Mary Gorman of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition talks about what the CNLOPB’s shelving of Bernard Richard’s review of oil drilling in the Gulf of St.Lawrence really means. Listen to her interview on CBC’s Newfoundland and Labrador’s Central Morning show.
Month: December 2018
Corridor Resources criticized by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada for oil spill simulation
Corridor Resources, who wants to drill a first exploratory well on the Newfoundland side of the Old Harry site, has once again been severely criticized, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and by Environment Canada (EC).
Since it submitted its drilling project in Feb. 2011, Corridor Resources is in the process of conducting an environmental assessment. As part of this environmental assessment, the Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) is requiring that Corridor presents a simulation of an oil spill occuring at Old Harry.
The goal of this modelling is to predict which sectors of the Gulf could be impacted in the event of a major spill, so it is a very important step that should not be taken lightly.
In Dec. 2011, Corridor Resources presented the results of its spill simulation and, lo and behold, the resulting oil slick was predicted to attain only a few kms of diameter and it would evaporate almost instantaneously! This report was then reviewed in March 2012 by EC and by DFO who both concluded the spill simulation was deeply flawed and asked Corridor Resources to go back to the drawing board.
One of the main problems was that Corridor Resources used a very light Cohasset type oil in its modelling, while they should use a much heavier oil to stay on the conservative side.
In early 2012, EC once again asked Corridor Resources to correct the problems identified with its simulation.
In a letter to the C-NLOPB dated April 13 2013, Corridor Resources stated “We do not believe that additional work is warranted on this issue.” Then, in early April 2013, Corridor submitted a revised environmental assessment, but with the same flawed spill simulation results.
On August 19 2013, the C-NLOPB released consolidated comments from DFO and EC on the revised environmental assessment and once again both departments very strongly criticized Corridor’s spill simulation.
According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada: – Corridor and its consultant (SL Ross) have not taken into consideration the daily tides in their simulation ; – Corridor has not taken into consideration the deep layer currents that could carry the spilled oil far inside the Gulf ; – Corridor has employed unrealistic current data : average monthly currents (very weak) instead of instantaneous daily currents (much stronger) ; – Corridor and its consultant have not taken into consideration the experience gained in the Gulf of Mexico ; – The simulation has used a succession of 6-hour long spills without considering the cumulative impact of all these small spills ; – The mathematical model used is validated only for shallow sectors, certainly not the case at Old Harry (470 meters) ;
– This overly optimistic simulation could lead officials to underestimate the risks and be inadequately prepared in case of a spill.
Suzuki Foundation warns of oil spill dangers (CBC)
November 8, 2010
The Atlantic provinces are in danger of being hit by oil spills if a proposed offshore drilling project in the Gulf of St. Lawrence goes ahead, the David Suzuki Foundation said Monday.
Corridor Resources Inc., a Nova Scotia company that has developed natural gas wells near Sussex, N.B., holds exploration leases on an offshore oil field in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The deposit — dubbed Old Harry — is between Newfoundland and Quebec’s Îles-de-la-Madeleine and roughly 500 metres underwater.
Old Harry may contain hydrocarbon reserves of up to two billion barrels of oil, according to a posting on the David Suzuki Foundation website.
Karel Mayrand, the director general for Quebec at the David Suzuki Foundation, said staff prepared computer simulations of what would happen if an oil spill were to occur in the Old Harry field.
“It means oil coming to the Acadian Peninsula and to the tip of Prince Edward Island,” Mayrand told CBC News on Monday.
“The impacts are important because, as you know, species can be affected in ecosystems, and we would see impacts on fisheries and also on tourism.”
There are simulations for each of the four seasons. One simulation, for example, suggests a winter oil spill in the area would spread oil to the Acadian Peninsula — from Miscou Island to Caraquet — and the northwest tip of Prince Edward Island.
“This is an ecosystem that is already under stress. It does not need another stressor,” said Inka Milewski, the science advisor for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
“The Acadian Peninsula is an interesting part of New Brunswick; it’s very different than the Bay of Fundy,” Milewski said.
“Very low-lying, lots of sedimentary environment, a lot of sand, eelgrass beds, wetland areas. So it would have a devastating impact if it hit that particular coast.”
Corridor Resources Inc.’s current licence will allow the company to do a seismic survey of the Old Harry field in order to determine the best location for the first borehole. After the seismic survey, according to the terms of the licence, drilling would happen by 2012 to confirm whether the hydrocarbons are there.
Christian Brun, the executive director of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, said Monday he wants a moratorium on drilling, considering the potential impacts a spill may have on fish and shellfish.
“You can’t go forward until you demonstrate that this will have either minimal consequences — which they can’t — or that there’s a way to prevent and react in case of severe difficulties,” he said.
“That’s not there right now.”
The David Suzuki Foundation is expected to release their oil spill computer simulations on Tuesday.
Joint Press Conference at Melmerby Beach, NS with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May
Green Party, Maritime Fisherman’s Union and Save Our Seas and Shores call for Moratorium at Melmerby Beach Press Conference on July 19, 2010
Save Our Seas and Shores plunged in action shortly after the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in April 2010. By early July 2010, Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, became the first politician to support our call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.
L.to R. Mary Gorman (Save Our Seas and Shores), Nancy Kimber (Gulf shore resident), Darryl MacIvor (President of MFU Local 4), Elizabeth May (Leader, Green Party of Canada), Dr. Irene Novaczek (scientific advisor, Save Our Seas and Shores)
BP Spill a wake up call to coastal landowners in the Gulf of St. Lawrence Media Release
Green Party of Canada
TVO Green Heroes awarded to SOSS co-founder Mary Gorman
Gorman Honoured for Environmental Efforts Monday 18th April 2011 CKEC – East Coast FM 941
An environmental activist in Northern Nova Scotia is the recipient of an award. Mary Gorman of the Save Our Seas Coalition won top prize at the TVO’s “Green Heroes” contest in Toronto. Gorman was selected by a grand jury from seven category winners in the National Contest, and will be profiled on the “Green Heroes” series about the Coalition’s efforts to stop oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Gorman says it is ironic she was singled out just three days before the anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico spill.
Planned Cuts to Environment Assessment Agency Could Leave Gulf Open to Oil and Gas
July 22, 2011
Planned Cuts to Environment Assessment Agency Could Leave Gulf Open to Oil and Gas
New Glasgow, NS – Plans to slash the budget of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency budget to a paltry $17 million alarmed a coalition of community, fisheries, and Aboriginal groups engaged in protecting the Gulf of St. Lawrence from oil and gas.
“These cuts are not only bad news for environmental protection in this country but also reflect an erosion of our democratic rights in Canada,” says Mary Gorman of Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition.
“The Newfoundland offshore petroleum board has called for a federal assessment of the impacts of oil and gas on the Gulf,” says Gretchen Fitzgerald, Director of the Sierra Club Canada – Atlantic Canada Chapter, “We are alarmed these cuts indicate the Prime Minister has not taken the Board’s recommendation seriously. Meanwhile, the federal government continues to fork over billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil.”
The Wells Commission, which examined the causes of the deaths of 17 workers in the 2009 helicopter crash in Newfoundland’s offshore, called for better environmental regulation of the offshore. Canada’s Senate Committee on Energy, Natural Resources and Environment have also stated that offshore boards like the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), may be in a conflict of interest when it comes to safety and the environment, and that their role should be reviewed.
“Canadians created laws and processes like the environmental assessment act to evaluate risk and protect special and valuable ecosystems like the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” say Mary Gorman, head of the Save our Seas and Shores Coalition, “How can Canada possibly meet its moral obligations to prevent environmental destruction when environmental protection agencies are being gutted?”
The Coalition is calling on Minister Kent to engage all five provinces and aboriginal leaders in a joint review panel of impacts of oil and gas in the Gulf.
Gulf Seafood Deformities Alarm Scientists (Al Jezeera)
This article is originally from Al-Jezeera, reposted on oceanNRG blog The blogger had 40,000 hits on his site after reposting this article from Al-Jezeera mostly from North America, Canada, the UK, and Australia. As he said, “Many people around the world also have an emotional connection with the ocean, its use and its bounty.”
March 18, 2013
New Orleans, LA – “The fishermen have never seen anything like this,” Dr Jim Cowan told Al Jazeera. “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.” Dr Cowan, with Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and CoastalSciences started hearing about fish with sores and lesions from fishermen in November 2010.
Cowan’s findings replicate those of others living along vast areas of the Gulf Coast that have been impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants. Gulf of Mexico fishermen, scientists and seafood processors have told Al Jazeera they are finding disturbing numbers of mutated shrimp, crab and fish that they believe are deformed by chemicals released during BP’s 2010 oil disaster.
Along with collapsing fisheries, signs of malignant impact on the regional ecosystem are ominous: horribly mutated shrimp, fish with oozing sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, eyeless crabs and shrimp – and interviewees’ fingers point towards BP’s oil pollution disaster as being the cause.
Tracy Kuhns and her husband Mike Roberts, commercial fishers from Barataria, Louisiana, are finding eyeless shrimp. “At the height of the last white shrimp season, in September, one of our friends caught 400 pounds of these,” Kuhns told Al Jazeera while showing a sample of the eyeless shrimp. According to Kuhns, at least 50 per cent of the shrimp caught in that period in Barataria Bay, a popular shrimping area that was heavily impacted by BP’s oil and dispersants, were eyeless. Kuhns added: “Disturbingly, not only do the shrimp lack eyes, they even lack eye sockets.”
“Some shrimpers are catching these out in the open Gulf [of Mexico],” she added, “They are also catching them in Alabama and Mississippi. We are also finding eyeless crabs, crabs with their shells soft instead of hard, full grown crabs that are one-fifth their normal size, clawless crabs, and crabs with shells that don’t have their usual spikes … they look like they’ve been burned off by chemicals.”
On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded, and began the release of at least 4.9 million barrels of oil. BP then used at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic Corexit dispersants to sink the oil. Keath Ladner, a third generation seafood processor in Hancock County, Mississippi, is also disturbed by what he is seeing. “I’ve seen the brown shrimp catch drop by two-thirds, and so far the white shrimp have been wiped out,” Ladner told Al Jazeera. “The shrimp are immune compromised. We are finding shrimp with tumors on their heads, and are seeing this everyday.”
While on a shrimp boat in Mobile Bay with Sidney Schwartz, the fourth-generation fisherman said that he had seen shrimp with defects on their gills, and “their shells missing around their gills and head”. “We’ve fished here all our lives and have never seen anything like this,” he added. Ladner has also seen crates of blue crabs, all of which were lacking at least one of their claws.
Darla Rooks, a lifelong fisherperson from Port Sulfur, Louisiana, told Al Jazeera she is finding crabs “with holes in their shells, shells with all the points burned off so all the spikes on their shells and claws are gone, misshapen shells, and crabs that are dying from within … they are still alive, but you open them up and they smell like they’ve been dead for a week”. Rooks is also finding eyeless shrimp, shrimp with abnormal growths, female shrimp with their babies still attached to them, and shrimp with oiled gills.
“We also seeing eyeless fish, and fish lacking even eye-sockets, and fish with lesions, fish without covers over their gills, and others with large pink masses hanging off their eyes and gills.” Rooks, who grew up fishing with her parents, said she had never seen such things in these waters, and her seafood catch last year was “ten per cent what it normally is”. “I’ve never seen this,” he said, a statement Al Jazeera heard from every scientist, fisherman, and seafood processor we spoke with about the seafood deformities. Given that the Gulf of Mexico provides more than 40 per cent of all the seafood caught in the continental US, this phenomenon does not bode well for the region, or the country.
“The dispersants used in BP’s draconian experiment contain solvents, such as petroleum distillates and 2-butoxyethanol. Solvents dissolve oil, grease, and rubber,” Dr Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist and Exxon Valdez survivor told Al Jazeera. “It should be no surprise that solvents are also notoriously toxic to people, something the medical community has long known”.
The dispersants are known to be mutagenic, a disturbing fact that could be evidenced in the seafood deformities. Shrimp, for example, have a life-cycle short enough that two to three generations have existed since BP’s disaster began, giving the chemicals time to enter the genome.
Pathways of exposure to the dispersants are inhalation, ingestion, skin, and eye contact. Health impacts can include headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, chest pains, respiratory system damage, skin sensitisation, hypertension, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, cardiac arrhythmia and cardiovascular damage. They are also teratogenic – able to disturb the growth and development of an embryo or fetus – and carcinogenic.
Cowan believes chemicals named polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), released from BP’s submerged oil, are likely to blame for what he is finding, due to the fact that the fish with lesions he is finding are from “a wide spatial distribution that is spatially coordinated with oil from the Deepwater Horizon, both surface oil and subsurface oil. A lot of the oil that impacted Louisiana was also in subsurface plumes, and we think there is a lot of it remaining on the seafloor”.
Dr Wilma Subra, a chemist and MacArthur Fellow, has conducted tests on seafood and sediment samples along the Gulf for chemicals present in BP’s crude oil and toxic dispersants. “Tests have shown significant levels of oil pollution in oysters and crabs along the Louisiana coastline,” Subra told Al Jazeera. “We have also found high levels of hydrocarbons in the soil and vegetation.”
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, PAHs “are a group of semi-volatile organic compounds that are present in crude oil that has spent time in the ocean and eventually reaches shore, and can be formed when oil is burned”. “The fish are being exposed to PAHs, and I was able to find several references that list the same symptoms in fish after the Exxon Valdez spill, as well as other lab experiments,” explained Cowan. “There was also a paper published by some LSU scientists that PAH exposure has effects on the genome.”
The University of South Florida released the results of a survey whose findings corresponded with Cowan’s: a two to five per cent infection rate in the same oil impact areas, and not just with red snapper, but with more than 20 species of fish with lesions. In many locations, 20 per cent of the fish had lesions, and later sampling expeditions found areas where, alarmingly, 50 per cent of the fish had them.
“I asked a NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] sampler what percentage of fish they find with sores prior to 2010, and it’s one tenth of one percent,” Cowan said. “Which is what we found prior to 2010 as well. But nothing like we’ve seen with these secondary infections and at this high of rate since the spill.”
“What we think is that it’s attributable to chronic exposure to PAHs released in the process of weathering of oil on the seafloor,” Cowan said. “There’s no other thing we can use to explain this phenomenon. We’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Questions raised by Al Jazeera’s investigation remain largely unanswered. Al Jazeera contacted the office of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who provided a statement that said the state continues to test its waters for oil and dispersants, and that it is testing for PAHs. “Gulf seafood has consistently tested lower than the safety thresholds established by the FDA for the levels of oil and dispersant contamination that would pose a risk to human health,” the statement reads. “Louisiana seafood continues to go through extensive testing to ensure that seafood is safe for human consumption. More than 3,000 composite samples of seafood, sediment and water have been tested in Louisiana since the start of the spill.”
At the federal government level, the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency – both federal agencies which have powers in the this area – insisted Al Jazeera talk with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
NOAA won’t comment to the media because its involvement in collecting information for an ongoing lawsuit against BP. BP refused Al Jazeera’s request to comment on this issue for a television interview, but provided a statement that read: “Seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident.” BP claims that fish lesions are common, and that prior to the Deepwater Horizon accident there was documented evidence of lesions in the Gulf of Mexico caused by parasites and other agents.
The oil giant added:
“As part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment, which is led by state and federal trustees, we are investigating the extent of injury to natural resources due to the accident. “BP is funding multiple lines of scientific investigation to evaluate potential damage to fish, and these include: extensive seafood testing programs by the Gulf states; fish population monitoring conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Auburn University and others; habitat and water quality monitoring by NOAA; and toxicity tests on regional species. The state and federal Trustees will complete an injury assessment and the need for environmental restoration will be determined.”
Before and after
But evidence of ongoing contamination continues to mount. Crustacean biologist Darryl Felder, in the Department of Biology with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is in a unique position. Felder has been monitoring the vicinity of BP’s blowout Macondo well both before and after the oil disaster began, because, as he told Al Jazeera, “the National Science Foundation was interested in these areas that are vulnerable due to all the drilling”.
“So we have before and after samples to compare to,” he added. “We have found seafood with lesions, missing appendages, and other abnormalities.” Felder also has samples of inshore crabs with lesions. “Right here in Grand Isle we see lesions that are eroding down through their shell. We just got these samples last Thursday and are studying them now, because we have no idea what else to link this to as far as a natural event.”
According to Felder, there is an even higher incidence of shell disease with crabs in deeper waters. “My fear is that these prior incidents of lesions might be traceable to microbes, and my questions are, did we alter microbial populations in the vicinity of the well by introducing this massive amount of petroleum and in so doing cause microbes to attack things other than oil?” One hypothesis he has is that the waxy coatings around crab shells are being impaired by anthropogenic chemicals or microbes resulting from such chemicals.
“You create a site where a lesion can occur, and microbes attack. We see them with big black lesions, around where their appendages fall off, and all that is left is a big black ring.” Felder added that his team is continuing to document the incidents: “And from what we can tell, there is a far higher incidence we’re finding after the spill.” “We are also seeing much lower diversity of crustaceans,” he said. “We don’t have the same number of species as we did before [the spill].”
Felder has tested his samples for oil, but not found many cases where hydrocarbon traces tested positive. Instead, he believes what he is seeing in the deepwater around BP’s well is caused from the “huge amount” of drilling mud used during the effort to stop the gushing well. “I was collecting deepwater shrimp with lesions on the side of their carapace. Under the lesions, the gills were black. The organ that propels the water through the gills, it too was jet-black. That impairs respiratory ability, and has a negative effect on them. It wasn’t hydrocarbons, but is largely manganese precipitates, which is really odd. There was a tremendous amount of drilling mud pumped out with Macondo, so this could be a link.”
Some drilling mud and oil well cement slurries used on oil extraction rigs contains up to 90 per cent by weight of manganomanganic (manganese) oxide particles. Felder is also finding “odd staining” of animals that burrow into the mud that cause stain rings, and said: “It is consistently mineral deposits, possibly from microbial populations in [overly] high concentrations.”
A direct link
Dr Andrew Whitehead, an associate professor of biology at Louisiana State University, co-authored the reportGenomic and physiological footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on resident marsh fishes that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in October 2011.
Whitehead’s work is of critical importance, as it shows a direct link between BP’s oil and the negative impacts on the Gulf’s food web evidenced by studies on killifish before, during and after the oil disaster. “What we found is a very clear, genome-wide signal, a very clear signal of exposure to the toxic components of oil that coincided with the timing and the locations of the oil,” Whitehead told Al Jazeera during an interview in his lab. According to Whitehead, the killifish is an important indicator species because they are the most abundant fish in the marshes, and are known to be the most important forage animal in their communities.
“That means that most of the large fish that we like to eat and that these are important fisheries for, actually feed on the killifish,” he explained. “So if there were to be a big impact on those animals, then there would probably be a cascading effect throughout the food web. I can’t think of a worse animal to knock out of the food chain than the killifish.”
But we may well be witnessing the beginnings of this worst-case scenario. Whitehead is predicting that there could be reproductive impacts on the fish, and since the killifish is a “keystone” species in the food web of the marsh, “Impacts on those species are more than likely going to propagate out and effect other species. What this shows is a very direct link from exposure to DWH oil and a clear biological effect. And a clear biological effect that could translate to population level long-term consequences.”
Back on shore, troubled by what he had been seeing, Keath Ladner met with officials from the US Food and Drug Administration and asked them to promise that the government would protect him from litigation if someone was made sick from eating his seafood. “They wouldn’t do it,” he said. “I’m worried about the entire seafood industry of the Gulf being on the way out,” he added grimly.
‘Tar balls in their crab traps’
Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer, as well as a marine and oyster biologist, has “great concern” about the hundreds of dolphin deaths he has seen in the region since BP’s disaster began, which he feels are likely directly related to the BP oil disaster. “Adult dolphins’ systems are picking up whatever is in the system out there, and we know the oil is out there and working its way up the food chain through the food web – and dolphins are at the top of that food chain.”
Cake explained: “The chemicals then move into their lipids, fat, and then when they are pregnant, their young rely on this fat, and so it’s no wonder dolphins are having developmental issues and still births.” Cake, who lives in Mississippi, added: “It has been more than 33 years since the 1979 Ixtoc-1 oil disaster in Mexico’s Bay of Campeche, and the oysters, clams, and mangrove forests have still not recovered in their oiled habitats in seaside estuaries of the Yucatan Peninsula. It has been 23 years since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil disaster in Alaska, and the herring fishery that failed in the wake of that disaster has still not returned.”
Cake believes we are still in the short-term impact stage of BP’s oil disaster. “I will not be alive to see the Gulf of Mexico recover,” said Cake, who is 72 years old. “Without funding and serious commitment, these things will not come back to pre-April 2010 levels for decades.” The physical signs of the disaster continue. “We’re continuing to pull up oil in our nets,” Rooks said. “Think about losing everything that makes you happy, because that is exactly what happens when someone spills oil and sprays dispersants on it. People who live here know better than to swim in or eat what comes out of our waters.”
Khuns and her husband told Al Jazeera that fishermen continue to regularly find tar balls in their crab traps, and hundreds of pounds of tar balls continue to be found on beaches across the region on a daily basis. Meanwhile Cowan continues his work, and remains concerned about what he is finding. “We’ve also seen a decrease in biodiversity in fisheries in certain areas. We believe we are now seeing another outbreak of incidence increasing, and this makes sense, since waters are starting to warm again, so bacterial infections are really starting to take off again. We think this is a problem that will persist for as long as the oil is stored on the seafloor.”
Felder wants to continue his studies, but now is up against insufficient funding. Regarding his funding, Cowan told Al Jazeera: “We are up against social and economic challenges that hamper our ability to get our information out, so the politics have been as daunting as the problem [we are studying] itself. But my funding is not coming from a source that requires me to be quiet.”
We have more information on this issue here.
Canadian singer-songwriter pens song for the Gulf “Disregard the Fish”
Watch “Disregard the Fish” – a protest song against oil and gas development in the Gulf featuring singer-songwriter Lizzie Shanks on vocals, soaring over imagery of the existing beauty of the now pristine Gulf of St. Lawrence, juxtaposed against the devastating realities in the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Save Our Seas and Shores is grateful to Lizzie Shanks and Carey Gurden of The Heliotrope Project for the gift of this moving vocal and visual tribute to the Gulf! Spread it around folks!
Offshore oil, gas development a risk to all – Commentary by Colin Jeffrey (The Guardian)
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 http://peiwatershedalliance.org/web/?p=573
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.
Council of Canadians denounces oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
The Council of Canadians is a key member of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition.
Angela Giles, Atlantic organizer, Council of Canadians (Photo: Council of Canadians)
Atlantic organizer Angela Giles spoke at our joint press conference on October 11th, 2012 in Sydney, NS.
The press conference denounced the plans to drill exploratory wells in the Old Harry area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, called on the Harper government to reinstate federal marine protection in the Gulf, highlighted concerns about the unelected Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, and voiced opposition about the lack of real public consultations on this issue.
The Council of Canadians has opposed oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for several years now. From Brent Patterson’s blog:
– On September 11, 2012, CBC reported, “About 50 people from environmental groups, labour unions and the Council of Canadians staged a silent march in protest of oil and gas development and called for a moratorium on oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (during a) federal and provincial energy ministers (meeting) in Charlottetown, P.E.I.” – On March 1, 2012, Council of Canadians energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue wrote, “We support the call for a moratorium on all projects and requests for permits for offshore drilling in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Unlike Environment Minister Peter Kent, we believe an open, democratic process will allow Atlantic Canadians to have their voices heard, leading to right decision – no offshore drilling.”
– On April 7, 2011, “Atlantic Council of Canadians chapter delegates, gathered in Tatamagouche, united in concern with the proposed drilling in the ‘Old Harry’ area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (They said) the lack of public consultation and the information void around the proposed drilling has created more questions than answers.”
– On March 28, 2011, Council of Canadians vice-chairperson Leo Broderick wrote the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board expressing concern that Corridor Resources could be granted a permit to drill an exploration well. Broderick wrote, “The Council of Canadians is requesting that you stop this project. We ask that you declare a moratorium on oil drilling inside the Gulf.”
– On November 17, 2010, the Council of Canadians joined the call from Save Our Seas and Shores, Attention Fragile (Magdalen Islands), Sierra Club Atlantic, and the Ecology Action Centre, for a moratorium on oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.