New Brunswick to join the race to the bottom

We will be following how citizens, organizations, and Indigenous peoples respond to New Brunswick’s intention to enter into the fossil fuel industry’s exploitation of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. NB has plans to approach Ottawa to “negotiate a potentially lucrative offshore accord” says The Telegraph-Journal. Read the article here.


Tories want offshore agreement

Adam Huras May 11, 2013

The Telegraph-Journal

FREDERICTON – The Tory government says it wants to search New Brunswick’s waters for potential offshore oil and natural gas deposits and has plans to approach Ottawa to negotiate a potentially lucrative offshore accord.

The government’s newly released blueprint [see page 30] to guide the development of the oil and gas resources says the province has spent the past two years developing a plan to negotiate a Canada-New Brunswick offshore agreement with the federal government.

That work has included a review of the provincial water boundaries.

Government staff has also searched out scientific data from seismic and exploration activities that took place in New Brunswick waters between 1965 and 1985 in efforts to find an existing resource.

Energy Minister Craig Leonard pointed out on Friday that existing onshore petroleum discoveries extend from St. Stephen and fan out in a “V” shape running along the southern coast of the province’s east and then as far north as Miramichi.

“That might extend out into the ocean,” Leonard said. “The issue that we’ve got now is that we do not have an offshore accord with the federal government unlike the provinces around us.

“There are some spots that companies in those provinces are looking at that are actually very close to the New Brunswick boundary.” In 1985, the federal government and Newfoundland signed the Atlantic Accord, an agreement reached in 1985 to manage offshore oil and gas resources in the waters next to that province.

That name was also used to describe a 2005 cash transfer agreement between Ottawa and both Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

The agreement allows the two provinces to keep energy revenues that would otherwise be subtracted from its equalization payments from the federal government.

Nova Scotia has received $867 million – the value of exempting energy revenues from equalization – over eight years under the agreement. The accord has meant roughly $5 billion to Newfoundland.

Quebec has its own separate, lucrative deal.

New Brunswick’s offshore areas comprise approximately 2.3 million hectares, or 24 per cent of the province’s total onshore and offshore area of 9.6 million hectares, according to government.

Leonard said existing seismic and exploration data completed decades ago can now be reviewed and reprocessed with new technology to get a better sense of any resources that could be there.

Seismic testing data has been collected in the past from the Northumberland Strait, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy.

“The offshore may contain significant oil and natural gas reserves,” reads the blueprint document.

“Successful exploration, development and production is now taking place in the offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, under federal/provincial offshore accords with those provinces, with the potential for the same in Quebec’s offshore.

“Due to New Brunswick’s geographical proximity to current potential development, negotiating a similar offshore accord is therefore in the best interests of the province.” The province wants to see New Brunswick as the “principal beneficiary” of its offshore petroleum resources in any agreement with the federal government.

“We feel it is prudent to take the steps to get an accord put in place,” Leonard said.”Not only does it protect us for future benefits or royalties and development revenues, but also that there is a strong regulatory framework set up in our territory that has strong environmental and social protections.” Energy consultations held in 2011 headed by co-chairmen Jeannot Volpe and Bill Thompson resulted in a recommendation to government for an offshore oil and gas agreement with the federal government.

In an initial energy blueprint released by government the same year, a single sentence stated the province would be seeking to resume discussion with Ottawa toward a joint offshore management regime.

The new blueprint states that a first phase to better understanding the province’s offshore resource will be by “maximizing the benefits of existing geophysical exploration well data, seismic, and other geological information.” New Brunswick will also seek to partner with the Natural Resources Canada and the Geological Survey of Canada, which could result in the collection of additional seismic and geophysical data in New Brunswick’s offshore areas, according to Leonard.

The energy minister said talks with the federal government are in their infancy, but that they are something New Brunswick plans to dedicate staff to and pursue.

“They seem open to the concept because they would like to see set rules in place in the entire area as well,” Leonard said.”It could be a prolonged discussion, or it could be something that could be done relatively quickly.”