Regulatory Issues | Save Our Seas and Shores | Page 2

WEEKEND FOCUS AARON BESWICK Truro Bureau Chronicle Herald November 6, 2015

Actor Ethan Hawke, right, stands with Mi’kmaq elder Robert Pictou as he attends their community’s water ceremony on the shores of Pomquet Harbour last month to support the aboriginal call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (ANDREW VAUGHAN / CP)

Low gas prices may be bigger obstacle than ecological concerns

Ethan Hawke might want to keep his powder dry.

When the Hollywood star held a news conference two weeks ago in Antigonish County with local First Nations and a group opposed to oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the media’s spotlight shone hard.

But after Hawke and all the reporters drove away in their gas-powered vehicles, two important questions remained.

If our society relies on hydrocarbons that we drill for on the Scotian Shelf and import from around the world, then why can’t we drill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence?

And how realistic is it that commercially viable oil will be found in the gulf anyway?

“The incredibly and blatantly obvious statement to make is that with oil prices down in numbers that start with a four (around US$40 dollars a barrel), the economic viability of many projects is not good,” said Gregory Chornoboy, a former oil industry analyst in Calgary who has reported on Corridor Resources.

“That would be an expensive well to drill.”

All the hype is around the plan of a Halifax junior exploration company to drill one exploratory well on a geological feature called Old Harry, about 80 kilometres west of Newfoundland’s most southern point.

“Old Harry has all the attributes required to hold a large resource,” said Grant Wach, a Dalhousie University geology professor who specializes in petroleum geoscience.

“But we won’t know until we drill.”

Basically, Old Harry is a big bubble of sandstone underneath the sea floor that is covered by shale rock.

Sandstone is important because it is filled with all kinds of little holes that can hold oil or gas. The shale is important because it works like a bottle cap, preventing the hydrocarbons from being released into the water.

So Corridor’s seismic data has indicated Old Harry is a good gas can. What’s not known is whether it’s empty.

A 2009 assessment by the Geological Survey of Canada estimated 39 trillion cubic feet of in-place natural gas and 1.5 billion barrels of oil in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, which includes Old Harry.

Those are big numbers that grabbed a lot of attention from the political and industrial leaders of the five cash-strapped provinces bordering the Gulf of St. Lawrence and from those opposed to oil exploration due to environmental concerns.

But don’t keep your eyes peeled on the horizon for tugs towing drilling rigs.

There have been 10 exploratory wells drilled in the gulf since 1944, none of which resulted in oil getting pumped out of the ground. Just one exploration well costs tens of millions of dollars to drill.

According to Corridor Resource’s annual reports, it has been unsuccessfully seeking a partner with deep pockets to fund its Old Harry exploration since 1997. In 2012, it went farther and hired consulting firm Macquarie Tristone to help it find a partner, but still no luck.

The price of oil, meanwhile, is half what it was in 2012.

“That’s always been a mystery to me,” Wach said when asked why a partner hasn’t been found.

“The geology is good and the technical staff at Corridor is superb. If this were in Alberta, it would be a slam dunk.”

But the communities surrounding the Gulf of St. Lawrence are a long way from Alberta.

“In the absence of objective scientific evidence stating that oil and gas activities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence poses no real risks to our eco-system and to our renewable resources, all hydrocarbon exploration activities, including seismic testing, should be suspended,” reads a letter signed by 20 fishermen’s associations, fish plant owners and First Nations leaders recently sent to the federal ministers of environment, fisheries and oceans and natural resources.

Then there’s David Suzuki, the Sierra Club and a host of grassroots environmental groups adamantly opposed to more drilling in the gulf.

The image of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burning and sinking after a blowout in 2010 still holds power over a lot of minds on the East Coast.

Representatives of Shell Canada and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board were grilled by the legislature’s resource committee on response plans in the event of a blowout during drilling of two exploration wells about 250 kilometres southwest of Shelburne over the next 10 months.

So if we allow drilling on the Atlantic coast, why would we not allow it in the gulf? Both are important fishing grounds that could be badly hurt by an oil spill.

And the boats that take fishermen, scientists and tourists out to both waterways are powered by hydrocarbons that came out of the ground somewhere.

“We recognize as a society that not every activity can take place everywhere,” said Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University.

“We don’t do nuclear testing everywhere. We don’t build polluting industries in residential areas.”

He said he doesn’t think there should be drilling on the Scotian Shelf or in the gulf. But the gulf, said Worm, would be particularly sensitive to a spill due to a combination of geography and biology.

It exchanges water with the Atlantic Ocean through the Cabot Strait and the Strait of Belle Isle. This means that water circulates around the gulf before draining out.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is also significantly colder than the Gulf of Mexico and lacks the bacteria that work to naturally break down oil. So oil spilled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and carried into river estuaries would be there for a long time, said Worm.

Those salt marsh estuaries, protected by the Atlantic’s big waves, are nurseries for all manner of sea creatures. The spartina salt grasses of those estuaries, meanwhile, produce more biological matter per hectare than the rainforest and flush it out to fuel the ocean food web.

Wach said the industry has learned a lot since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and people should take a holistic view. Oil tankers and large ships carrying many chemicals pass through the gulf daily on their way to fuel the industries of Central Canada; those, he said, are a greater risk than a single exploratory well.

The stakes are high. The decision on whether Corridor gets permission to drill will fall to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, responsible for the area of the gulf in which most of Old Harry is located.

Corridor is midway through the board’s environmental assessment process, which has drawn lots of public comment from those opposed to the project.

“Geologists are usually optimists, so I do think it will happen,” said Wach.

But geologists don’t hold the purse strings. Those who do at big companies like British Petroleum and Shell haven’t come forward yet to team up with Corridor.

While no-one from the company was available to comment this week on Old Harry, president Steve Moran provided a written statement.

“Corridor is confident it can proceed safely and responsibly with its exploration programs at Old Harry, under Canada’s rigorous environmental regulation,” Moran wrote.

“This exploration program is currently before the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. Corridor will continue to address any issues raised as part of this regulatory process.”

Source: Chronicle Herald

Fishing Industry Raises Concerns over Oil and Gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Press Release, July 21/2015

In a powerful show of unity, First Nation communities and fishing industry representatives call on the Federal Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment, and Fisheries to suspend petroleum development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence until it can determine that these activities would pose no risk to commercial fisheries.

The Gulf’s Aboriginal Communities, Harvester, and Processor Associations, call on the federal government to hear public concerns and evaluate the risks of drilling in a semi- enclosed body of water that supports hundreds of coastal communities in 5 provinces.

“The government is ignoring that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is partially landlocked and one of the most sensitive and productive marine breeding regions in Canada with over 2,200 marine species that spawn, nurse and migrate year around. Due to the sensitive nature of the St. Lawrence it unlikely that a billion dollar fishing industry could withstand oil and gas development,” says Marilyn Clark, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association.  Although Strategic Environmental assessment (SEA) have been undertaken by both Newfoundland and Quebec, these inadequate assessments failed to look at the Gulf as a whole, she said.

“We know there is very little capacity to respond to an oil spill due to high winds and counter clockwise currents that only empty into the Atlantic once a year, leaving NS, NB, PEI, QC and NL coastlines vulnerable to contamination. Despite this, the environmental assessment process has been downgraded to allow companies to drill exploratory wells without consulting people depending on these waters for their livelihoods,” states fisherman Leonard Leblanc of Cheticamp, Nova Scotia.

Spill simulations undertaken by the Rimouski Institute of Ocean Science demonstrate that fish and plankton critical to the Gulf’s food chain would have to migrate through oil at both the Laurentian Channel and Straight of Belle Isle, which are entry and exit regions critical to the Gulf’s entire eco-system.

Even Corridor Resources, who wants to drill at Old Harry, acknowledge in their EA report that: “There are environmental and technological constraints to response and cleanup. High sea states and visibility are examples of typical environmental constraints, while technological constraints include pumping capacity of oil recovery devices and effectiveness of chemical dispersants.” Furthermore, several months of ice coverage in the winter escalate these important limitations.

Nearly two years ago, First Nations formed the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Alliance and signed an agreement to protect the Gulf from Oil and Gas Development. They have recently renewed this commitment and reiterated their request for a 12 year Moratorium.

To date, they have yet to be consulted on the Old Harry project.

“Quebec’s Environment Assessment (SEA) detailed many gaps in knowledge and understanding of the Gulf of St Lawrence.  We have existing Aboriginal rights and constitutionally protected Treaty Rights as recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada. We will do all that is necessary to protect our way of life and prevent any exploratory plan to be carried out in the Gulf,” explains Troy Jerome, Executive Director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat.

In the event of a spill, Canadian law demands a company to have a measly 1 billion dollars of compensation monies. This is deeply inadequate when you consider that Gulf fisheries are worth more than one billion each year. Investments in boats, licenses, and fish plants dependent on renewable resources for their operations are worth far more than these proposed damages. The BP Macondo disaster cost BP over $40 billion dollars so far and could cost the company over $60billion due to ongoing litigation.

“How do you quantify damages to living species that have been around for thousands of years if you are not even taking into account ecological value?” asks Clark. “In short, the Gulf of St. Lawrence fishing industry will accept no less than a full, independent expert review panel, acting in the 5 provinces, as is warranted by public concerns in section 38 (2) b of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act”, she concludes.

For further information contact:

Marilyn Clark 902.774.0006 (French/English)
Director Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association

Troy Jerome 506.759.2000 (French/English) Executive Director

Nutewistoq, Mi’gmawei, Mawiomi Secretariat

Statement of Support for First Nations’ Call for Moratorium

The PEI Chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores (SOSS) would like to offer its full support to the Innu, Maliseet, and Mi’gmaq First Nations of Eastern Canada as they call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. These First Nations communities are right to protest a lack of adequate consultation during the planning of offshore petroleum development in the Gulf.

“Public consultation for Newfoundland’s recently released Strategic Environmental Assessment Update was wholly inadequate and had no discernible influence on the conclusions made” according to SOSS PEI member Colin Jeffrey.

“The silence around the issue of drilling for oil at the Old Harry site is deafening.  The health of the Gulf’s fragile ecosystem is vital for sustaining marine life and livelihoods here in PEI, as well as in our neighbouring provinces. We must insist on more effective public engagement and consultation during the decision making process to give voice to those who wish to protect the integrity of the Gulf and our way of life for generations to come” according to lobster fisherman and SOSS PEI member Ian Forgeron.

The PEI chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores will continue to support all who stand against degradation of this fragile ecosystem through offshore petroleum development.  Together we can protect this important inland sea for the benefit of all Atlantic Canadians.

PEI | Save Our Seas and Shores | Page 2

Prince Edward Islanders are also responding!

Here is Ellie Reddin’s submission to the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

August 6, 2013

Elizabeth Young Environmental Assessment Officer Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board Fifth Floor, TD Place 140 Water St.

St. John’s, NL A1C 6H6

Dear Ms. Young:

Thank you for sending me a copy of the draft Western Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Update report and inviting me to provide comments. I found the report to be informative and extensive. These are my comments:

Consultation report:
Throughout the draft report, references to feedback from the consultation sessions refer to wide-ranging and diverse comments, but do not indicate that comments urging protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence from oil and gas exploration and development were much more frequent than those promoting such activity. Of 81 written submissions included on the C-NLOPB website, only seven were in favour of exploration and development. In addition, I counted 516 comments from the consultation sessions in the draft Consultation Report (Appendix A). Only eight of these comments were in support of oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf and two of those eight comments included caveats regarding environmental issues. If one were to read the draft report without reading the detailed consultation results, one would be led to believe pro-development comments were as frequent as cautionary comments. That is simply not the case. The final report should more accurately reflect the fact that the great preponderance of comments opposed oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf.

Oil spills:
The draft report repeatedly states that accidental oil spills and blowouts are “unlikely” or “rare”. This repetition serves to downplay the eventuality of spills.

One of the studies noted in the draft report (p. 57) estimated blowout frequency during exploration drilling at 1 in 267 wells, based on US data from 1980-2010. A second estimate (1 in 6,250), also mentioned on page 57, is said to be “based on more recent data”, but it covers 1988-2009 so it is not based on more recent data, just a shorter time period. Also, it is clear that the 1 in 267 wells estimate is based on approximately 12,000 US offshore exploration wells, but no information is provided about the number, type or location of wells included in the lower estimate.

The above-noted estimates are for blowouts only. Spills not constituting blowouts are much more common.

In the NL Offshore Area, using C-NLOPB data, the draft report (pp. 58-59) indicates there were 238 spills greater than one liter in sixteen years with a total spill volume (including smaller spills) of 469,144 liters and an average of 29,322 liters of oil spilled per year. Spills have occurred in every year. Clearly, spills are not “unlikely”. The statistical probability of catastrophic blowouts might be low, but minor spills are apparently inevitable.

Given the much longer history of oil and gas exploration and development off the east coast of Newfoundland, one would assume that the spill data is from that area, although that is not explicitly stated in the draft report. The cumulative effects over time of minor spills in the sensitive, semi-enclosed Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem would be much more serious than in the Atlantic Ocean and the effect of even one large spill or blowout could be devastating. The final report should avoid minimizing the serious risks posed by oil spills in the Gulf by removing the frequently repeated statements that they are unlikely.

Use of Dispersants:
In Table 2.2 (p. 19) it is stated that the topic of “use of oil dispersants and their potential effects” is addressed in Sections 3.1, 3.2, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, and 5.5, but in fact this issue is not addressed at all. I could find no information in the draft report about the use of dispersants, in particular Corexit, to clean up oil spills. Recent research from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes (UAA), Mexico, found that mixing Corexit with oil increased toxicity of the mixture up to 52-fold over the oil alone. [See and , as well as the video link in the next paragraph. The final report should indicate whether dispersants are being used in the NL Offshore and, if so, should discuss the potential harm caused by dispersants and recommend alternative methods for dealing with oil spills.

Long-term Impact of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Blowout:
Table 5.1 on page 392 includes the following statement regarding the Gulf of Mexico blowout: “There is no clear picture yet concerning short-and-long-term effects on habitats and marine organisms.” This 37 minute video documents some of the short-term and long-term impacts.

Hydraulic Fracturing:
On pp. 429-430, the draft report mentions some research on the possible contamination of drinking water arising from hydraulic fracturing. The following article discusses a study which found contamination of drinking water with methane, ethane and propane near shale gas wells in Pennsylvania.

Fall 2012 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development:
The Commissioner’s report is mentioned in passing on page 70. In addition, several references throughout the draft SEA update report are made to C-NLOPB’s commitment to follow up on one of the Commissioner’s recommendations by completing a review of the spill response capability of operators under its jurisdiction. The Commissioner’s report ought to be taken very seriously. All of the recommendations and C-NLOPB’s response to each should be set out more fully in the final SEA update report.

Use of Acronyms:
Acronyms are used throughout the draft report and it is difficult for the reader to always remember what they represent. All acronyms used and the full titles they represent should be listed at the front of the final report for reference. This is a minor point, but it would make the report easier to read.

As stated on page 5 of the draft report, “The specific ‘strategic decision’ that the SEA Update is intended to inform is therefore whether to issue further exploration licenses in the Western NL Offshore Area, and if so, to identify any environmental components and issues which should be considered in taking these future decisions and actions.”

The draft report delineates the potential harmful effects of various components of oil and gas exploration in the Gulf, including seismic surveys, traffic, structures, lights, routine discharges, drill muds, other disturbances, well abandonment, and accidental spills. It discusses the risks to fish and fish habitat, plankton, shell fish, water birds, marine mammals, turtles, endangered species and species at risk, protected and sensitive areas, fisheries, and tourism, as well as noting important data gaps. The draft report also discusses the dynamic and complex Gulf ecosystem and the effects of factors such as climate change and aquatic invasive species, and includes statements such as “it is generally agreed that there has been a trophic shift over the last 30 years that may not yet be stabilized, and consequently, the ecosystem may have somewhat less of a buffering capacity to potential stressors” (page 399).

The logical conclusion, based on the information in the draft report, is that the possible benefits of additional exploration licences and, potentially, production licences are outweighed by the known risks.
 Unfortunately, the solid and well-documented information about risks and impacts is undermined by weak suggested mitigations, repeated assertions that the identified issues will be dealt with by project-specific environmental assessments, and a tendency to minimize potential impacts. Some examples of this tendency to minimize are noted in this letter.

I sincerely hope the final SEA Update report will recommend, and C-NLOPB will make, strategic decisions to: • cancel the current Call for Bids; • put a moratorium on issuing any further licences; and

• be extremely diligent, using a precautionary approach and rigorous project-specific environmental assessments, before approving any further activities under current licences in the Western Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.


Ellie Reddin

cc Steve Bonnell, AMEC Environment and Infrastructure
Greg Wilson, Manager of Environmental Land Management

Innu-Maliseet-Mi’gmaq demand protection of Gulf from oil and gas development ~ The Telegram

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.”


Lessons from Deepwater Horizon | Save Our Seas and Shores | Page 2

This article is originally from Al-Jezeera, reposted on oceanNRG blog The blogger had 40,000 hits on his site after reposting this article from Al-Jezeera mostly from North America, Canada, the UK, and Australia. As he said, “Many people around the world also have an emotional connection with the ocean, its use and its bounty.”

March 18, 2013

New Orleans, LA – “The fishermen have never seen anything like this,” Dr Jim Cowan told Al Jazeera. “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.” Dr Cowan, with Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and CoastalSciences started hearing about fish with sores and lesions from fishermen in November 2010.

Cowan’s findings replicate those of others living along vast areas of the Gulf Coast that have been impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants. Gulf of Mexico fishermen, scientists and seafood processors have told Al Jazeera they are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP’s 2010 oil disaster.

Along with collapsing fisheries, signs of malignant impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous: horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp – and interviewees’ fingers point towards BP’s oil pollution disaster as being the cause.

Eyeless shrimp

Tracy Kuhns and her husband Mike Roberts, commercial fishers from Barataria, Louisiana, are finding eyeless shrimp. “At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these,” Kuhns told Al Jazeera while showing a sample of the eyeless shrimp. According to Kuhns, at least 50 per cent of the shrimp caught in that period in Barataria Bay, a popular shrimping area that was heavily impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants, were eyeless. Kuhns added: “Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets.”

“Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf [of Mexico],” she added, “They are also catching them in Alabama and Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don’t have their usual spikes … they look like they’ve been burned off by chemicals.”

On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded, and began the release of at least 4.9 million barrels of oil. BP then used at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic Corexit dispersants to sink the oil. Keath Ladner, a third generation seafood processor in Hancock County, Mississippi, is also disturbed by what he is seeing. “I’ve seen the brown shrimp catch drop by two-thirds, and so far the white shrimp have been wiped out,” Ladner told Al Jazeera. “The shrimp are immune compromised. We are finding shrimp with tumors on their heads, and are seeing this everyday.”

While on a shrimp boat in Mobile Bay with Sidney Schwartz, the fourth-generation fisherman said that he had seen shrimp with defects on their gills, and “their shells missing around their gills and head”. “We’ve fished here all our lives and have never seen anything like this,” he added. Ladner has also seen crates of blue crabs, all of which were lacking at least one of their claws.

Darla Rooks, a lifelong fisherperson from Port Sulfur, Louisiana, told Al Jazeera she is  finding crabs “with holes in their shells, shells with all the points burned off so all the spikes on their shells and claws are gone, misshapen shells, and crabs that are dying from within … they are still alive, but you open them up and they smell like they’ve been dead for a week”. Rooks is also finding eyeless shrimp, shrimp with abnormal growths, female shrimp with their babies still attached to them, and shrimp with oiled gills.

“We also seeing eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye-sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills, and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills.” Rooks, who grew up fishing with her parents, said she had never seen such things in these waters, and her seafood catch last year was “ten per cent what it normally is”. “I’ve never seen this,” he said, a statement Al Jazeera heard from every scientist, fisherman, and seafood processor we spoke with about the seafood deformities. Given that the Gulf of Mexico provides more than 40 per cent of all the seafood caught in the continental US, this phenomenon does not bode well for the region, or the country.

BP’s chemicals?

“The dispersants used in BP’s draconian experiment contain solvents, such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber,” Dr Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist and Exxon Valdez survivor told Al Jazeera. “It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known”.

The dispersants are known to be mutagenic, a disturbing fact that could be evidenced in the seafood deformities. Shrimp, for example, have a life-cycle short enough that two to three generations have existed since BP’s disaster began, giving the chemicals time to enter the genome.

Pathways of exposure to the dispersants are inhalation, ingestion, skin, and eye contact. Health impacts can include headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system damage, skin sensitisation, hypertension, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, cardiac arrhythmia and cardiovascular damage. They are also teratogenic – able to disturb the growth and development of an embryo or fetus – and carcinogenic.

Cowan believes chemicals named polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), released from BP’s submerged oil, are likely to blame for what he is finding, due to the fact that the fish with lesions he is finding are from “a wide spatial distribution that is spatially coordinated with oil from the Deepwater Horizon, both surface oil and subsurface oil. A lot of the oil that impacted Louisiana was also in subsurface plumes, and we think there is a lot of it remaining on the seafloor”.

Dr Wilma Subra, a chemist and MacArthur Fellow, has conducted tests on seafood and sediment samples along the Gulf for chemicals present in BP’s crude oil and toxic dispersants. “Tests have shown significant levels of oil pollution in oysters and crabs along the Louisiana coastline,” Subra told Al Jazeera. “We have also found high levels of hydrocarbons in the soil and vegetation.”

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, PAHs “are a group of semi-volatile organic compounds that are present in crude oil that has spent time in the ocean and eventually reaches shore, and can be formed when oil is burned”. “The fish are being exposed to PAHs, and I was able to find several references that list the same symptoms in fish after the Exxon Valdez spill, as well as other lab experiments,” explained Cowan. “There was also a paper published by some LSU scientists that PAH exposure has effects on the genome.”

The University of South Florida released the results of a survey whose findings corresponded with Cowan’s: a two to five per cent infection rate in the same oil impact areas, and not just with red snapper, but with more than 20 species of fish with lesions. In many locations, 20 per cent of the fish had lesions, and later sampling expeditions found areas where, alarmingly, 50 per cent of the fish had them.

“I asked a NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] sampler what percentage of fish they find with sores prior to 2010, and it’s one tenth of one percent,” Cowan said. “Which is what we found prior to 2010 as well. But nothing like we’ve seen with these secondary infections and at this high of rate since the spill.”

“What we think is that it’s attributable to chronic exposure to PAHs released in the process of weathering of oil on the seafloor,” Cowan said. “There’s no other thing we can use to explain this phenomenon. We’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Official response

Questions raised by Al Jazeera’s investigation remain largely unanswered. Al Jazeera contacted the office of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who provided a statement that said the state continues to test its waters for oil and dispersants, and that it is testing for PAHs. “Gulf seafood has consistently tested lower than the safety thresholds established by the FDA for the levels of oil and dispersant contamination that would pose a risk to human health,” the statement reads. “Louisiana seafood continues to go through extensive testing to ensure that seafood is safe for human consumption. More than 3,000 composite samples of seafood, sediment and water have been tested in Louisiana since the start of the spill.”

At the federal government level, the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency – both federal agencies which have powers in the this area – insisted Al Jazeera talk with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA won’t comment to the media because its involvement in collecting information for an ongoing lawsuit against BP. BP refused Al Jazeera’s request to comment on this issue for a television interview, but provided a statement that read: “Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident.” BP claims that fish lesions are common, and that prior to the Deepwater Horizon accident there was documented evidence of lesions in the Gulf of Mexico caused by parasites and other agents.

The oil giant added:

“As part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, which is led by state and federal trustees, we are investigating the extent of injury to natural resources due to the accident. “BP is funding multiple lines of scientific investigation to evaluate potential damage to fish, and these include: extensive seafood testing programs by the Gulf states; fish population monitoring conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Auburn University and others; habitat and water quality monitoring by NOAA; and toxicity tests on regional species. The state and federal Trustees will complete an injury assessment and the need for environmental restoration will be determined.”

Before and after

But evidence of ongoing contamination continues to mount. Crustacean biologist Darryl Felder, in the Department of Biology with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is in a unique position. Felder has been monitoring the vicinity of BP’s blowout Macondo well both before and after the oil disaster began, because, as he told Al Jazeera, “the National Science Foundation was interested in these areas that are vulnerable due to all the drilling”.

“So we have before and after samples to compare to,” he added. “We have found seafood with lesions, missing appendages, and other abnormalities.” Felder also has samples of inshore crabs with lesions. “Right here in Grand Isle we see lesions that are eroding down through their shell. We just got these samples last Thursday and are studying them now, because we have no idea what else to link this to as far as a natural event.”

According to Felder, there is an even higher incidence of shell disease with crabs in deeper waters. “My fear is that these prior incidents of lesions might be traceable to microbes, and my questions are, did we alter microbial populations in the vicinity of the well by introducing this massive amount of petroleum and in so doing cause microbes to attack things other than oil?” One hypothesis he has is that the waxy coatings around crab shells are being impaired by anthropogenic chemicals or microbes resulting from such chemicals.

“You create a site where a lesion can occur, and microbes attack. We see them with big black lesions, around where their appendages fall off, and all that is left is a big black ring.” Felder added that his team is continuing to document the incidents: “And from what we can tell, there is a far higher incidence we’re finding after the spill.” “We are also seeing much lower diversity of crustaceans,” he said. “We don’t have the same number of species as we did before [the spill].”

Felder has tested his samples for oil, but not found many cases where hydrocarbon traces tested positive. Instead, he believes what he is seeing in the deepwater around BP’s well is caused from the “huge amount” of drilling mud used during the effort to stop the gushing well. “I was collecting deepwater shrimp with lesions on the side of their carapace. Under the lesions, the gills were black. The organ that propels the water through the gills, it too was jet-black. That impairs respiratory ability, and has a negative effect on them. It wasn’t hydrocarbons, but is largely manganese precipitates, which is really odd. There was a tremendous amount of drilling mud pumped out with Macondo, so this could be a link.”

Some drilling mud and oil well cement slurries used on oil extraction rigs contains up to 90 per cent by weight of manganomanganic (manganese) oxide particles. Felder is also finding “odd staining” of animals that burrow into the mud that cause stain rings, and said: “It is consistently mineral deposits, possibly from microbial populations in [overly] high concentrations.”

A direct link

Dr Andrew Whitehead, an associate professor of biology at Louisiana State University, co-authored the reportGenomic and physiological footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on resident marsh fishes that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2011.

Whitehead’s work is of critical importance, as it shows a direct link between BP’s oil and the negative impacts on the Gulf’s food web evidenced by studies on killifish before, during and after the oil disaster. “What we found is a very clear, genome-wide signal, a very clear signal of exposure to the toxic components of oil that coincided with the timing and the locations of the oil,” Whitehead told Al Jazeera during an interview in his lab. According to Whitehead, the killifish is an important indicator species because they are the most abundant fish in the marshes, and are known to be the most important forage animal in their communities.

“That means that most of the large fish that we like to eat and that these are important fisheries for, actually feed on the killifish,” he explained. “So if there were to be a big impact on those animals, then there would probably be a cascading effect throughout the food web. I can’t think of a worse animal to knock out of the food chain than the killifish.”

But we may well be witnessing the beginnings of this worst-case scenario. Whitehead is predicting that there could be reproductive impacts on the fish, and since the killifish is a “keystone” species in the food web of the marsh, “Impacts on those species are more than likely going to propagate out and effect other species. What this shows is a very direct link from exposure to DWH oil and a clear biological effect. And a clear biological effect that could translate to population level long-term consequences.”

Back on shore, troubled by what he had been seeing, Keath Ladner met with officials from the US Food and Drug Administration and asked them to promise that the government would protect him from litigation if someone was made sick from eating his seafood. “They wouldn’t do it,” he said. “I’m worried about the entire seafood industry of the Gulf being on the way out,” he added grimly.

‘Tar balls in their crab traps’

Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer, as well as a marine and oyster biologist, has “great concern” about the hundreds of dolphin deaths he has seen in the region since BP’s disaster began, which he feels are likely directly related to the BP oil disaster. “Adult dolphins’ systems are picking up whatever is in the system out there, and we know the oil is out there and working its way up the food chain through the food web – and dolphins are at the top of that food chain.”

Cake explained: “The chemicals then move into their lipids, fat, and then when they are pregnant, their young rely on this fat, and so it’s no wonder dolphins are having developmental issues and still births.” Cake, who lives in Mississippi, added: “It has been more than 33 years since the 1979 Ixtoc-1 oil disaster in Mexico’s Bay of Campeche, and the oysters, clams, and mangrove forests have still not recovered in their oiled habitats in seaside estuaries of the Yucatan Peninsula. It has been 23 years since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil disaster in Alaska, and the herring fishery that failed in the wake of that disaster has still not returned.”

Cake believes we are still in the short-term impact stage of BP’s oil disaster. “I will not be alive to see the Gulf of Mexico recover,” said Cake, who is 72 years old. “Without funding and serious commitment, these things will not come back to pre-April 2010 levels for decades.” The physical signs of the disaster continue. “We’re continuing to pull up oil in our nets,” Rooks said. “Think about losing everything that makes you happy, because that is exactly what happens when someone spills oil and sprays dispersants on it. People who live here know better than to swim in or eat what comes out of our waters.”

Khuns and her husband told Al Jazeera that fishermen continue to regularly find tar balls in their crab traps, and hundreds of pounds of tar balls continue to be found on beaches across the region on a daily basis. Meanwhile Cowan continues his work, and remains concerned about what he is finding. “We’ve also seen a decrease in biodiversity in fisheries in certain areas. We believe we are now seeing another outbreak of incidence increasing, and this makes sense, since waters are starting to warm again, so bacterial infections are really starting to take off again. We think this is a problem that will persist for as long as the oil is stored on the seafloor.”

Felder wants to continue his studies, but now is up against insufficient funding. Regarding his funding, Cowan told Al Jazeera: “We are up against social and economic challenges that hamper our ability to get our information out, so the politics have been as daunting as the problem [we are studying] itself. But my funding is not coming from a source that requires me to be quiet.”

We have more information on this issue here.

Documentary ~ “The Great Invisible”

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

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”.

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

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

Old Harry oil exploration licence in Gulf of St. Lawrence extended ~ Canadian Press

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

Shell gets OK to take 21 days to cap blowouts off Nova Scotia coast

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