N. L. regulator wants review of oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Panel sought to look at Old Harry proposal
Date published:Tue, 2011-06-14
The federal-provincial offshore oil regulator for Newfoundland and Labrador wants Ottawa to examine the impact of exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board is asking the federal government to set up a panel to look at oil exploration in the area after a drilling proposal from Corridor Resources drew criticism from fishing groups.
The board sent a letter to federal Environment Minister Peter Kent on Monday saying the Halifax firm’s proposal to drill an exploration well in the area known as Old Harry should receive the extra scrutiny of a review panel.
The regulator also says the proposal for an offshore well in the Gulf is unlikely to cause significant environmental harm.
But Max Ruelokke, chairman of the board, says Canadians are sensitive to the risks of offshore exploration after last year’s blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.
He said the proposed well is in an area where there has been little public experience with offshore drilling and the proposal has attracted “ an especially high level of concern.’’
Under existing rules, exploration wells normally only require a basic screening assessment.
However, the law governing the offshore also allows for a review if public concerns are more pronounced.
Paul Durling, the chief geophysicist at Corridor, said he’s pleased the board believes the one-well project doesn’t pose a significant adverse environmental threat, but he doesn’t think it warrants a review panel.
“ It’s an exploration review of short duration, and to put it in context, over 350 wells have been drilled in the Newfoundland offshore area,’’ he said in a telephone interview.
“ It will lead to increased costs and given there are no anticipated environmental impacts we feel this is not warranted.’’
Fishermen and residents of the Magdalen Islands have argued a thorough review is needed of the Old Harry prospect because of the rich fishing grounds in the area.
Some environmental groups, such as the Atlantic chapter of the Sierra Club and Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, have stated in a joint public submission to the board that the Gulf of St. Lawrence is “ too precious to be placed at risk by oil and gas development.’’