Prince Edward Islanders attend Oil and Gas Forum on Magdalene Islands – April 2011

By Irene Novaczek
Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition

A small group of Prince Edward Islanders, ventured to the Magdalene Islands to join other concerned citizens at a forum to explore the costs and benefits of drilling a deep oil well, in the area dubbed “Old Harry”, in the Laurentian Trench between the Maggies and western Nfld. Corridor Resources owns the exploration permit and they want to proceed through a screening level environmental assessment and drill as soon as possible (2012 – 2014). After hearing of the risks and meager to non-existent benefits for rural coastal communities who will be affected by the pollution that accompanies such activities, the forum participants called for the full panel review of the project, as well as a strategic environmental assessment to consider the wider implications. However, even before going this route it is clear to many of us that the existing framework for decision-making is gravely flawed. Therefore, we first need a moratorium on all further exploration in the gulf, to give time for research, reflection and extensive public consultation leading to the reform of the petroleum board and environmental assessment systems.

[Check out the link to the forum to view various presentations given by scientists, oil industry etc.]

Small boat harbour, Magdalene Islands (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Heading into the village of Old Harry – the nearest Magdalene landfall to the proposed oil field. (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Old Harry Beach (Credit: Irene Novaczek)
View from the youth hostel (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Supporters arriving to demonstrate outside forum. Nice and noisy! (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Random notes to self (Credit: Irene Novaczek)
Lots of media covering the event, including independent media. (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Line-ups at the mike clearly showed the depth of concern and by times, anger and disgust in the room. Here are folk lined up for the 10 minute question period with Corridor, after listening politely to their 50 minutes of “how to drill an oil well”, promises and reassurances… Perhaps one third of those who immediately sprang to the mike managed to get a question answered. (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Fishing coop (Credit: Irene Novaczek)
From the perspective of bureaucrats in St Johns and Ottawa, our inshore fleets look mighty small and insignificant. But they are in fact the basis for coastal cultures, regional cuisines and tourism, among other values. (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Marilyn Clark was born in Old Harry. The only reason anyone outside of Nfld now knows about plans to drill in the Gulf is that she’s a student at Memorial and her eye was drawn to the press release about the project because they used the name of her village as the name of the oil field. (Credit: Irene Novaczek) Crab pots – lots of crab in the Old harry prospect area (Credit: Irene Novaczek)

Media | Save Our Seas and Shores | Page 2

Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition and Greenpeace Canada both oppose proposed changes which would scale back responsibilities of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and give the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) the power to conduct federal environmental assessments of projects in the region.

According to iPolitics, Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada said the change is a sop to the energy industry.

Keith Stewart, climate & energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. Credit:

“This is about gutting environmental reviews in order to fast-track oil projects, as the Petroleum Board doesn’t have the expertise or the mandate to do a proper environmental assessment,” he said in an email response. “If you’re renovating your house, it might seem faster and cheaper to have your accountant double up as the architect, but then don’t be surprised when the fancy new addition collapses.”

Mary Gorman, spokesperson for Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, expressed similar outrage in an email to iPolitics.

Mary Gorman, co-founder and spokesperson, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. (Credit:

“Entrenching powers for industry controlled offshore petroleum boards into Canada’s Environmental Assessment Act is not responsible conduct and will not lead to a responsible authority,” Gorman said. “Rather, it deepens the conflict of interest that the C-NSOPB is already in, as both a promoter of offshore development while simultaneously protecting the environment.”

Save Our Seas and Shores expressed opposition to this change in a July 22/2015 submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

According to iPolitics, the C-NSOPB will fill the role of the CEAA when necessary. As the government explains in its regulatory impact analysis statement, this is thanks to Bill C-22, which will allow the board to conduct these assessments. Then, C-NSOPB will perform the same functions as the National Energy Board (NEB), the market regulator for interprovincial and international pipelines and power lines, does for offshore projects everywhere except around Newfoundland and Labrador, where the CEAA will continue to conduct its assessments. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) — that region’s equivalent of the CNSOPB — “is not yet in a position to assume this role,” the government says.

In the past, the C-NSOPB carried out these reviews under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, before its overhaul in 2012.

To read the entire iPolitics article, Environmental groups decry change in N.S. offshore assessment process written by Mackenzie Scrimshaw, go here.

On Sunday, February 1st, 2015, a public forum and panel discussion was held in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland at the Grenfell Campus of Memorial University. The panel included Irene Novaczek, adjunct professor of Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island; Chief Mi’sel Joe of the Conne River Mi’kmaq Tribal Nation; and economist Michael Bradfield, a member of Nova Scotia’s review panel for hydraulic fracturing..
The forum and panel presentations made the connections between the issue of Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking in Newfoundland and Labrador and broader regional concerns related to oil development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The meeting was well attended, as well as informative, with many community members sharing viewpoints in a lively public forum on the health and welfare of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, oil development and fracking.

The forum was organized and hosted by representatives of the Social Justice Co-operative and Newfoundland and Labrador representatives of the  Save our Seas and Shores  organization  as well as other supportive individuals in the community.

For further coverage on the public forum, The Western Star and The Telegram have published excellent articles on the event. Bob Diamond’s Letter to the Editor of the Western Star offers a wonderful summary of the afternoon panel and discussion. The public forum is available to view in its entirety here.

APTN National News
A First Nations alliance says legal action may be the only way to stop oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Innu, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq Alliance is teaming up with other coalitions.

They met Thursday to brainstorm ways to continue their fight to protect what scientists call an ecologically sensitive area.

APTN’s Trina Roache has the story. View here:

By Adam Walsh, CBC News Posted: Oct 27, 2014 6:30 AM NT

New warnings are being raised over proposed drilling at the Old Harry reservoir beneath the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with research that suggests an oil spill at the site could affect coastlines in Atlantic Canada.

A Radio Canada-CBC investigation in partnership with the Institut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski warns an oil spill could be much worse than previously thought.

The investigation was aired Sunday night on a documentary produced by Radio-Canada’s science magazine program Découverte.

The Old Harry reservoir straddles the maritime border of Quebec and Newfoundland, and is north of the Maritime provinces. It is estimated to contain as much as two billion barrels of recoverable oil and and 5,000 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Corridor Resources is seeking permission from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board to do exploratory drilling at the site.

Corridor hired Ottawa-based SL Ross Environmental Research to do a study on the effects an oil spill could have in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The report, presented in 2012, found that oil would quickly break down and a spill would be minimal and be unlikely to reach land.

Researchers take issue with report

But Dany Dumont, professor of physical oceanography at ISMER, said the report is flawed.


Reseacher Dany Dumont hopes that regulators take independent research on the possible risks of an oil spill into account. (CBC)

“It all started when we began to notice some flaws to our ideas in the methodology of this report and also triggered by the conversation that was going on between environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, whom we’re working with sometimes,” Dumont said in an interview.

“They were contesting, or arguing about some flaws in the report, so we decided to have our look in it,” said Dumont.

The study looked at  where the water passing through Old Harry would go.

“We found that the extent of the oil transiting over Old Harry is much wider than what’s presented in SL Ross,” said Dumont. “If we consider just that for example, degradation is slower due to the cold environment we are in.”

A study published this spring found that the areas most likely to be affected by a spill at the site would be the coastlines of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

But the magnitude of any such spill could be a significant factor, the researchers found. For instance, while a concentrated spill (of less than 10 days) would affect specific areas, a major spill (lasting up to 100 days) would affect all of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Documentary launches own buoys

Then the Radio-Canada program Découverte tested the flow assertions of the study.


Dany Dumont, right, and Daniel Bourgault, professor of physical oceanography, point to the site of the OId Harry offshore oil prospect. (CBC)

Three buoys were deployed from a boat at the Old Harry site. Their movement was then monitored electronically.

It took 12 days for the buoys to arrive at Port Saunders on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula — a flow rate much faster than even what Dumont’s study had predicted.

Dumont said before any decision is made to allow drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, his research should be taken into consideration.

“I would argue that it would be really great — and not only great but also essential — that independent science is also considered in the  decision-making process.”

Gaps in original report ‘dangerous’

Meanwhile, the original research done for Corridor Resources has drawn criticism from an oceanographer at Memorial University in St. John’s.

Len Zedel, an associate professor at Memorial University, told CBC News that gaps in the SL Ross report are dangerous.

“Dangerous, in the sense that if the oil is heavier than expected, [and] you had more escape than you would like, it’s going to end up on the shorelines all around Newfoundland, potentially Quebec, P.E.I., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia — they’re all potentially exposed to that risk,” said Zedel.

Zedel added he finds any assertion that oil won’t reach shore following a spill hard to believe. He said it’s time for a discussion on how far people are willing to go with drilling in the gulf.

“I guess the thing that pains me about this is [that what] we’re talking about,  it’s only exploration. It’s just going to be an exploration well,” he said.

“That’s true. But unless we as a community are prepared to follow up and have a production [plan], well then, it makes no sense to do the exploration.”

Zedel said once exploration starts, it will be hard to stop.

Link to the story on the CBC NL News Website:

This was a terrible headline, but we are at the ready to throw a wrench into these plans! Our press release calling for no more license extensions in the Gulf was out the exact same day! Here’s the full story …

The Canadian Press

Covered by: iPolitics, The Globe and Mail
October 14, 2014

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Ottawa and Quebec are both expected to table legislation by the end of the year to jointly manage the petroleum resources in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Harper made the announcement in Sept-Iles on Tuesday along with Denis Lebel, the federal cabinet minister responsible for Quebec’s economic development.

“The accord will enable the safe and environmentally responsible development of petroleum resources in the region, help create hundreds of jobs and generate revenues and economic growth for Quebec and Canada,” Harper said.

Also in attendance was Quebec’s junior transport minister, Jean D’Amour.

Harper said Ottawa and Quebec are well-positioned to table the legislative framework to implement an accord that was signed in 2011.

Ottawa estimates that the Gulf of St. Lawrence and surrounding areas have the potential for 39 trillion cubic feet of gas and 1.5 billion barrels of oil.

Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the project as Harper.

The unseen legislation promised by both the federal and provincial governments drew an immediate backlash from groups opposed to oil and gas exploration in the area.

In July, First Nations leaders from Atlantic Canada called for a 12-year moratorium on all oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“It is high time that governments started supporting First Nations and coastal communities over corporate oil interests,” Mary Gorman of Save Seas and Shores said in a release Tuesday.

The group includes fishing, environmental, tourism and First Nations organizations with a common goal of stopping energy exploration in the Gulf. Their immediate target is Corridor Resources Ltd., which plans to drill at a site known as Old Harry off Newfoundland in the Gulf.

“We want Corridor, unelected petroleum boards and federal and provincial governments to know that oil drilling cannot co-exist in sensitive spawning, nursery and migratory waters in one of the most fragile ecosystems on earth,” Gorman said.

A Montreal-based group called Coalition Saint-Laurent also issued a release demanding a pause while the issue goes to a full public review.

“The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a unique ecosystem, very fragile, shared by five coastal provinces,” spokesman Sylvain Archambault said in a statement.

“Instead of paving the way for oil exploration, Quebec should take a leadership role in the Gulf and work with other coastal provinces in the establishment of a general moratorium on oil activities for the entire Gulf, as well as holding an extensive public review on the matter.”

Green party Leader Elizabeth May weighed in on Twitter, calling Harper’s announcement “really bad news for whales.”

The federal government reached similar deals with Newfoundland and Labrador in 1985 and Nova Scotia in 1986.

Offshore petroleum production in Canada accounts for 25 per cent of light crude output and one per cent of the country’s annual average natural gas output.

Newfoundland and Labrador received $8.4 billion in royalties from the region covered by the 1985 accord and Nova Scotia has benefited from $2 billion in the area cited in their deal.

Harper and Quebec announce oil development plans for Gulf of St. Lawrence

The Western Star Published on October 18, 2014

  • Bob Diamond is voicing his concerns with more license extensions for Corridor Resources.

Diamond, a Stephenville resident, is the Newfoundland and Labrador representative on the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition. The organization is calling on the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board to stop issuing license extensions to Corridor Resources for property EL-1105 at Old Harry in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

In Halifax back in July, First Nations groups called for a 12-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

Representatives from Save Our Seas and Shores from the four Atlantic Provinces and Quebec met in Halifax this week to announce their support for the alliance’s demand.

Six representatives from the Bay St. George area and Bonne Bay participated in the discussions through Skype.

Diamond said while Corridor Resources has not yet applied for this extension, the coalition wants to send a clear message to federal and provincial politicians and to the C-NLOPB.

“Corridor has already received two free extensions from the C-NLOPB, which amount to special treatment given to this oil company by its regulator,” Diamond said.

Diamond said the coalition wants Corridor Resources, unelected petroleum boards and federal and provincial governments to know oil drilling cannot co-exist in sensitive spawning, nursery and migratory waters.

He said the 12-year moratorium should also include onshore to offshore drilling that would make use of hydraulic fracturing, including the Green Shale Formations off the coast of western Newfoundland

The News, New Glasgow, NS
Published on October 16, 2014

HALIFAX – Just days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced joint plans with the government of Quebec to introduce legislation allowing for oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, several groups in Eastern Canada are renewing their calls for a moratorium.
Following an announcement made by the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq Alliance in Halifax last July, when First Nations called for a 12-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Gulf of St Lawrence, representatives from Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition are meeting in Halifax this week to announce their support for the Alliance’s demand.

The organization is also calling on the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) to stop issuing licence extensions, free or otherwise, to Corridor Resources for EL-1105 at Old Harry in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

“There is a duty to consult First Nations that has not been upheld thus far in this process,” said Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat. “It makes no sense for the C-NLOPB to issue another licence extension to Corridor Resources when First Nations have called for a 12-year moratorium, unless they plan to give Corridor a 12-year extension.”

In a letter from Scott Tessier, chair and chief executive officer of the C-NLOPB, dated on July 25 and addressed to Aboriginal leaders in Quebec, he noted his appreciation of the input into the proposed offshore program from Aboriginal leaders thus far. The letter was mum on details for further participation from the public.

“While there is a substantial amount of information on our website pertaining to the Old Harry environmental assessment, the board has not yet explicitly requested input from the public or aboriginal communities,” the letter read.

The Coalition is responding to a statement made by Corridor Resources in their second quarter results that indicated the resource company would be looking for more time on its licence.

“The C-NLOPB… indicated that additional consultations on Corridor’s Old Harry Environmental Assessment (EA) are required in order for the C-NLOPB to finalize the EA,” the press release stated. “Corridor is seeking additional time to execute on its licence given the requirement to complete additional consultation. Corridor is seeking additional time to execute on its licence given the requirement to complete additional consultation.”

While the company has not yet applied for this extension, the Coalition wanted to send a clear message to federal and provincial politicians and to the C-NLOPB that further extension wouldn’t be tolerated.

“It is high time that governments started supporting First Nations and coastal communities over corporate oil interests. We want Corridor, unelected petroleum boards and federal and provincial governments to know that oil drilling cannot co-exist in sensitive spawning, nursery and migratory waters in one of the most fragile ecosystems on earth,” said Mary Gorman. “We stand with Innu, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq First Nations in calling for a 12-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Gulf of St Lawrence.”

Coalition members include coastal landowners, fishery and tourism representatives and concerned members of the public.

“Since the Gulf of St. Lawrence is six times smaller than the Gulf of Mexico, can you imagine what a similar spill would do to our billion-dollar Gulf fishery,” said Ron Heighton, president of the Gulf NS Fleet Planning Board. “The Gulf of St. Lawrence has the largest concentration of krill in the North Atlantic and among the largest lobster production in the world. The fishing industry is not willing to take this risk and we don’t want our politicians to either.”

Attempts to reach a representative of Corridor Resources Inc. were unsuccessful at press time.

On Twitter: NGNewsJohn

October 14, 2014

K’JIPUKTUK (Halifax NS) – Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition is calling on the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) to stop issuing license extensions (free or otherwise) to Corridor Resources for EL-1105 at Old Harry in the Gulf of St Lawrence.

Following up on the announcement made by the Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq Alliance in Halifax last July, wherein First Nations called for a 12-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Gulf of St Lawrence, representatives from SOSS-NS, NB, PEI, QC and NL are meeting in Halifax this week to announce their support for the Alliance’s demand.

“There is a duty to consult First Nations that has not been upheld thus far in this process.” said Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat. “In the enclosed attachment C-NLOPB acknowledges: ‘The Board has not yet explicitly requested input from the public or aboriginal communities’. It makes no sense for the C-NLOPB to issue another license extension to Corridor Resources, when First Nations have called for a 12-year moratorium – unless they plan to give Corridor a 12 year extension.” Jerome said.

The Coalition is responding to a statement made by Corridor Resources that they would be seeking additional time on their Old Harry license. While the company has not yet applied for this extension, the Coalition wants to send a clear message to federal and provincial politicians and to the C-NLOPB.

“Corridor has already received two free extensions from the C-NLOPB, one in November 2011 and the second in July 2013. These free extensions amount to special treatment given to this oil company by its regulator” said Bob Diamond from SOSS-NL. “It also begs a bigger question. If Corridor can’t afford to pay for license extensions, how will they ever afford to clean up an oil spill?” he said. “ BP has set aside at least 43 billion dollars on the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Compare this to the measly billion dollar no fault liability limit that has yet to be implemented into legislation here in Canada.” said Diamond.

Coalition members including coastal landowners and fishery and tourism reps speak in a united voice, calling on federal and provincial governments to honor and implement First Nations call for a 12 year moratorium.

“Four years after the BP Gulf of Mexico spill which saw approx two hundred million gallons of oil and nearly 2 million gallons of toxic oil dispersants sprayed into Gulf waters, only 25 percent of the spilled oil has been recovered.” said Ian Forgeron, a fisherman from SOSS–PEI “Oysters are down 93%, shrimp 40-60% and scientists believe the spill harmed more than 80,000 birds, 25,000 marine mammals and 6,000 sea turtles along with coral lobsters, crabs, clams, zooplankton and starfish”, he said. Forgeron, who is also a social worker said, “Gulf of Mexico residents’ rates of anxiety, depression, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse have all increased in those communities impacted by the BP spill.”

“Since the Gulf of St Lawrence is six times smaller than the Gulf of Mexico, can you imagine what a similar spill would do to our billion dollar Gulf fishery?” said Ron Heighton, president of the Gulf NS Fleet Planning Board. “The Gulf of St Lawrence has the largest concentration of krill in the North Atlantic and among the largest lobster production in the world. The fishing industry is not willing to take this risk and we don’t want our politicians to either,” he said.

“Gros Morne, Port au Port, Bay St George in NL, Cape Breton National Park, the Cabot Trail, Magdalen Islands and Cavendish, PEI are some of the national treasures at risk.” said Margo Sheppard from SOSS-NB. “Over the years, communities, businesses and governments have invested in making this 660 million dollar tourism industry in Atlantic Canada. 17,000 jobs in communities around the gulf depend on sustainable tourism. There is too much at risk here.” adds Sheppard. “Our tourism industries for all five provinces deserve greater protection and respect from elected officials than we are currently receiving,” she said.

“Since the oil industry already has unfettered access to 88% of east coast waters, enough is enough.” said Mary Gorman of SOSS-NS. “It is high time that governments started supporting First Nations and coastal communities over corporate oil interests. We want Corridor, unelected petroleum boards and federal and provincial governments to know that oil drilling CANNOT co-exist in sensitive spawning, nursery and migratory waters in one of the most fragile ecosystems on earth. We stand with Innu, Maliseet and Mi’gmaq First Nations in calling for a 12 year moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Gulf of St Lawrence.”

– 30 –

For more information, please contact:

  • Troy Jerome – Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat – 506.759.2000
  • Bob Diamond – SOSS-NL 709.632-4269
  • Ian Forgeron – SOSS-PEI 902.394.0044
  • Ron Heighton – Gulf NS Fleet Planning Board 902.759.2444
  • Margo Sheppard – SOSS-NB 506.476.9708
  • Mary Gorman – SOSS-NS 902.926.2128

Attachment: Letter from CNLOPB to Chiefs Pietasho and Jeannotte, Ekuanitshit Innu Council, and the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi regarding consultation and assessment for Old Harry (EL-1105), July 25, 2014 (Link: 2014_07_25_Reponse_CNLOPB)

It’s not the kind of pet you can take home, but Islanders will soon have a chance to help name a blue whale living in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.Zack Metcalfe is one of the organizers for a group working towards raising awareness for protecting endangered species and commercial fish species in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.The unique naming contest is just one of the ways the campaign, which is a collaboration between Save Our Seas and Shores and the Sierra Club, hopes to raise that awareness during the next several months.

Metcalfe said that contest is also being run with the Mingan Island Cetacean Study.

“We’re picking a blue whale that they’ve identified that hasn’t been named yet and we’re going to put it to public opinion to toss in their name suggestions,” said Metcalfe during an interview with The Guardian at a “Blue Whale Bash” in Charlottetown Sunday.

The day saw a lobster raffle, live music and local food at the Farm Centre.

There was also a life-sized baby blue whale poster children could colour in and write messages on, as well as displays describing the marine life found in the gulf.

Metcalfe said the focus is not just whales, but all critically endangered species and commercial fisheries in the gulf.

“The blue whale is only our poster boy because it is the largest, most beautiful and one of the most threatened species out there,” he said, and pointed to a recent U.S. study from the University of Vermont. “Whales play an absolutely critical role in fishery ecosystems … they actually create energy in an ecosystem and thus allow for more fish, so they actually increase fish stocks.”

Much of the campaign’s cause is also motivated by opposition towards oil and gas exploration in the gulf.

Seismic testing has already been done in the gulf, while discussions over any future development continue.

Colin Jeffrey, the campaign’s other organizer, said the group wants individuals to start a debate on oil and gas development as well as look at other negative impacts such as increasing runoff pollution, overfishing and marine traffic.

“The idea is to get more information out there about how rich in marine life our gulf is, it’s really a nursery for a lot of our marine species,” said Jeffrey. “A lot of fish species come into the gulf where the waters are calmer and shallow and they lay their eggs there.”

Jeffrey said the group will educate the public on the many species in the gulf until the campaign ends sometime next January. Each week, a different species will be detailed online.

Jeffrey said more information on the campaign is available through links on the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club’s and the Save Our Seas and Shores’ websites.

Threats to Jobs | Save Our Seas and Shores | Page 2

Sept 18, 2013

Scott Tessier Chair and CEO Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board Fifth Floor, TD Place 140 Water St.

St. John’s, NL A1C 6H6

Dear Mr. Tessier:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the CNLOPB’s  Strategic Environmental Assessment Update for western NL(2013).

We are very, very disappointed by the narrow, inadequate terms of reference for this SEA Update report, and the subsequent deficiencies in this environmental assessment.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a vital, sensitive ecosystem of great marine diversity, productivity and importance to the coastal communities of NS, NB, PEI, QC and NL. It is also a globally significant ecosystem in fragile health due to  ocean acidification and hypoxia that requires immediate protection from further industrial development as well as restorative actions to maintain its sustainability.

Because the stakes are so high, a Strategic Environmental Assessment in the Gulf  must  be transparent, include extensive Gulf wide public engagement and seriously acknowledge the unknown implications from many gaps in scientific knowledge and understanding of how this complex ecosystem functions.

The acknowledgement in this SEA report of vulnerable marine mammals, rare turtles, lobster, krill, herring, capelin, redfish and plaice, to name a few, and cod ─ of special concern ─ in the designated western NL area, PROVES  that this marine region is too sensitive a body of water for offshore oil and gas seismic surveys and exploratory drilling to proceed. We will explain more but first, we have to be honest and specific with you.

The public consultation process was severely flawed.  For example, SOSS Coalition and the Gulf NS Herring Federation did not receive an invitation to the meetings held at the Board’s discretion in Sydney NS, even though our ongoing efforts over the past three years helped to generate these very consultations.  SOSS’ PEI Branch was similarly excluded from the stakeholder meeting in Charlottetown. The public event on PEI was poorly and briefly advertised, and hidden in the basement of a hotel far from the coastal communities that will face the greatest risks from petroleum development.

1)      The report on the Public Consultations in this SEA is very difficult to evaluate and in our opinion, grossly understates  the obvious lack of social acceptance by those of us who live near and rely upon the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  It makes light of our deep concerns for our sustainable environment, livelihoods, culture, property values and quality of life.

2)      The SEA understates and does not adequately address the short and long term risk factors of offshore development and exploratory drilling at Old Harry, in western NL and throughout the Gulf. These shortfalls stem from the narrow terms of reference and cookie cutter approach of this assessment, e.g., the SEA only addresses the limited scientific knowledge we have about the waters within the man-made boundaries of the NL portion of our Gulf.

3)      The SEA disregards the long and short term, cumulative negative impacts of chronic exploitation and degradation that this development would bring to the coastlines and waters of western NL and throughout our Gulf.

4)      It does not address the inability to ‘mitigate’ an oil spill in a Nor’easter under winter ice (or any time of year),  in a semi-enclosed sea with five provincial coastlines, chronic strong winds and tides, and counter-clockwise currents that only flush into the Atlantic once a year. The counter-clockwise currents could carry pollutants to the coasts of every province in Atlantic Canada over the course of a year.

5)      The SEA does not address the inevitability of increasingly erratic, severe weather patterns, hurricanes and ocean storms due to the acceleration of climate change, nor does it explain how to clean up any spill that could occur during such a storm.

6)      The SEA does not offer a solution to the lack of preparedness to respond to an oil spill by Canada’s Coast Guard, the CNLOPB and the offshore oil and gas industry –
(Canada’s offshore oil spill response outdated, audits found )

7)      It does not deal with the issue of liability and compensation to stakeholders negatively impacted by an oil spill ─ people whose livelihoods could be destroyed. For instance, herring fishermen in Alaska near where the Exxon Valdez spill happened have not seen the herring come back 22 years later.

8)      The other fatal weakness of this assessment is that it does not acknowledge or address ocean acidification and hypoxia in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or deal with how fragile the Gulf’s productivity and health are at this point in time.

According to DFO’s State of the Oceans reports (2010 and 2012), in the Gulf of St. Lawrence:

“Recent and historical data reveal that hypoxia is progressively worsening in the deep waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, especially at the heads of the Laurentian, Anticosti and Esquiman channels. The lowest levels of dissolved oxygen were recorded in the Laurentian Channel, where measurements have routinely been in the range of 20% saturation since the mid-1980s.”

What is Hypoxia?

“Around the world, marine hypoxia — a shortage of dissolved oxygen — is a growing problem that can have dramatic impacts on marine life and ecosystems. A decline in oxygen in seawater is now recognized as one of the likely consequences of global warming, because warmer water does not hold as much oxygen…”

According to DFO’s Impacts of Emerging Climate Issues:

“Low oxygen (hypoxia) has dramatic impacts on aquatic ecosystems, and the tolerance of marine fish and invertebrates to this condition is highly species dependent. At oxygen levels below 30 percent saturation, cod and other species that are intolerant of hypoxia either migrate to other geographic regions or die. Deoxygenation is now recognized as one of the likely consequences of climate change. The long term observations analyzed by DFO scientists have provided insight into climate change over the decades and the growing knowledge and awareness of hypoxia (dead zones) in Canadian waters”.

We conclude that hypoxia has reduced the resilience of the Gulf and its inhabitants, compromising the ability of the ecosystem to cope with further degradation such as seismic blasting, chronic pollution from offshore rigs, and related marine traffic.

What is Ocean Acidification?

According to DFO’s Impacts of Emerging Climate Issues:

“The earth’s oceans are vast carbon sinks. In the 200 years since the industrial revolution began, the oceans have absorbed about 30% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released by the burning of fossil fuels. But this climatic benefit has come at a cost. Carbon dioxide dissolves in the surface water and forms carbonic acid, lowering the pH of ocean waters. The more CO2 the ocean absorbs, the more acidic they will become. There are serious concerns about the ability of marine ecosystems to adapt to acidification. Organisms that form calcium carbonate skeletons and shells, such as coccolithophores and pteropods (food source for salmon), will be greatly limited in their ability to form their outer protective shells since a decline in pH decreases the saturation state of CaCO3. Commercial species such as lobster and shellfish are also vulnerable to this impact.”

According to DFO’s State of the Oceans report:

“Ocean acidification is a global threat with potential impacts on marine food webs, ecosystem productivity, commercial fisheries and global food security. This threat has prompted the international scientific community, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, to investigate the implications of this significant international governance issue.

Each year, about one third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) in fossil fuel emissions dissolves in ocean surface waters, forming carbonic acid and increasing ocean acidity. Over the next century or so, acidification will be intensified near the surface where much of the marine life that humans depend upon live.

The ocean surface is becoming more acidic with increasing atmospheric CO2, and acidity has increased by about 30% since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Estimates of future carbon dioxide levels, based on “business as usual” CO2 emission scenarios, indicate that by the end of this century, the surface waters of the ocean could be nearly 150% more acidic, resulting in a pH (a measure of acidity) that the oceans haven’t experienced for more than 20-million years and raising serious concerns about the ability of marine organisms to adapt. This scenario is based on information provided by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Monitoring ocean acidification and assessing its potential impacts are essential to the development of an ecosystem approach to managing the marine resources that are likely to be affected by this global threat.”

While ocean acidity levels are increasing by 30% globally, DFO estimates that ocean acidity levels have increased by 50 – 90% in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  There is scant knowledge about how reduced oxygen and increasing acidity interact with increased loading of petroleum products and other persistent organic pollutants.  Additionally,  ultraviolet light, which enhances the toxicity of pollutants in the marine environment, has increased owing to the depletion of atmospheric ozone in recent decades, and it is clear that the Gulf requires protection from any further assault.  Rather, its vulnerability calls for immediate restorative action.


The SOSS Coalition notes that this environmental assessment is important because it will provide the framework to determine whether offshore development should proceed in Canada’s ecologically sensitive Gulf, whose beauty and bounty annually supports multi-billion dollar fishery and tourism industries across five provinces.

We believe the CNLOPB has not met its responsibility as an ‘independent regulator’ because the assessment does not conform with the Ecosystem and Precautionary mandates of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, and Canada’s Oceans Act.  The narrow terms of reference fail to recognize the vulnerable state of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and also, ignore the reality that offshore drilling will negatively impact areas beyond the constantly moving waters of the designated offshore leases in western NL.

We maintain that the concerns voiced by the people of the Gulf deserve a fair, impartial hearing. The BP Deepwater Horizon, an exploratory well that went horribly wrong, shows that serious long-term impacts do occur, especially during exploration. Three and a half years after the BP disaster, with billions of dollars spent, only 3% of the oil has been recovered from the Gulf of Mexico and shrimp are now surfacing deformed, with no eyes. We also know that herring fishermen in Alaska near the Exxon Valdez spill site have still not seen the herring come back, 22 years later. We have to prevent disasters like these from happening here.

We are extremely concerned that the federal government is dismantling environmental regulations governing petroleum development instead of strengthening them, and we are left at the mercy of unelected provincial petroleum boards. These boards have conflicting mandates for petroleum industry development, worker safety and environmental health.  In our coalition’s opinion, the structure of these Boards enables the focus to be more on development, backed up by industry consultants who focus on ‘mitigation’ of negative impacts, instead of protecting vulnerable and poorly understood ecosystems from development.

Three years after the Wells inquiry, the CNLOPB still has not implemented Justice Wells’ recommendation that a separate regulator for safety and the environment be established, in spite of subsequent safety incidents on NL rigs. The Board’s unwillingness to take this particular recommendation seriously makes it difficult for us to trust in this process or to feel that the CNLOPB is functioning as a neutral regulator to protect the long term public interest.

We can’t help but question the neutrality and judgement of the CNLOPB when it has hired the global giant, AMEC to conduct this SEA.  AMEC is one of the world’s leading engineering, project management and consultancy companies whose clients include BP and Shell. According to the company’s website, “Our shares are traded on the London stock exchange where the company is included in the FTSE 100 Index and listed in the Oil Equipment and Services Sector. We offer services which extend from environmental and front end engineering design before the start of a project to decommissioning at the end of an asset’s life.”

Therefore, Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition and the Gulf NS Herring Federation want to state on the public record that:

The SEA Update Report of Western NL 2013 is not an accurate assessment of the designated area. While it acknowledges the diversity of marine life and thus, the sensitivity of these waters, it understates the paucity of scientific understanding of the ecosystem, the gaps in knowledge and data, and the lack of social sanction for exploration in the Gulf.

Further, it does not prioritize or even place in context the ecological fragility of the Gulf of St. Lawrence due to ocean acidification and hypoxia; and it diminishes the socio-economic and cultural importance of the renewable fishing and tourism livelihoods, people, animals, recreation, coastal communities, and vulnerable ecosystems throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence that could be negatively impacted by offshore oil and gas development at Old Harry and in western NL.

In our opinion, this type of cookie cutter SEA, conducted by only one of the five affected jurisdictions and without substantive public engagement, is not only inadequate, it is unethical.  It minimizes the dangerous, and perhaps irrevocable, negative impacts that offshore oil and gas development could have on vulnerable marine life and on the tens of thousands of fishing and tourism jobs, in hundreds of coastal communities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In the fragile waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, marine species spawn, nurse and migrate year around.  Given the sensitivity of the Gulf, and given that the Gulf’s historic stakeholders (inshore fishermen, coastal landowners, small business/tourism operators and First Nations among others) have survived for centuries on this globally significant ecosystem, we submit that it is unreasonable and unethical to proceed with offshore oil and gas development.

We wish to remind the CNLOPB  and the governments of Canada and the five Atlantic provinces that if the offshore oil and gas industry is sincere about ‘co-existence’, it must concede that some bodies of water are too sensitive for offshore oil and gas development ─  including the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, which is a semi-enclosed sea that has already suffered significant degradation. How safe are larvae, spawn and all the sensitive life stages of marine organisms, if all of the waters that marine species breed in are up for grabs by the offshore oil and gas industry?  We are convinced that our Gulf needs to be protected by a moratorium on petroleum exploration, coupled with efforts to conserve and restore the ecosystem.

We wish to remind you that even with moratoria in the Gulf of St Lawrence and Georges Bank, the offshore oil industry would still have access to over 88% of Canada’s East coast waters.

We are recommending that the CNLOPB refrain from any and all development in the waters along the western coast of NL and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and work inter-provincially and with the federal government to develop a Gulf-wide, arms-length and truly independent Environmental Review Panel process that will allow for effective and respectful public consultation.  The scope of such a process must be open to public debate, and the process must conform to the highest international standards for strategic environmental assessment in sensitive and globally significant ecosystems.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Gorman Save Our Sea and Shores Coalition, Merigomish NS Greg Egilsson Chairman, Gulf NS Herring Federation, Pictou NS

Dr. Irene Novaczek, marine biologist, Breadalbane PEI


The Hon. Joe Oliver MP / Minister of Natural Resources The Hon. Leona Aglukkaq MP / Minister of Environment The Hon. Gail Shea MP / Minister of Fisheries The Hon. Peter MacKay MP / Minister of Justice The Hon. Thomas Mulcair MP / Leader of the Official Opposition Justin Trudeau MP / Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada Elizabeth May MP / Leader of the Green Party of Canada Wayne Easter MP Lawrence MacAulay MP Rodger Cuzner MP Sean Casey MP Kathy Dunderdale, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador Darryl Dexter, Premier of NS Robert Ghiz, Premier of PEI Pauline Marois, Premier of Quebec David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick Charlie Parker, NS Minister of Energy

Clarrie Mackinnon MLA Pictou East

Artificial borders within Gulf waters – Map

Map of Artificial Borders to Allow Offshore Oil and Gas Development stlawrencemap-thumb-200xauto-1869-7156396

Credit: David Suzuki Foundation

As stated by the David Suzuki Foundation “According to the current legislative processes in place, the boundaries of the five gulf provinces (Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) are established by artificial legal borders in order to allow offshore hydrocarbon development. This means that these different jurisdictions issue hydrocarbon prospecting and operating licenses independently from one another.”
(Note that this map, and many others exclude representation of First Nations’ claims to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.)

Ethan Hawke, Mi’kmaq to oppose oil, gas exploration in Gulf of St. Lawrence ~ Chronicle Herald

TOM AYERS Cape Breton Bureau
Published October 22, 2015 – 11:28am

Oscar-nominated actor, writer and director Ethan Hawke is expected to attend a Mi’kmaq water ceremony on Monday at Paq’tnkek First Nation to support an aboriginal call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“Ethan Hawke has some land in that area down there,” said Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat.

“That’s why we were able to convince him to come out and do something with us, because he knows the area right there and he knows about the issue with the Gulf.”

Paq’tnkek Chief Paul (PJ) Prosper will host the secretariat — a group representing three First Nation communities along the Gaspe peninsula — along with Nova Scotia supporters and Innu and Maliseet from around the Gulf, at the ceremony at 1 p.m. on Summerside Road in Afton, Antigonish County.

That is near the site where the late Donald Marshall Jr. was arrested for eel fishing, an affair that ended with a Supreme Court decision in his name that confirmed the aboriginal right to fish.

This week, Shell Canada received approval to begin exploratory drilling off the southwest shore of Nova Scotia, while Corridor Resources, a Halifax junior exploration company, still has an interest in oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Aboriginals aren’t opposed to all petroleum exploration and drilling, said Jerome, but the waters of the Gulf need to be protected to ensure the aboriginal right to fish is not harmed.

Also, the entire region’s economy depends on fishing and tourism, which would be threatened by oil and gas development, he said.

“The Gulf is a very unique ecosystem, as opposed to other bodies of water, so I think there’s a hook there to say that (exploration) could happen in other areas, but in the Gulf, if there is some kind of accident out there, it’s going to devastate the whole economy, right from Halifax all the way to Gaspe and Newfoundland.”

The secretariat is backing a call made last year by Mi’kmaq chiefs and others for a 12-year moratorium on exploration in the Gulf and asking government regulators to commission an independent study of the entire Gulf region, instead of requiring companies to conduct limited studies within a smaller radius from potential exploration sites.

It is also hoping to raise awareness of the issues in the Gulf, where the counterclockwise current could carry pollutants around the shores of the four Atlantic provinces and Quebec, said Jerome, and sea ice in winter could make any cleanup difficult.

And at least three provincial regulatory bodies cover oil and gas development in the Gulf.

“We see this whole Gulf exploration happening under a shroud,” said Jerome. “They’re doing it in public, but the public doesn’t know that they could have a say about what’s happening.

“No one’s drilling right now, and we’re trying to make sure that no drilling occurs. The Mi’kmaq proposed a 12-year moratorium and people came back and said, ‘Why a 12-year moratorium?’

“For us, it’s quite clear that the Gulf is one large ecosystem, and you cannot study it by going to the Newfoundland portion and studying that, going to Quebec and studying that portion, and studying the Nova Scotia portion.”

Source: Chronicle Herald

Marine life in the Gulf | Save Our Seas and Shores | Page 2

Are blasting airguns jeopardizing Atlantic Ocean’s ecosystem?

by Robert Devet Halifax Media Co-op

November 21, 2013

K’JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s offshore oil and gas production is on the upswing. Natural gas is flowing from the Deep Panuke natural gas field on the Scotian Shelf.

And now there are two new kids on the block. This time it’s oil they are after.

Shell Canada spent the summer mapping the geology of a large area in the Shelburne Basin about 300 kilometers south east of Halifax. Next summer BP Exploration (Canada) will follow suit.

Shell for one is happy with the results of its discovery effort. “The initial indication is that the data we’re seeing looks really good,” Shell spokesperson Larry Lalonde told the Chronicle Herald in early September of this year. “We’re quite excited about what we are seeing.”

But local environmental activists are worried. And the concern is not just about spills like the one we saw in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Concerns emerge even in this early discovery stage when geologists are determining how much oil there really is, and where exactly that oil can be found.

Problem is, that discovery process is a very noisy affair.

Seismic testing involves the use of airguns fired from moving ships. The airguns generate loudblasts below the ocean’s surface approximately every 20 seconds. The nature of the resulting seismic waves allow geologists to map the geological strata below the ocean floor.

Many environmentalists believe that the noise generated by airguns, almost as loud as dynamite explosions, has a profoundly negative effect on fish, sea turtles and whales in the seismic testing area.

Beaked Whales spend 98% of their time below the surface and are unlikely to be spotted by observers on board of the seismic testing vessels, biologist Lindy Weilgart tells the Halifax Media Co-op. Photo: WikiCommons.

Lindy Weilgart, a Dalhousie University research associate in Biology, has studied the effects of seismic testing on marine wildlife since she was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University.

Biologist Lindy Weilgart believes more can be done to protect marine wildlife from seismic testing off the coast of Nova Scotia. Photo: Dalhousie University

“When the airgun is fired you actually see a bubble coming to the surface, air is released under incredibly high pressure, and with a very sharp onset,” says Weilgart. “One shot, and if you don’t have ear protectors on you can go deaf.”

Weilgart is not just worried that sea creatures find themselves too close to the airguns and suffer permanent hearing damage. There are other reasons why seismic testing is particularly hard on ocean dwellers, says Weilgart.

Although under water sound drops off faster, it carries much further than it does on land. The sound of the airguns can be heard as far as 4,000 kilometers away. Combine that with how crucial sound is for fish and sea mammals, and you have a big problem.

“Often it is the quiet signals that are important,” says Weilgart. “For instance, fin whales have to listen for the sounds of potential mates, to meet up. For them it could mean the difference between a mating opportunity or not.”

And not just whales. Weilgart mentions studies that show that fish make very poor decisions about handling their prey when in a noisy environment. Even squid are affected.

The impact of seismic testing on ocean wildlife is complex. Weilgart gives example after example to drive home this point.

“We have to look at it in the way the animal experiences it, we have to be animal-centric,” says Weilgart. And behaviour isn’t always a good indicator of what is really going on.

“Sometimes the most vulnerable and most desperate of the individuals will stay, not because they aren’t bothered by the seismic testing, but because they can’t afford to leave, they don’t have the luxury,” says Weilgart.

Sea creatures are not just facing this one seismic survey, they are dealing with other noise sources as well, says Weilgart. Ships, the bow thrusters of oil platforms, the seismic ships themselves make noise.

Then there is stress caused by overfishing and loss of prey, climate change and warming of the oceans, acidification, the list goes on.

Environmental approval for this summer’s seismic testing by Shell was granted by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, an independent joint federal-provincial agency that regulates all offshore oil and gas activities.

It’s written approval of this summer’s seismic testing effort states that it is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects, especially given the precautionary measures to which Shell has committed.

Those precautionary measures consist of independent monitors who travel on board of the ships and watch for whales and turtles, and sensors that pick up sounds made by whales below the ocean surface. Work stops immediately when there is any sign that such ocean wildlife is present.

Mark Butler, Policy Director at the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, does not think that is good enough.

What monitors are able to observe is just the tip of the iceberg, Butler says. Thick fog and big waves can make it very difficult to see a tail flick somewhere in that vast expanse of ocean.

Butler is also not happy that the exploration by Shell was taking place during the summer. He believes that it is better to stop seismic testing during sensitive periods.

“People don’t realize how much life comes into our waters in the spring and summer to feed, it’s like a highway out there,” says Butler.

This is why Butler asked that Shell postpone the seismic testing until later in the year, but Shell refused, arguing that the project was already approved and that bad weather in winter was too much of a risk to the crew.

“If you are striving, as some would perhaps suggest, for no environmental impact than there would be no man-made activities on land or on sea,” says Stuart Pinks, CEO of the Offshore Petroleum Board.

“But the purpose of the environmental assessment is to make sure that there is no significant adverse impact and to minimize any impact that has been identified to the lowest extent possible,” Pinks says.

Minimizing impact may be a matter of degree, but for Weilgart we’re not cautious enough.

“You can’t keep asking the animal to adapt, there is not enough luxury and play in the system,” says Weilgart. “The oceans are not doing well, and now you are throwing this at them.”

“At the very minimum you have to be precautionary.”

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

Grits want N.S. offshore safety improved (Chronicle Herald)

December 1, 2011 By Brett Bundale, Business Reporter Chronicle Herald

Halifax, NS

Pressure comes after fatal N.L. chopper crash

The Nova Scotia government is coming under intense pressure to overhaul offshore petroleum safety more than a year after an inquiry into a deadly helicopter crash in Newfoundland called for an independent safety body.

Leading the charge is Liberal energy critic Andrew Younger who introduced a bill on the issue in the provincial legislature this week.

Bill 119 urges the NDP government to push Ottawa to create a national offshore petroleum regulator to replace the joint federal-provincial boards.

“Most other major offshore jurisdictions have moved in this direction because it’s very difficult for an offshore regulator to be both the economic and safety regulator,” Younger said Thursday.

Nova Scotia’s offshore industry is regulated by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, which is tasked with developing offshore oil and gas as well as enforcing safety and environmental regulations.

Critics say the board grapples with a conflict of interest given its dual capacity of promoter and regulator.

Energy Minister Charlie Parker dismissed the suggestion that a national independent agency is needed to ensure the safety of the offshore industry.

“I would say there is really no need for that bill,” he said. “We have a joint federal-provincial board that oversees offshore safety, environmental protection and industry promotion and we have complete confidence they are doing the job they have been assigned to do.”

Parker said the board works closely with the Newfoundland board to ensure consistency between the two provinces.

But senior Energy Department officials are reviewing the recommendations that stemmed from the inquiry of the fatal crash of Cougar Flight 491 off Newfoundland and Labrador in 2009, he said.

ExxonMobil Canada’s Sable Offshore Energy Project has roughly 50 people working on its natural gas rig for two weeks at a time. Encana Corp. has about 35 people at its Deep Panuke platform, also for two week stretches, set to begin producing natural gas in the first quarter of 2012.

Both offshore rigs use a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter operated by Cougar Helicopters, the same company and helicopter involved in the Newfoundland crash.

Retired Judge Robert Wells led the inquiry and concluded in his report that “safety regulation should be separate from production aspects of the oil industry in order to avoid the conflicts which could arise when both activities are presided over by a single regulator.”

He pointed to countries like Norway, the United Kingdom and Australia that created independent safety boards on the heels of serious offshore accidents as a potential model for Canada to follow.

Parker said the potential need to further separate the board’s safety and development duties is under consideration.

Richard Grant, president of Grantec Engineering Consultants Inc., said Australia moved to a national agency several years ago after concluding the state-based regulatory regime wasn’t working.

“They realized there were deficiencies, they didn’t have the staff, expertise or competency to deal with all aspects of offshore safety so there were huge gaps,” he said.

Grant said moving to a national agency ensured the board had the critical mass of technical expertise needed to deal with complex problems.

He said Canada’s offshore regulations, which were “cobbled together in the 1980s,” could use updating.

Saint Mary’s University psychology professor Mark Fleming, an expert is safety culture, said the critical issue is allocating the safety board adequate resources to do its job properly.

“Whether a national agency would be better or worse than a federal-provincial board comes down to the resources allotted to them,” he said. “What’s most important is having the best quality staffs that have the resources to get external to help needed.

“There will be benefits and weaknesses in whatever scenario we choose.”

Paul Barnes of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said the current structure is working well.

“We as an industry wouldn’t advocate breaking up the board because we think they are currently functioning in a manner similar to other regulatory bodies that regulate the offshore around the world,” he said. “Industry is satisfied that regulations are consistently applied in different jurisdictions.”