Lessons from Deepwater Horizon | Save Our Seas and Shores

The Canadian Press
Jan 15, 2016 2:05 pm EST

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Environmental activists who want a drilling moratorium in the Gulf of St. Lawrence weren’t impressed Friday as regulators extended an oil exploration licence for the Old Harry site by another year.

Corridor Resources Inc. (TSX-CDH) of Halifax had until Friday to offer a $1 million deposit to extend the licence until next January.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board announced the province and Ottawa agreed to waive the fee. Federal and provincial Natural Resources ministers ratified the move “in consideration of regulatory factors that have resulted in … delays in drilling a validation well in the final year of (Corridor’s) nine-year licence term,” the board said in a news release.

Spokesman Sean Kelly said no one was available for further comment.

Corridor Resources President and CEO Steve Moran referred all questions to the offshore petroleum board.

“It’s awful,” said Sylvain Archambault of the St. Lawrence Coalition, one of several environmental and indigenous groups across Canada that have called for a drilling moratorium in the Gulf.

“This is the third time they’ve obtained such a free pass.”

In its news release, the offshore board said it will soon announce plans for consultations with aboriginal groups and the public on related environmental assessments. Such regulatory requirements must be complete before any drilling goes ahead, Kelly confirmed in an email.

The federal government has estimated the Gulf and surrounding areas potentially hold 39 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.5 billion barrels of oil.

Indigenous groups and environmental activists have urged a moratorium in the Gulf pending a scientific review of risks. They also want to see collective management strategies involving the five adjacent provinces — Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Drilling would be close to the shore of any province,” Archambault said Friday in an interview. The Old Harry site is about 80 kilometres west of Newfoundland. One theory is that it was named for a community on the nearby Magdalen Islands.

“Scientific spill scenarios clearly show that the west coast of Newfoundland would be impacted as well as Cape Breton and the Magdalen Islands,” Archambault said.

“In the Gulf there are fisheries worth over $1.5 billion. There’s tourism, communities living all around the Gulf. We really don’t want the same scenario that happened in the Gulf of Mexico to repeat itself here.”

The Deepwater Horizon explosion April 20, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 rig workers. An estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil spewed into the water before engineers could cap the blown-out well 87 days later.

“And the Old Harry drilling site would be smack in the middle of the Laurentian Channel which is the highway used by all the migrating species — whales, salmon, cod,” Archambault said. “Anything happening there would be disastrous.”

Source: 680 News

The Gulf of St. Lawrence as seen from space. “Highly significant ecological areas such the Gulf should be top on our list to declare off-limits, whether oil is at $40 or $400 a barrel,” writes Gretchen Fitzgerald of the Sierra Club. (NASA)


November 16, 2015

Your Nov. 7 Weekend Focus: “Oil, Water and Old Harry” got it wrong when it implied that oil prices are the most important obstacle to oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The implication of this slant is that if oil prices rise, we will see development go ahead. The article also got it wrong when it implied that the threat of one oil well was insignificant to the Gulf’s ecology and economy. Finally, the article also ignored the fact that a single well, as damaging as it could be, is merely the toehold for future development, and that in the context of global climate change, it is imperative we shift away from these dangerous fossil fuel projects.

Groups have been fighting oil and gas development in the Gulf long before oil prices dipped. As the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore petroleum board acknowledged in 2010, they had never received such an intense public response to a project before they announced they were considering exploration at Old Harry in the middle of the Gulf.

This is because the Gulf is a unique place that is particularly vulnerable to oil development — and many people, from fishermen to scientists to national environmental groups such as Sierra Club feel strongly about this. This opposition will outlast the vagaries of oil price fluctuations.

Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director, Atlantic Canada chapter, Sierra Club Canada (Photo: Flickr)

Granted, because there has been no arm’s-length, ecosystem-wide assessment for oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, it is difficult to figure out what the whole story is.

Although a single ecosystem, parts of Gulf waters are considered jurisdiction of five eastern provinces and the federal government. The Gulf is also considered traditional territory for indigenous communities that have fished and lived on its shores for millennia. Our previous federal government’s lack of ability or willingness to play a co-ordinating role to oversee complex, inter-jurisdictional issues like the Gulf has added to the confusion.

As I write, consultations are underway in Quebec to assess the impacts of developing provincial petroleum resources, and mirror legislation has been passed provincially and introduced federally to create a management scheme similar to our offshore Accord Act — potentially opening up the Quebec portion of the Gulf to development.

Similarly, consultations are underway in Newfoundland to assess fracking, and the area that has experienced the most intense interest from fracking companies is located in the Gulf, off the West Coast of Newfoundland.

As we witnessed when the BP spill spewed billions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, quickly followed by a toxic brew of dispersant chemicals designed to hide the oil under the surface (chemicals that oil companies can now be permitted to use in Canada), an exploratory well can have devastating impacts.

Only one-quarter of the three billion barrels of crude spilled in the BP disaster is accounted for, and tar balls still wash up on beaches. Mangroves that are nurseries for sea life — similar to the salt marshes in our Gulf of St. Lawrence —have been damaged or destroyed. Dolphins have been poisoned by the oil, and marine mammal strandings have spiked since the spill.

Oil and chemical traces are found in fish and shellfish in the Gulf of Mexico, with unknown consequences for their development and the food chain. Imagine the impact of a similar spill on the marine mammals, sea turtles and fish that now live in our Gulf — which is six times smaller in size than the Gulf of Mexico.

As the BP spill illustrated, one exploratory well is certainly enough to damage our Gulf and the communities it supports. But one well would probably lead to others, increasing the risk with each additional project.

In the weeks leading up to UN negotiations on climate change in Paris, we need to acknowledge that some oil will need to be left in the ground to secure our future. Highly significant ecological areas such the Gulf should be top on our list to declare off-limits, whether oil is at $40 or $400 a barrel.

Gretchen Fitzgerald is director, Atlantic Canada chapter, Sierra Club Canada Foundation.

Source: Chronicle Herald

When the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout spewed 5-million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, one of the main tools used against the oil was a chemical dispersant called Corexit. 7-million litres of this detergent-like chemical was used to break up oil slicks, in part to disperse the oil into the water and prevent contamination of coastlines, birds, and marine mammals.

It was also thought that dissolving the slicks like this would increase the rate at which natural bacteria would bio-degrade the oil. But work by Dr. Samantha Joye, a microbiologist in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, and her colleagues, has shown that Corexit seems to inhibit, rather than facilitate, the ability of microbes to break down oil, leaving the toxic oil in the water for longer.

This throws into question a big part of the case for using chemical dispersant on oil spills.

Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, studies the oil plumes generated by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout. (Credit: Todd Dickey/University of Georgia)

“The dispersants did a great job in that they got the oil off the surface,” Joye said. “What you see is the dispersants didn’t ramp up biodegradation.”

In fact, she found the oil with no dispersant “degraded a heckuva lot faster than the oil with dispersants,” Joye said.

Joye’s team chronicled nearly 50,000 species of bacteria in the Gulf and what they did to the water with oil, and water with oil and dispersant.

One of the main groups of oil munchers are fat little sausage-shaped bacteria called marinobacters, Joye said. They eat oil all the time and comprise about 3 percent of the bacteria in normal water. But when there’s oil, they eat and multiply like crazy until they are as much as 42 percent of the bacteria, Joye said.

But when the dispersant was applied, they didn’t grow. They stayed around 3 percent, Joye said.

Instead, a different family of bugs called colwellia multiplied more, and they don’t do nearly as good a job at munching the oil, Joye said. She theorized that for some reason the dispersant and marinobacters just don’t work together.

So if the oil wasn’t degraded by the bacteria, the question remains: Where did it go? Joye guesses it might still be on the floor of the gulf.

Should authorities avoid dispersants in the future? “That’s an extraordinarily complicated question,” says Joye. Corexit has its problems, but it does seem to keep oil away from coasts. “Nobody wants to see oiled birds, turtles, and dolphins, but the bottom line is that if you disperse that oil, it’s still in the water. You feel better, but is it improving the situation? My gut instinct is that I would put my faith in the microbial communities to do their job.”

Listen to CBC podcast interview with Dr. Samantha Joye
Associated Press
The Atlantic

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

SumofUs petition Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board – sign now, to pressure CNSOPB to refuse Shell’s application

Shell wouldn’t have to cap an oil spill for 21 days? Outrageous.

This is Shell’s dream. The Canadian government just gave it permission to drill for oil off Nova Scotia’s coast — and the company doesn’t need to cap an oil blowout for 21 days.

Are they kidding? Shell will be allowed to freely spill oil into the ocean for three weeks — potentially wreaking environmental havoc on Nova Scotia’s amazing marine life, major fishing grounds, coastal communities and the Sable Island National Park Reserve, the world’s largest breeding colony of grey seals.

And it’s all so Shell can save a few bucks by not having to keep safety equipment nearby.

The U.S. requires oil companies to cap blowouts within 24 hours. Canada is giving Shell three weeks to bring equipment in from Norway after a blowout happens — 5,000 kilometres away.

Shell is gambling with our oceans to cut its own costs. But we have a chance to stop it. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) still has to make its final decision on Shell’s application. If we overwhelm it with objections, we can stop Shell.

Tell the Petroleum Board to refuse Shell’s application to drill in Nova Scotia.

Shell wants to drill up to seven exploratory wells — which are especially risky and prone to large spills — off the coast of Nova Scotia in the next four years. If a blowout did happen, it would be catastrophic for Nova Scotia’s major fishing grounds. Haddock, lobster and crab stocks would be at risk, as would whales, dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and hundreds of species of migratory birds.

When a spill happens, safety equipment would have to travel 5,000 kilometres or more just to cap the spill. And worse, some of the backup safety equipment is located in South Africa, a staggering 12,000 kilometres away.

BP’s DeepWater Horizon disaster taught us just how devastating a prolonged blowout can be for wildlife, habitat and livelihoods. But some believe a blowout in Nova Scotia could be even worse — because the oil wells would be in much deeper water and a much harsher environment, and because of a lack of technological capability on Shell’s part.

The SumOfUs community has stood up to Big Oil’s destruction of the environment, and we’ve had a major impact. Hundreds of thousands of us came together to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic, and to demand that Chevron pay for its crimes in the Amazon. Now, let’s stand together to keep Shell out of Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Petroleum Board: refuse Shell’s application to drill in Nova Scotia!



More information:

Shell gets OK to take 21 days to cap blowouts off Nova Scotia coast, CBC News, 5 August 2015
Canada Gives Shell Permission to Leave Future Offshore Well Blowout Uncapped for 21 Days, the U.S. Gives 24 Hours, DeSmog Canada, 7 August 2015

CBC News – Nova Scotia

Environmentalist says it’s ‘almost inconceivable’ to give oil giant that much time to act

By Zak Markan, CBC News Posted: Aug 05, 2015 6:30 AM AT Last Updated: Aug 05, 2015 4:11 PM AT

A Nova Scotia environmentalist is criticizing federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s decision to approve an “almost inconceivable” offshore drilling plan from Shell that allows up to 21 days to contain a subsea blowout, despite the U.S. requiring the same company to cap blowouts within 24 hours.

On June 15, Aglukkaq signed off on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s assessment of Shell Canada’s Shelburne Basin Venture Exploration Drilling Project.

Shell Canada’s spill containment plan, accepted by the agency, says it can have a primary capping stack in place within 12 to 21 days after a blowout off southern Nova Scotia.

The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board has not given Shell approval to do exploratory drilling yet.


John Davis, a long-time environmentalist who spends a lot of time on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, says any company getting 21 days to stop a subsea blowout is ‘almost inconceivable.’ (CBC)

John Davis, a long-time environmentalist who spends a lot of time on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, said Shell’s plan doesn’t make sense.

“It seems to me almost inconceivable that [Shell] would give themselves up to 21 days to stop a blowout in an area that is so close to all of our major fishing ground here on the South Shore,” he told CBC’sInformation Morning.

In the environmental assessment for the project, Shell Canada said the capping stack equipment would be brought in from Stavanger, Norway.

Shell said it would also deploy a backup capping stack from either Scotland, South Africa, Singapore or Brazil.

Stark contrast to U.S. regulation

Davis said the decision to allow Shell up to 21 days to cap a blowout in the Shelburne Basin is in stark contrast to what U.S. regulators are requiring from Shell for an exploratory drilling project in the Chukchi Sea in Alaska.

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has given Shell an exploration permit on the condition that it must have a capping stack on a vessel nearby on standby that must be deployed within 24 hours of a blowout.

“What Shell said to our regulator is, ‘There isn’t a capping stack available in Canada, nor in North America. Nor is there a vessel capable of moving and maintaining that capping stack, so we can’t have one here because there isn’t one,’” said Davis.

“The reality is, there is no capping stack and there is no vessel anywhere unless the oil companies are forced to have it near their drill site by the regulators.

“The vessel carrying the capping stack to the drill site [off Alaska] came from Norway. It simply doesn’t make sense that you could accept that argument,” Davis said.

CBC News has requested interviews with Environment Canada and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to explain Aglukkaq’s reasoning for approving Shell Canada’s well containment plan for Shelburne Basin. They deferred questions to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.

The board wasn’t available for comment Wednesday, but said it will speak to the issue later in the week.

Link to this story and listen to Information Morning Interview with John Davis

July 22, 2015 John McCauley, CPA CMA Director, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency 160 Elgin Street, 22nd Floor Ottawa ON K1A 0H3 Tel.: 613-948-1785 Fax: 613-957-0897

Email: Regulations@ceaa-acee.gc.ca

Dear Mr. McCauley,

Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, a coalition of fishermen, First Nations, environmental organizations, and concerned citizens has been advocating protection of the Gulf of St Lawrence from offshore oil and gas development for over fifteen years.

We are advocating this protection due to our Gulf’s extremely sensitive nature, counter-clockwise currents that only empty into the Atlantic once a year, winter ice cover and prime breeding grounds for over 2,200 marine species that spawn, nurse and migrate year round.

Given that the offshore oil and gas industry already has unfettered access to approx. 88% of East Coast waters, with only Georges Bank under moratorium, the fact that we are still fighting for the Gulf’s protection after all this time indicates the disrespect we feel our federal government has for the hundreds of coastal communities and multi-billion dollar renewable fishery and tourism industries in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, who rely on our Gulf for its sustenance. We are growing tired of this disrespect, given that our livelihoods go directly back into our coastal communities and into municipal, provincial and federal coffers.

At this time, we are writing to comment on the proposed regulations that would make the Canada–Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (the Nova Scotia Board) a responsible authority under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012).

In our opinion, 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. Rather, we consider this a dangerous precedent.

We are profoundly discouraged that CEAA, a federal agency whose legislated mandate is to protect Canada’s environment (and the public interest) would consider such an ill-conceived notion. It is a step backwards. We urge you to reconsider these proposed regulations.

Do you remember the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster? Allow us to stir your memory:

Five Years After BP Spill, New Rules to Boost Safety -LA Times April 20, 2015: “On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people in one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters. For 87 days, the country was transfixed by images of millions of barrels of oil gushing from the seafloor, coating marine life and soiling more than a thousand miles of coast from Texas to Florida. The spill of 3.19 million barrels of oil into the gulf, an amount determined by a federal judge, upended how the federal government regulates offshore drilling… According to a study prepared by the Natural Resources Defense Council, more than $11.6 billion has been paid to individuals. Commercial fisherman could lose $8.7 billion by 2020 along with 22,000 jobs, and lost tourism dollars are more than $22.7 billion. “As many as 5,000 marine mammals may have been killed along with 1,000 sea turtles and nearly 1 million coastal and offshore seabirds, the environmental group said.” “Before the disaster, the Minerals Management Service, part of the Department of the Interior, was the one-stop federal agency handling all issues related to natural gas and oil production on the continental shelf. It awarded leases, collected royalties, conducted environmental impact studies and carried out safety inspections — prompting complaints that its mission created CONFLICTS OF INTEREST. For example, how could the same agency seeking to increase oil revenue be trusted to strictly regulate safety, which could cut income? A month after the disaster, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered that the agency be split into the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue. Each arm focused on a different task, separating revenue from safety and both from leasing issues.

Separation is good for all of the agencies, said Eileen P. Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. “I think it allows us to focus on our mission and to do it more effectively than before.””

Mr. McCauley, it is clear from these comments that separating its environmental protection from the same agency that promotes offshore oil and gas development has been good for the US.

Why won’t Canada do this? A separate safety regulator was recommended by the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry in Newfoundland so why is CEAA apparently choosing to ignore Recommendation 29 of the Wells Inquiry?

It is our position that the proposed effort to entrench industry controlled boards into Canada’s Environmental Assessment agency is an initiative that will take us backwards, further weakening Canada’s environmental protection. Further, it will deepen and will make even worse the conflict of interest that the C-NSOPB and the Newfoundland Board (C-NLOPB) are already in.

We strongly oppose these proposed regulations.

Sincerely, Mary Gorman

Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition

CTV News
July 8/2015

MONTREAL — Quebec must impose a 12-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to give time for a comprehensive assessment on possible risks to the ecosystem, the chiefs of three native groups said Wednesday.

The waters of the St. Lawrence are vital to the livelihoods of the Innu, Mi’kmaq and Maliseet nations and should be protected, they told a news conference in Montreal as the Assembly of First Nations continued its annual meeting.

They also asked federal party leaders to tell voters ahead of this fall’s election where they stand on the protection of the Gulf from development.

Mi’kmaq Chief Scott Martin said he feared an environmental catastrophe in the St. Lawrence similar to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that devastated parts of the southern U.S. coastline.

Martin added there are currently “numerous knowledge gaps” within oil-industry reports on risks associated with drilling along the waterway.

“The gulf is a highly productive body of water and diversity is very rich,” he told reporters. “No one can tell us what effect a blowout like a Deepwater Horizon can have on the food chain.”

Martin said he wants an “integrated assessment” of all the risks involved with resource exploitation in the area before Quebec grants exploration or drilling permits.

The chiefs said they decided the moratorium should last 12 years after calculating the time they thought it would take to conduct studies, write reports and consult the public.

Resource exploitation along the St. Lawrence River cannot be carried out without their consent, the chiefs said, adding the Supreme Court of Canada ruled native people must be consulted and accommodated before their territory can be used for commercial development.

Some chiefs were more hard line than others.

Innu Chief Jean-Charles Pietacho said his people won’t be silenced with petrodollars.

“Never will I accept royalties that come from (the oil and gas sector),” he said.

Anne Archambault, grand chief of the Viger Maliseet First Nation, was more nuanced in her comments, saying she needed to consult her people before deciding on royalties.

She said her people’s ancestral rights to the Atlantic salmon “take precedence over oil,” adding 95 per cent of her community’s revenue comes from the salmon industry.

Source: http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/native-groups-seek-oil-and-gas-moratorium-in-gulf-of-st-lawrence-1.2459801

Native groups demand protection of Gulf from oil and gas development The Telegram

July 8/2015

Chiefs from the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Nations are demanding that federal party leaders tell voters whether they will protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence’s unique and vital ecosystem.

With Québec proposing to open the Gulf of St. Lawrence to oil and gas exploration, Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho of the Innu of Ekuanitshit said in a news release, “This is an issue that affects the livelihoods of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in five provinces and it is the federal government’s responsibility to protect them.”

The release notes that last month, Québec announced it would lift a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf and begin granting permits once legislation is in place. Newfoundland has already granted an exploration permit at the Old Harry Prospect, northeast of the Magdelen Islands, but drilling has not yet been allowed.

It says both Québec and Newfoundland’s powers are from the federal government and they will need federal government approval for major decisions. Old Harry is at the boundary used by Canada to assign each province its regulatory authority.

“The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico five years ago was an exploration well, like what the provincial governments want to allow,” said Chief Scott Martin of the Mi’gmaq of Listuguj. “We want federal party leaders to tell the people of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Québec whether they are willing to risk that kind of catastrophe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.”

A strategic environmental assessment by Québec concluded that a catastrophe on the scale of Deepwater Horizon is “plausible” if exploration goes ahead. The native groups stress in their news release that results would be devastating for a commercial fishery around the Gulf worth $1.5 billion annually and a tourism industry that generates another $800 million per year.

The Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq communities of Québec formed an alliance in 2013 for the protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. At the Assembly of First Nations meeting in Halifax in 2014, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq chiefs from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined them in calling for a moratorium.

“The salmon has sustained our peoples since time immemorial and it migrates through the Gulf before it returns to our rivers to spawn,” said Grand Chief Anne Archambault of the Viger Maliseet First Nation. “We have rights protected under the Constitution to harvest what the Gulf gives to us and those rights take precedence over oil and gas.”

Source: http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2015-07-08/article-4207843/Native-groups-demand-protection-of-Gulf-from-oil-and-gas-development/1

The award winning documentary “The Great Invisible” premieres on “Independent Lens” on PBS and on Pivot, Participant Media’s television network, on the fifth anniversary of the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, Monday, April 20, 2015. This will be a rare opportunity to learn about the potential risks of planned deep water drilling in our own Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

View the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDw1budbZpQ

Film description from Participant Media:

“On April 20, 2010, communities throughout the Gulf Coast of the United States were devastated by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, a state-of-the-art, offshore oil rig operated by BP in the Gulf of Mexico. The blast killed 11 of 126 rig crewmembers and injured many more, setting off a fireball that was seen 35 miles away. After burning for two days, the Deepwater Horizon sank, causing the largest offshore oil spill in American history. The spill flowed unabated for almost three months, dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic ocean, shutting down the local fishing industry, polluting the fragile ecosystem, and raising serious questions about the safety of continued deep-water offshore drilling.

Brown traveled to small towns and major cities across Alabama, Louisiana and Texas to explore the fallout of the environmental disaster. Years later, the Southern Americans still haunted by the Deepwater Horizon explosion provide first-hand accounts of their ongoing experience, long after the story has faded from the front page”.