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Concerns over oil drilling brought to P.E.I. Legislature May 1, 2013

The Guardian (PEI)

Teresa Wright

A group of concerned citizens calling on the Prince Edward Island government to declare a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence brought their concerns to the P.E.I. legislature Tuesday.

Representatives from Save Our Seas and Shores brought forward a petition with more than 1,200 signatures, asking the P.E.I. government to take the lead in opposing an offshore oil prospect being explored by Corridor Resources Inc.

The petition was tabled in the P.E.I. legislature Tuesday.

“We’re very concerned about the effects on the Gulf of St. Lawrence if seismic testing and drilling for oil goes ahead,” said Ellie Reddin.

“People remember in 2010 the big oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, well, the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a lot smaller and the effects could be devastating for tourism and our fisheries industries as well as for people with coastal properties.”

Corridor Resources has applied to the CanadaNewfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board to drill a well east of Prince Edward Island.

The area known as the ‘Old Harry’ prospect in the Laurentian Channel in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is one of the largest undrilled prospects in Eastern Canada and is estimated to hold up to two billion barrels of recoverable oil or up to five trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas.

If regulatory approval is obtained, the proposed well should be drilled by the end of 2014, according to the company’s website.

The drilling project has garnered much concern and criticism by individuals and groups across Atlantic Canada and the Iles de la Madeleine who are worried about the devastating effects a possible spill or blowout.

Grade 8 students Lilly Hickox and Caroline Galloway decided to turn their concern into action.

They saw volunteers with Save our Seas and Shores at the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market and were inspired to help spread the group’s message and recruit support.

They took brochures and signs to their school and encouraged fellow students and teachers to sign their name to the petition.

The two students gathered almost half the total number of signatures on the petition.

We think it’s important to preserve the environment, and we don’t want an oil spill because it could kill marine life and there are endangered species too that could be at risk,” Galloway said.

“Hopefully, our work will result in positive results so that they will stop the plans for oil drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” Hickox said.

Premier Robert Ghiz said he hopes the environmental reviews done by the federal offshore petroleum board overseeing this project will be diligent in ensuring it will not go ahead if it poses a risk to the waters off P.E.I.

“It’s something that we’ll watch, but we trust the systems that are in place now to ensure that the regulations and environmental procedures are being followed,” Ghiz said.


In an interview with CBC, Premier Robert Ghiz responded to the petitions saying that there is no need for a moratorium on drilling in P.E.I. waters because P.E.I. doesn’t have any oil. The story of the petition was also covered in The Telegram (St. John’s) on May 2nd. Richard Raiswell, a political columnist with CBC radio’s Mainstreet, takes notice of Premier Ghiz’s careful wording, and shares his own thoughts about oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Should the provincial government on Prince Edward Island take steps to prevent drilling for natural gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence? Commentary by Richard Raiswell.

March 15, 2013
By Colin Jeffrey

Most of us may not realize it, but oil and gas development is well underway in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Newfoundland has led the charge, issuing eight exploratory leases along its southern and western coasts. Quebec has also issued exploratory leases, although they have been suspended until the province negotiates a working agreement with the federal government. At first glance, it may appear that increased fossil fuel development is inevitable considering the growing international demand for hydrocarbons. Such development may also appear to provide a welcome boost to our provincial economies, offering jobs and prosperity. However, in reality offshore oil and gas drilling poses unacceptable risks to our environment, our economies, and hence ourselves.

As a member of Save Our Seas and Shores, an Atlantic Canadian non-profit organization working to protect the health of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, I would like to describe three reasons why I am opposed to offshore drilling. To begin with, offshore drilling pollutes marine environments. First there is the risk of large oil spills, which can pollute marine ecosystems for decades. Even under ideal cleanup conditions it is estimated that only 15 per cent of the spilled oil is recoverable. Winds above 40 kilometres (common here for half of the year), sea ice and storms can all bring cleanup efforts to a standstill. Then there are the frequent smaller spills of oil, gasoline, drilling fluids and other toxic ingredients. According to the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, three oil rigs on the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland have produced 337 spills since 1997, dumping an estimated 430,000 litres of toxic pollutants into the ocean. Eventual leaks from capped wells can also contribute to marine pollution for decades.

Oil and gas development is often encouraged for its supposed economic benefits. However, there is little evidence that the majority of fossil fuel revenues remain in the regions where drilling takes place. Much of the revenue generated flows directly to extraction companies and their investors. While provincial governments benefit from production royalties, this money is not always spent wisely or in ways that benefit the regions where extraction takes place. In addition, there is now significant evidence that renewable energy production offers more substantial economic benefits than the production of fossil fuels. For instance, a recent comprehensive study of the economic impacts of both renewable and fossil fuel energy in America concludes that “all renewable energy sources generate more jobs than the fossil fuel sector per unit of energy delivered” (Kammen, Patadia & Wei, 2010, p. 928). Energy efficiency measures in particular are found to produce jobs with minimal investment costs.

Finally there is climate change, a looming disaster that we would all like to forget about. Unfortunately, ignoring this problem is certainly not going to make it disappear. On the contrary, if we do not begin to substantially cut our greenhouse gas emissions now our world as we have known it will disappear. With a current rise in global temperatures of 0.8 degrees Celsius, climatologists estimate that if we stopped pumping carbon into the atmosphere tomorrow the earth would continue to warm a further 0.8 degrees from the greenhouse gases already up there. Since it is widely accepted by scientists that more than two degrees of global warming could irrevocably change our environment and create runaway climate change impacts, we have very little time in which to scale back our use of fossil fuels and begin converting to a renewable energy economy.

In today’s polluted and carbon-saturated world, fossil fuel extraction is a dangerous and antiquated energy production system. Fortunately, we have alternatives. Renewable energy systems offer a chance to create clean energy that provides better local economic benefits. In the process, we could reduce climate change impacts and ensure that our waters continue to sustain our tourism and fishing industries. Save Our Seas and Shores has started a petition that calls on the provincial government to place a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development within Prince Edward Island’s territorial waters. For those interested in signing the petition, it will be available at the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market on March 16 and printable copies can be found at

Kammen, D., Patadia, S. & Wei, M. (2010). Putting renewables and energy efficiency to work: How many jobs can the clean energy industry generate in the US?. Energy Policy, 38, 919-931.

Colin Jeffrey of West Covehead holds a master’s degree in resource and environmental management from Dalhousie University.

Opinion The Guardian

February 15, 2013

Oil and gas exploration is well underway in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a marine resource that abuts PEI and underpins our livelihoods and environment. The Gulf is an environmentally significant area for marine wildlife and it is of the utmost importance it is protected for our well being. Our province is dependent on marine resources that will be – perhaps irreversibly – compromised by the demonstrated, accidental outcomes of intrinsically dangerous, offshore petroleum development. Given our world’s increasing appetite for fossil fuels, there will be more pressure to exploit petroleum resources in the Gulf. Do we want to sacrifice our Island way of life and the quality of our environment to feed the global petroleum habit?

A recent report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development through the office of the Auditor General of Canada outlines some very alarming findings regarding Atlantic offshore oil and gas activities. “While the Canada-Nova Scotia and the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador boards have adequately managed the day-to-day environmental impacts of offshore oil and gas activities, they and their federal partners need to do more to prepare for a major oil spill.” The report suggests that there is evidence that no capacity exists to respond to a significant oil spill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence when – and not if – it occurs. Since 1997 three oil rigs operating in Newfoundland waters have created 337 spills, dumping an estimated 430,000 litres of toxic material into the Atlantic Ocean. If the industry considers this result an acceptable risk, what will we do when there is a big spill? To make matters worse, the maximum corporate liability for an oil spill is 30 million. The BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico cost 37 billion to date.

The report also states “The boards’ responsibilities have been significantly affected by recent changes to the federal environmental assessment process.” The government of Canada has relaxed and/or eliminated environmental regulations and protection measures to allow for unhindered resource development throughout the country. The Gulf of St. Lawrence borders five provinces that will suffer when an oil spill occurs… and oil spills in the waters of neighboring provinces will not recognize political boundaries.

Our marine conditions in the Gulf, including sea ice, present a much greater environmental risk than land based activities. The Gulf has been compared to a small inland sea with very low flushing rates and recovery potential. We would have to live with the oil spill and its consequences indefinitely if not permanently. Are we really ready to accept offshore drilling in the Gulf and deal with the environmental consequences and devastation to our island economy and way of life? No, place a moratorium on oil and gas development activities in the Gulf now before it is too late.

This guest opinion has been co-authored by Mark Bishop, Chairman of the PEI Watershed Alliance, and Shawn Hill, Executive Director.