agenda which sets out national goals, priorities and direction. Environmental assessment related to oil and gas exploration must address the urgent need to take action on climate change and must take into consideration National and Provincial Strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions The careful management of petroleum production and minimizing environmental impacts are part of the contribution to the sustainable development of our country. Canada was committed to cutting its greenhouse emissions to 6% -below 1990 levels by 2012, but in 2009 emissions were 17% higher than in 1990. Human activities that involve burning fossil fuels (e.g.. coal, oil) can change the composition of the atmosphere through emissions of greenhouse gases and other substances. The build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the primary cause for concern about climate change now and into the immediate future.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador made a commitment in their 2011 Climate Change Action Plan to be a global leader in the arena of climate change which they indicate is “one of the greatest long-term challenges facing the planet”. In the bigger picture there is a necessary shift that must happen towards more sustainable and renewable forms of energy within a green economy.

Requesting a Moratorium

The Port au Port/ Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Committee is asking our provincial and federal governments to enact a moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence until they have established a more democratic governance and ecosystem based management system and until oil and gas exploration and development are subject to a credible independent, science based environmental assessment process.

Alternative Model – Marine and Coastal Ecosystem Based Management<span>democratic civil engagement in land and marine-coastal use governance and planning which offer citizens and community groups an opportunity to democratically participate in ecosystem management and resource development which profoundly affect their lives and the environment</span>.

We refer to a June 2011, United Nations Environment Program Document, Taking Steps Towards a Marine and Coastal Ecosystem -Based Management System; An Introductory Guide.

This ecosystem based management system model offers an alternative to the present form of undemocratic, single sector, petroleum industry centered resource management being facilitated by Offshore Petroleum Boards.
I refer to the Wikipedia articles on “Marine and Coastal Ecosystem Based Management

“Ecosystem-based management for marine environments moves away from the traditional strategies in which single species and single sectors are managed individually (Slocombe 1993); rather it is an integrated approach which considers all key activities, particularly anthropogenic, that affect marine environments (Levin and Lubchenco 2008). The objective is to ensure sustainable ecosystems, thus protecting the resources and services they provide (Guerry 2005).

In recent years there has been increasing recognition of disruption to marine ecosystems resulting from climate change, overfishing, nutrient and chemical pollution from land runoff, coastal development, bycatch, habitat destruction and other human activities (Levin and Lubchenco 2008). There are very clear links between human activities and marine ecosystem functioning; this has become an issue of high importance because there are many services provided by marine ecosystems that are declining as a result of these impacts. These services include the provision of food, fuel, mineral resources, pharmaceuticals, as well as opportunities for recreation, trade, research and education (Leslie and McLeod 2007).

Guerry (2005) has identified an urgent need to improve the management of these declining ecosystems, particularly in coastal areas, to ensure a sustainable future. Human communities depend on marine ecosystems for important resources, but without holistic management these ecosystems are likely to collapse. It has been suggested that the degradation of marine ecosystems is largely the result of poor governance and that new approaches to management are required (Olsson et al. 2008). The Pew Oceans Commission (POC 2003) and the US Commission of Ocean Policy (USCOP 2004) have indicated the importance of moving from current piecemeal management to a more integrated ecosystem-based approach (Guerry 2005)

In conclusion, we have proposed for your consideration and action, means for more democratic civil engagement in land and marine-coastal use governance and planning which offer citizens and community groups an opportunity to democratically participate in ecosystem management and resource development which profoundly affect their lives and the environment.

Yours sincerely,
Robert Diamond (Stephenville)
Co- Chair, Port au Port/Bay St. George Fracking Awareness Committee


Premier Kathy Dunderdale, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Government of Canada
The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Government of Canada
Hon. Susan Sullivan, Minister of Health and Community Services, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Hon. Tom Hedderson, Minister of Environment and Conservation, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Hon. Tom Marshall, Minister of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

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Stephenville NL former lobster harvester and educator weighs in on SEA report

September 18th, 2013

September 17, 2013

Scott Tessier (Chair & CEO)
Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador
Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB)
5th Floor TD Place, 140 Water Street
St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador
Canada A1C 6H6

Mr. Tessier:

Re: Public Review of Draft Western Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area Strategic Environmental Assessment and Update Report

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the SEA draft report.

I have been involved in the lobster fishery for several years in the Bay St. George area. The bay is unique and special in its unusual tides and currents which can be very extreme in size and force. The bay is subject to the prevailing south westerly winds which originate in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and maritime provinces. In Bay St. George area, there are many sensitive plant and wildlife habitats including the Codroy Valley estuary and the Stephenville Crossing Gut which are resting grounds for thousands of migratory birds. Sandy Point is home to the piping plover and 8 major salmon rivers flow into the bay.

The AMEC (a consulting firm that is very active in the oil and gas industry) report mentions that a major oil spill in the Gulf has the potential to affect a vast territory because, among others, of the dynamic character of currents in the Gulf (which I support,see above) and the mobility of many species. According to the report,coastal areas could be hit (sect.5.4.1).

Regarding hydraulic fracturing, drilling projects on the West Coast of Newfoundland plan on using hydraulic fracturing, in onshore-to-offshore operations, to extract shale oil from underneath the seabed. The offshore portion of the operation falls under the jurisdiction of the C-NLOPB. While AMEC had not planned on covering that aspect of oil activities, intense concerns and public pressure on the West Coast during the Fall 2012 public consultation forced them to consider the hydraulic fracturing issue. After a very short and incomplete review of techniques and potential impacts, AMEC concludes that public concerns are sufficiently high in Newfoundland to justify more consultations and discussions before allowing this industry (sect. 5.4.2).

An important part of the report is devoted to identify sensitive or biologically important zones within the Newfoundland part of the Gulf. A careful reading of the report makes one realize that all of the Newfoundland part of the Gulf could be labelled as important or sensitive.(sect. (sect.

Apart from the proposed mitigation measures, the AMEC report does not contain any recommendations or conclusions on, for example, the relevance of issuing new exploration licenses or on sensitive zones to protect. It is worrying to learn that
recommendations will be known only next Fall, when the final SEA report will be released. Indeed the public will have no opportunity to comment on these recommendations, potentially very important for the future of the Gulf, since no other specific consultation period is planned.

I believe the C-NLOPB has little credibility and legitimacy in its present form. The Board is conducting a strategic environmental assessment to supposedly determine if it is appropriate to proceed with oil and gas development in Newfoundland’s gulf waters and at the same time it is allowing seismic testing, issuing licenses, making land ownership and control agreements with oil companies and otherwise facilitating oil and gas exploration and development.

I will be asking our Provincial and Federal governments to enact a moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence until they have established a more democratic governance and ecosystem based management system and until oil and gas exploration and development are subject to a credible independent, science based environmental assessment process.

I am recommending that the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board :
– defer the issuing of any new exploration licenses in the Newfoundland offshore area;
– cancel the call for bids issued on May 16th 2013 for four parcels in the Newfoundland offshore area;
– refrain from giving authorizations to projects currently submitted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, including Corridor Resources’ Old Harry project or Black Spruce Exploration’s Western Newfoundland drilling program.
– submit to public scrutiny the recommendations and conclusions of the final SEA report.

Wayne Hounsell
Stephenville, NL

Kathy Dunderdale, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, Government of Canada
Tom Hedderson, Minister of Environment and Conservation, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador
Tom Marshall, Minister of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

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Lessons in offshore safety – how is Canada responding?

May 30th, 2013

This blog appears with permission from Ocean Resources.

Lessons in safety
By Ryan Van Horne
Ocean Resources

It has been more than 30 years since Canada’s worst offshore tragedy.

In February 1982, the drill rig Ocean Ranger sank off Newfoundland with a loss of 84 lives. A Royal Commission that criticized industry for poor safety training, equipment, and lax inspection spurred a profound shift in Canada’s offshore.

The Ocean Ranger disaster isn’t the only accident that has an effect on safety in the offshore.

In July 1988, a fire aboard Piper Alpha, a North Sea production platform off Scotland, claimed the lives of 167 men. It is still the worst offshore accident in terms of lives lost.

In March 2009, Cougar Flight 91, which crashed off Newfoundland and Labrador with a loss of 17 lives, led to the Wells Inquiry, headed by former Newfoundland judge Robert Wells. That inquiry made a number of recommendations, most notably the creation of an autonomous and dedicated safety regulator.

More recently, the offshore safety debate was fueled by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The drill rig exploded, killing 11 crew. The ensuing oil spill was the largest in U.S. history.

With so many tragedies from which to derive lessons, it’s fair to ask if Canadian governments, regulators and industry have learned enough and reacted appropriately.

That’s a question Richard Grant asks often. Grant is the president of Grantec Engineering Consultants Inc., a Hammonds Plains, NS, firm and vice-chair of the Canadian Strategic Steering Committee on Offshore Structures Standards.

“With respect to Ocean Ranger, a large number of lessons have been learned, including those pertaining to proper training of personnel on the rigs, emergency evacuation systems, response times and survival suits,” said Grant, who was a staff member at the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) from 1997 to 2002.

The same cannot be said for lessons that should have been learned from Piper Alpha, Grant says. Piper Alpha was designed as an oil production platform but later converted to gas production, which is what it was being used for when it was destroyed by fire.

Grant says the Canadian Offshore Installation Regulations, which date back to the 1980s, have not been updated to capture issues relating to fire and explosion safety on offshore platforms.

“Other jurisdictions, namely the UK and Norway, have worked diligently and quickly to address the shortcomings pertaining to fire and explosion safety,” says Grant.

For example, in 1995 the UK Health and Safety Executive (HandSE) introduced new regulations for the prevention of fires and explosions for offshore installations.

The HandSE also switched from a certification approach to a verification approach. A key aspect of this is that inspections of offshore installations are performed by “independent competent persons.” Canada, says Grant, is still using the dated pre-Piper Alpha certification approach.

Deepwater Horizon was an example of what can happen when you cut corners, Grant says. It also underscored the diligence required by regulators and the U.S. moved quickly to address that.

Other major players in the offshore industry, such as the United Kingdom, Norway and Australia, have switched to autonomous and dedicated safety regulators, something Grant says is necessary for the substantial reform needed in Canada.

Grant hopes it does not take another offshore disaster in Canada for governments to take a critical look at the regulatory regime. While he advocates a single national regulator, the most important area to focus on is improving the quality of inspections.

Inspectors “need to be highly skilled and they need to know what they are looking at,” Grant says.

There are several benefits to a single safety regulator, he adds, such as consistency, effectiveness and efficiency, and improved safety.

A big problem in Canada is the glacial pace of regulatory change.

“In the past 10 years only one such regulation has been produced for the Atlantic Canadian offshore – the drilling regulations. This speaks volumes about the inefficient regulatory development process in Canada.”

Grant found “many significant deficiencies in the Canadian offshore regulations” while he was with the CNSOPB, and little has been done to correct that.

There are three offshore regulators in Canada: the National Energy Board, the CNSOPB, and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), with the possibility of more.

Grant would like to see a review of the Canadian offshore regulatory system, similar to the one Australia did in 1999 when it used a team or respected international offshore safety specialists.

Andrew Younger, the energy critic for the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, introduced a private member’s bill in the legislature last fall, urging the NDP government to start a conversation with the federal government about a single safety regulator.

Although the bill didn’t pass, that conversation has begun – with Ottawa and the Newfoundland and Labrador government.

“We are working with them to ensure we have structures in place that reflect regulatory best practice for safety,” says Nova Scotia Department of Energy spokeswoman Tracy Barron. “Justice Wells has raised serious issues and it’s important for us to consider his findings.”

Stuart Pinks, CEO of the CNSOPB, thinks Canada has learned from previous accidents and says the safety regime in Nova Scotia is “robust” and the track record proves its adequacy.

“Does it mean that it is absolutely perfect and there can’t be some improvements?” says Pinks. “No, there’s always improvements that can be made and we’re constantly making improvements.”

The Nova Scotia and Newfoundland boards were created consistent with recommendations of the Hickman inquiry into the Ocean Ranger disaster. While some argue that the structure makes safety take a back seat, Pinks disagrees.

“Our decision-making hierarchy is set up such that safety and environmental protection are paramount in our decision making,” he says.

After the Wells inquiry, the CNSOPB looked for ways to give further separation to decision making.

The CNSOPB set up a separate committee at the board of directors’ level — the health, safety and environment committee – “to make sure that health, safety and environment are receiving the paramountcy in decision making that the board has dictated that it should,” says Pinks, who used to be the board’s chief safety officer. “Safety is No. 1 in my mind.”

Newfoundland and Labrador made a similar change based on the Wells inquiry, said C-NLOPB spokesman Sean Kelly.

“We have separated safety and operations to make two departments instead of one,” said Kelly. “Both departments will work closely together to ensure the Board maintains proper oversight of all aspects of offshore safety.”

Some argue that the safety regulator should not have any other role, such as approving exploration licenses. The flip side to that, though, is that the CNSOPB can make sure that safety maintains top priority.

“There are some significant advantages of an integrated regulator and I’ll give you a really good example with our last call for bids,” Pinks says, referring to Shell Canada’s pitch to drill in deep water.

All bidders had to submit a separate technical qualification bid with their commercial bid. If a company did not demonstrate proficiency in drilling in deep water – and experience doing so in the last 10 years – their commercial bid would have been returned unopened.

“We can move health, safety and environmental protection and additional measures right up front to assure that we are only granting licences to qualified and competent companies,” says Pinks.

The CNSOPB co-operates closely with its counterparts in Newfoundland and other jurisdictions. The board is also a member of the International Regulators Forum and routinely compares its regulatory regime to that of other major players in the offshore industry.

“I can pick up the phone and call the UK or Norway and say we’ve got such and such an issue in our offshore,” says Pinks. “Being able to talk to them is a real benefit for us.”

About 10 years ago, Pinks says industry lamented that the level of oversight in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland’s offshore was costly. After Deepwater Horizon, industry expressed gratitude that Atlantic Canada has such a strong regulatory regime.

Nova Scotia has enough challenges such as climate and tricky geology, it shouldn’t make reaping the benefits of its offshore resources more difficult by having an unnecessarily sticky regulatory regime.

For oil companies, time is money and so their biggest concern with the regulatory process is efficiency.

“They want a process that holds them to high standards, but is done in the most expedient way possible,” Pinks says.

Canada is switching to goal-based regulations because technology advances quickly and prescriptive regulations can become outdated.

Prescriptive regulations set goals for what industry must achieve in terms of managing safety and managing environmental protection. It allows for the adoption of new technology and new practices very quickly.

This presents a challenge, though, as the job of a safety inspector becomes more difficult under a goal-based regime.

“The competency expectations of your inspectors and your surveyors does go up under a goal-based regime,” Pinks says.

To account for that, CNSOPB has what he calls “a robust training budget” and much of that training is done internationally.

Proponents of a separate safety regulator point to the benefits of such a change, but it must be remembered that it is not a panacea. In the United Kingdom, which has a powerful and autonomous safety regulator, there were two helicopter crashes around the same time that Cougar Flight 91 crashed into the North Atlantic – one three weeks before and the other three weeks after.

There are inherent dangers in the offshore industry and proponents of change would be wise not to focus solely on the structure of a safety regulator.

Even Justice Wells did not do that, although his name has become synonymous with that idea.

Wells said the safety on offshore installations has been greatly improved and that helicopter travel is probably the most dangerous part of the industry.

Many criticized Transport Canada following Cougar Flight 91, but it is not simply an aviation issue. There are risks with respect to flying helicopters in an ocean environment and industry needs to mitigate those as much as possible.

Lastly, anyone responsible for improving offshore safety would do well to heed this advice from Justice Wells.

“The bright light of public scrutiny is the best way to ensure … we get safety right, while at the same time understanding that it is an ongoing journey which never ends at a final destination.”

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The Council of Canadians raises concerns about fracking in Newfoundland

May 24th, 2013

For Immediate Release
May 24, 2013

The Council of Canadians is expressing solidarity with communities who are fighting proposals to frack on the West Coast of Newfoundland, including near the boundaries of Gros Morne National Park. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently announced that the park could be de-listed as a World Heritage site because of these onshore-to-offshore projects to frack for oil.

Black Spruce Exploration and Shoal Point Energy Ltd. have submitted plans that include fracking to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, but have yet to apply for a drilling permit with the Newfoundland and Labrador government. The companies plan to explore for oil and gas by drilling down on land and then horizontally under the Bay of St. Lawrence in the Port au Port / St. George’s Bay area, Sally’s Cove / Rocky Harbour and several other communities along the West Coast.

“We are alarmed that these companies have plans to frack within kilometres of Gros Morne National Park,” says Ken Kavanagh of the Council of Canadians’ St. John’s chapter. “It’s not just about Gros Morne, though. Communities all along the West Coast are getting informed and organizing to stop the proposed fracking projects from moving forward.”

“Opposition to fracking projects in the Atlantic region has been gaining momentum. Once people learn about all of the concerns and unanswered questions about hydraulic fracturing, they don’t want it in their communities,” says Angela Giles, Atlantic Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians.

UNESCO has also said it will be keeping tabs on the environmental review process related to the fracking projects. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, a past special adviser on water issues to the president of the UN General Assembly, says, “Fracking poses a serious threat to water and undoubtedly a former Chevron executive heading the regulatory board will not go unnoticed by UNESCO.” Barlow adds, “Gros Morne is a national treasure that must be protected.”

The Council of Canadians is calling for a ban on fracking in Newfoundland and Labrador, and is working in solidarity with several community groups on the West Coast of Newfoundland.


For more information or to arrange an interview:

Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685,
Twitter: @CouncilOfCDNs |

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