Stopping the flow The Guardian Jim Day
October 15, 2013
Series of talks in P.E.I. highlight risks of oil drilling in St. Lawrence
Sylvain Archambault has encountered his share of indifference towards oil and gas exploration and drilling.
The general public, he notes, often view the practice in a “very neutral way.”
Offer them with some cold, hard, disturbing facts, though, and they can quickly snap to attention, says Archambault.
(Click here for times and locations of talks)
He believes information – good, solid information – is the key to winning converts in a growing campaign to rally support to convince government to place a moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.
Archambault, who has a Masters in Science, co-founded the St. Lawrence Coalition in 2010 in the Magdalen Islands because “new projects by Corridor Resources was really giving concerns to the people.”
His coalition has since grown to 85 organizations with 4,500 individuals from all walks of life. Scientists, NGOs, tourism operators and fishermen are among the coalition members.
Archambault and his coalition have their sights set squarely on raising awareness of what he considers serious threats posed by the prospect of oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“Our main purpose is to document things, inform the people, influence policy and try to gain a Gulf-wide moratorium in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” he said at a media conference in Charlottetown Tuesday.
“There is no rush in going in with oil and gas (exploration and drilling) in the Gulf and we definitely need a comprehensive public review – five provinces plus the federal (government) – to have a global look at this body of water.”
Archambault says Corridor Resources, a junior company with no offshore experience, is proposing to drill in the middle of one of the most productive channels of the entire Gulf in the “Old Harry” prospect between Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands.
“They have experience on land in New Brunswick – conventional gas, shale gas – but they have no offshore experience,” he says.
He adds the company continues to demonstrate an “arrogant attitude” towards environmental concerns.
Archambault is also concerned with the Quebec government repeatedly voicing its determination to go ahead with oil and gas exploration and perhaps even development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
He notes people often say Newfoundland is drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, so why not drill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence?
“It’s a very, very different picture,” he counters.
“Often the Atlantic is 350 kilometres from the shore…whereas in the Gulf it is a close ecosystem.”
Archambault is in Prince Edward Island this week as the featured speaker in a series of public meetings designed to raise awareness of the serious threats posed by oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The P.E.I. chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores (SOSS P.E.I.) are hosting the series. They are also providing along with Archambault a diverse panel to offer information and to answer questions from the public.
One panelist, marine scientist Irené Novaczek, says the Gulf of St. Lawrence has already been heavily impacted by climate change contributing to the northern cod and the groundfish being “fished down” to a precariously low level.
“Now you add to that more industrial pollution from oil and gas extraction and increased ultra violet light from a thinning ozone layer, you have set yourself up a scenario where the Gulf of St. Lawrence could flip from a precariously healthy ecosystem – damaged that it is now – to a dead zone,” says Novaczek, who serves as an SOSS scientific advisor.
“Industrial activity could be enough to push it over the edge.”
Mike McGeoghegan, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association, says there has been a lack of consultation with the fishing community in Atlantic Canada.
“I need to have some more answers before I even look at this thing,” he says.
“We need a moratorium on this thing right now until we…find out what is going on.”
P.E.I. tourism operator Peter Baker fears a spill of any kind, with even the perception that oil would wash ashore in P.E.I., would be a dagger to the heart of the province’s tourism industry.
Archambault notes that the Gulf’s unique, biodiverse ecosystem supports a multi-billion dollar fishery and tourism industries.