PEI group’s key concerns about oil and gas development in the Gulf – Commentary by Ellie Reddin

By Ellie Reddin Commentary

The Guardian

May 17, 2013

(Published title: Our key concerns about oil development in the Gulf)

Members of Save Our Seas and Shores-PEI Chapter (SOSS PEI) were taken aback by the comments made by Premier Ghiz on CBC Radio after our petition signed by 1,212 Islanders was presented to the legislative assembly by Liberal MLA Buck Watts on April 30.

His response, that “there is no need for a moratorium on drilling in P.E.I. territorial waters because P.E.I. doesn’t have any oil,” gives us reason to believe he is not aware of the important role he could take to protect our Island and the Gulf of St. Lawrence from potential disaster.

By declaring a moratorium as our petition requests, the P.E.I. government would send a clear message to our neighbouring provinces and the federal government that P.E.I. will take the necessary time to consider the true value of the Gulf of St. Lawrence; and that P.E.I. is not willing to passively accept the risks inherent in projects presently being considered, such as Corridor Resources’ Old Harry Prospect.

As we have seen in the past, most notably with the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the impact of oil spills can be devastating for the environment and for the industries – fishing, aquaculture and tourism – that depend on a healthy marine ecosystem. In the case of the Old Harry Prospect, P.E.I. has nothing to gain and everything to lose.

Premier Ghiz might be technically correct in saying that P.E.I. does not have oil in its territorial waters since legally territorial waters extend only to the low-water mark. But our petition refers to both oil and gas. And we know there has been a “significant discovery” of gas off East Point in an area considered part of P.E.I.’s “portion” of the gulf (for the purposes of federal-provincial co-management agreements on petroleum development). This site is under permanent lease to BP Canada Energy Company. BP obtained an exploration license in 1987. That licence has since expired and it does not appear that BP is likely to seek a new exploration license anytime soon. This raises the following question: Is the provincial government planning to sign a federal-provincial agreement for petroleum development in its portion of the Gulf so that at some future date the province could receive royalties if BP were to seek a new exploration licence?

In addition to requesting a moratorium in P.E.I. waters, our petition requested that the P.E.I. government work with the governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and the federal government to protect and manage the gulf ecosystem and to establish a permanent ban on exploration and drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

To date, only Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have implemented petroleum development agreements with the federal government and have consequently established offshore petroleum boards; in addition, only Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have petroleum development interests in the Atlantic Ocean. The Nova Scotia board has not been active in the gulf for more than 10 years. All five provinces share the risks, but only Newfoundland and Labrador will reap any benefits from current licences in the gulf.

Quebec has signed but not yet implemented a federal-provincial agreement. Quebec still has an ongoing moratorium in its part of the gulf and is currently conducting a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to help determine whether or not it should lift its moratorium. Recent information indicates that New Brunswick intends to sign and implement an agreement as soon as possible.

Instead of taking a far-sighted, environmentally responsible stand, it seems all five provinces are intent on rushing us headlong into folly and disaster. Since Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have offshore petroleum agreements and boards, it appears that all the provinces must have them, regardless of the consequences. We had hoped for better from our government. It is the governments, not the petroleum boards, who are ultimately responsible for the fate of the gulf.

Over the past two years, members of SOSS have met with Premier Ghiz and have sent him several letters with attached studies documenting the risks of oil and gas development in the gulf and discussing the shortcomings of the current oversight process. His statement that “we trust the systems that are in place now to ensure that the regulations and environmental procedures are being followed” indicates that he is not aware of the following facts:

• In his Fall 2012 report, Scott Vaughan, commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, Office of the Auditor General of Canada, clearly pointed out that Canada is not technically ready to face a major spill in the gulf.

• Environment Canada has determined that a major spill would have multi-provincial impacts and the David Suzuki Foundation has carried out oil spill simulations that indicate all five provinces surrounding the gulf could suffer from the impacts of a spill.

• Costs to British Petroleum associated with the Deep Water Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico are estimated at more than $40 billion. In Canada, however, liability for costs resulting from a major spill or blowout in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is limited to $30 million. Taxpayers would be responsible for all costs above $30 million.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board is currently updating its Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and the P.E.I. government has a representative on the Working Group for the SEA. This leads to the following questions: What policy position has that representative been instructed to take? Are P.E.I.’s interests, including the interests of Islanders who make their livings from fishing, tourism and aquaculture, the interests of the Mi’kmaq First Nation and the interests of future generations, being adequately considered during the SEA process?

If oil development is allowed to continue in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and a major oil spill or blowout occurs, how will all those who lose their livelihoods be compensated?

What consideration is being given to the effects of seismic testing and drilling on blue whales, dolphins, leatherback turtles, seabirds, fish and other marine wildlife in the gulf?

We have respectively requested that the government of P.E.I. provide answers to these questions.

Ellie Reddin co-ordinates the P.E.I. Chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores


Halifax, NS – A coalition of fishing, environmental, tourism, and indigenous groups is looking for the Atlantic Premiers to work together to protect the Gulf of St. Lawrence at their meeting this week.  Recent peer reviewed science has shown oil spilled in Gulf of St. Lawrence could affect other provinces around the Gulf.

“Newfoundland’s oil industry will have everything to gain from opening up the Gulf to oil – and other industries and provinces have everything to lose,” according to Mary Gorman of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. “This is a precious, shared ecosystem. The Premiers need to be talking about working together to protect it.”

Discussing the Gulf should also be top of mind for the Premiers in light of recent environmental assessment by Newfoundland’s offshore board giving a green light to oil and gas development off Newfoundland’s West Coast.

The Coalition points to concerns raised by Gulf scientists stating that any oil spilled from Old Harry will land on PEI, NS as well as NL’s western coast (

“The science is clear that the Gulf is on the knife’s edge in terms of industrial development,” according to Dr. Irene Novaczek, Science Advisor to the SOSS-PEI Chapter. “ We know our Premier is concerned and we hope he will bring these concerns to the table at these meetings.”

“We have been calling for a stop to oil and gas development in the Gulf for over a decade,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald of Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, “Dangerous oil development could go ahead by the end of this year. It’s about time it made it on the agenda when our Premiers talk.”


Background: Oil spill modeling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence:

For more information, contact:

Mary Gorman

902-926-2128 (h) / 902-759-5963 (mobile) /

Dr. Irene Novaczek

902-964-2781 /

Gretchen Fitzgerald

902-444-3113 (office) / 902-444-7096 (mobile) /

PEI Legislature – Standing Committees Recommend Request for Moratorium be Adopted

On November 26th, 2013, that Standing Committee on Fisheries, Transportation and Rural Development recommended in its recent report to the Legislature that the government act on the requests that PEI Save Our Seas and Shores put forward in our petition calling for, “a moratorium on all oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence”. See recommendation 5 and the related discussion here.

The transcript of Sylvain Archambault’s presentation to the Standing Committee on Fisheries, Transportation and Rural Development is now available here.

Similarly, in Prince Edward Island’s Legislative Assembly, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry presented their recommendations to the government. The entire report is of interest and, like the Standing Committee on Fisheries, Transportation and Rural Development (the report I sent you yesterday), the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry recommends the requests of PEI SOSS petition be adopted.

See the video and skip forward to 88 minutes.

The written report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry (which includes a more detailed discussion) is available here.

Let’s hope the government gives adequate weight to the recommendations of the two standing committees!

PEI Chapter of SOSS Blog | Save Our Seas and Shores | Page 2

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.

PEI chapter Save Our Seas and Shores deliver strong response to C-NLOPB SEA update

Submission from Save Our Seas and Shores PEI to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board

At its meeting on September 10, 2013, members of the Prince Edward Island Chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores decided to make the following submission in response to the draft Western Newfoundland Offshore Area Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) update report.

WHEREAS the Western Newfoundland Offshore SEA draft report clearly acknowledges the following:

  • The biological importance and sensitivity of Newfoundland’s offshore area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence;
  • The importance of fisheries and tourism to the regional economy;
  • Not enough is known about the biology of the Gulf and the impact of oil and gas activities on it;
  • Uncertainties about the efficiency of mitigation measures;
  • The enormous impact that any oil spill in the Gulf would have;
  • The lack of social acceptance, in any of the five provinces bordering on the Gulf, of the idea of oil exploration in the Gulf.

WHEREAS intervention capacity in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is inadequate (as has been shown by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development);

WHEREAS in the early 2000s, the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) and the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries both recommended a moratorium on petroleum exploration in the Gulf;

WHEREAS liability for oil companies is still limited to $30 million, and even if increased to $1 billion as currently proposed, would remain inadequate considering the potential costs associated with a major spill;

WHEREAS any major spill could negatively affect all five Gulf provinces; and

WHEREAS an integrated environmental review of polluting industrial activities and climate change and their cumulative impact in the entire Gulf of St. Lawrence has still not been performed;

The PEI Chapter of Save Our Seas and Shores recommends that the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board :

  • Put a moratorium on the issuing of any new exploration licenses in the Western Newfoundland offshore area;
  • Cancel the call for bids issued on May 16th 2013 for four parcels in the Western Newfoundland offshore area;
  • Refrain from giving authorization to projects currently submitted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, including Corridor Resources’ Old Harry project and Shoal Point Energy and Black Spruce Exploration’s Western Newfoundland drilling program.