CAPE BRETON ISLAND THREATENED BY COASTAL OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT!!


Summer 2003 update: Time is running out | version française - Le temps presse


March 2003 update:
The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board has ruled that two oil companies can begin seismic testing within ten kilometres of Cape Breton's Cabot Trail and near Sydney. Read SCC's March 2003 Action Alert to find out what you can do.


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The governments of Nova Scotia and Canada have given exploration licenses to two oil and gas companies to pursue oil and gas development in coastal zones abutting the shoreline.

On the sensitive western edge of the Island, Corridor Resources has a 600,000 acre seabed permit, running fifty miles along the shore from Port Hood to Cheticamp and extending twenty miles out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. On the eastern coast, at Sydney Bight, Hunt Oil and TotalFinaElf have two permits covering nearly one and a half million acres.

These permits were granted in 1999. Due to a grass-roots protest led by fishermen and First Nations, environmental groups, tourism interests and the local clergy, the governments held off exploration until a public review could be held. In January 2002, at the Public Review, these groups made a compelling case against allowing the testing to proceed. In fact, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans testified that the areas within the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and Sydney Bight were more biologically sensitive than those in George's Bank. George's Bank off southwestern Nova Scotia is under a moratorium against oil and gas development until 2011.


WHY IS CAPE BRETON'S FISHERY GETTING LESS PROTECTION THAN THE GEORGE'S BANK?

The Commissioner of the Public Review found that not enough was known about the impacts of seismic testing and exploratory drilling to allow these activities to proceed. But, in contravention of the recommendations of the Commissioner in the inquiry, the Canada Nova Scotia Off-shore Petroleum Board (the regulatory body that issued the permits in the first place) has established an advisory committee to review the company plans and placed both oil companies on the committee!


TIME IS RUNNING OUT TO CONVINCE THE GOVERNMENT THAT THESE PERMITS MUST BE RESCINDED AND THE AREA PLACED UNDER A LONG-TERM MORATORIUM.

 
 

Scenic Cape Breton Island, famous for the Cabot Trail, the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and abundant wildlife, may soon be famous for something else — the only area in the industrialized world with shoreline oil and gas permits.

THREATENED MARINE LIFE = THREATENED JOBS

Both areas are incredibly sensitive and rich in biodiversity. An astonishing one million tons of animal life, whales and fish, migrates between the two areas annually.

The areas support tens of thousands of people in the fishery and hundreds more through tourism.

Both areas are significant for the wealth of their fisheries including: lobster, snow crab, cod, herring, American Plaice, hake, mackerel, tuna, flounder, greysole, and gaspereau.
 


 

20,000 PEOPLE DEPEND ON THE ANNUAL ONE BILLION DOLLAR FISHERY IN THE GULF OF ST. LAURENCE ALONE!

The Sydney Bight fishery on the eastern shores is a rich ecosystem, a mixing ground for the migratory species from the Scotian Shelf, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and western Newfoundland. The stocks fished in the lucrative southern Gulf fishery over-winter in the Sydney Bight waters. The area around protected Bird Islands has been recognized as an important nursery area for the rebuilding of the beleaguered cod stocks.

Whales and other marine mammals are found in both areas. Minke, grey and pilot whales as well as harbour seals and dolphins make their home in Cape Breton’s waters. Seabirds also are found in great numbers, although reduced from those of a century ago. Cape Breton has a large population of Atlantic Puffins, virtually only found at Bird Islands sanctuary, within the boundaries of Hunt Oil’s lease.

 
 

Whales and other marine mammals are found in both areas. Minke and pilot whales as well as harbour seals and dolphins make their home in Cape Breton’s waters.

Important protected areas that will be affected include:
  • Cabot Trail Shores Oil Lease (The Corridor Permit Parcel 1)

  • The Cape Breton Highlands National Park

  • The Margaree River (designated a Canadian Heritage River, famous for salmon)

  • Margaree Island Bird Sanctuary

  • Eastern Shores Oil Lease (Hunt Oil/TotalFinaElf permit, permits 2364, and 2365)

  • Bird Islands Bird Sanctuary (home of Cormorants and Puffins)



WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF EXPLORATION?

The process of identifying possible petroleum reserves below the seabed is not without serious risks. The mapping is done through seismic testing, with blasts of an air gun at over 100 decibels. Corridor Resources testing would involve up to 32 air guns, towed in a one hundred foot wide grid at varied depths and ranges, blasting every 10-12 seconds. Drilling can contaminate the surrounding waters with toxic drilling muds. Drilling muds smother the benthic organisms below.

Studies have shown that seismic testing reduces fish catch rates in the area near testing, but work has been inadequate to determine damage to eggs and larvae. Blasting can do serious damage to whales and dolphins dependent on sonar for navigation and communication.

Every independent body to examine this issue has stated the permits should be rescinded. Both the federal government s Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC), a scientific advisory body appointed by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Standing Committee on Fisheries of the House of Commons have called for a moratorium. The Public Review found that there were large areas of scientific uncertainty and data gaps, including a complete lack of knowledge of the extent of munitions and toxic materials in old military dumps at sea, found within the permits.

 



HOW COULD SUCH PERMITS BE APPROVED IN THE RICH AND FRAGILE ECOSYSTEMS OF COASTAL CAPE BRETON?

The permits were granted with ZERO consultation with First Nations, violating rights repeatedly enunciated by the Supreme Court, NO environmental assessment, NO consultation with fishermen or local communities, and NO prior identification of sensitive spawning, nursery and migratory areas. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act, passed in 1988, was intended to fast-track oil and gas activities offshore in Nova Scotia.

A major find at Sable on the Scotian Shelf has brought the oil and gas industry to Nova Scotia, but Sable is one hundred miles off the Nova Scotia coast. The Cape Breton permits are right on shore and on top of sensitive fishing grounds. The Act has no screens for local or environmental concerns. There are no cautions, no “go-slow, yellow light” sections. It’s a one-track process, leading to industry “green lights.” The permits were granted during the course of the June 1999 provincial election campaign.

WE DON’T NEED MORE OIL AND GAS….BURNING FOSSIL FUELS IS THREATENING EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES THROUGH CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS… WE DO NEED TO SUSTAIN THE LIFE OF OUR OCEANS!


WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Support the coalition fighting the Cabot Trail Shores Oil Lease: Save our Seas and Shores (SOS) is a coalition including the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs (representing all the Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy and Malisseet First Nations of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Maine), the Gulf Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, the Maritime Fishermen Union and every fishermen s organization along the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, the clergy of the Cape Breton coast, tourism operators, Ecology Action Center (Halifax), Earth Action (PEI) and the Sierra Club of Canada. The call for the permits to be rescinded has been endorsed by eleven municipalities in eastern Nova Scotia.

See: The Sierra Club of Canada's web site for more details. The expert evidence from the public review can be found on the site. sierraclub.ca/national

Donations can be made to the Sierra Club of Canada, Suite 412, 1 Nicholas St., Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7 (earmarked SOSS).

To support Sierra Club of Canada’s campaign against coastal oil and gas exploration anywhere in Canada, send your cheque earmarked to SCC’s Marine Campaign, to the Ottawa address.


PLEASE RAISE YOUR VOICE:

Write:

FEDERAL

The Right Hon. Jean Chrétien, MP
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Fax: (613) 941-6900
e-mail: chretj@parl.gc.ca

The Hon. Herb Dhaliwal, MP
Minister of Natural Resources
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Fax: (613) 995-2962
e-mail: dhalih@parl.gc.ca

The Hon. R. Thibault, MP
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
House of Commons,
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Fax: (613) 995-5711
e-mail: Thibault.R@parl.gc.ca

The Hon. David Anderson, MP
Minister of the Environment
House of Commons,
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Fax: (613) 952-1458
e-mail: Anderson.D@parl.gc.ca

(NB: no postage necessary when writing
to a FEDERAL MP at the House of Commons.)
PROVINCIAL

The Hon. John Hamm
Premier of Nova Scotia
7th Floor One Government Place
P.O. Box 726
Halifax Nova Scotia, B3J 2R8
Fax: (902) 424-7648
e-mail: Premier@gov.ns.ca

The Hon. Ernest Fage
Minister of Energy
5151 George Street
P.O. Box 2664
Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J 3P7
Fax: (902) 424-3265
e-mail: min-energy@gov.ns.ca

The Hon. Gordon D. Balser
Minister of Agriculture And Fisheries
5151 George Street
P.O. Box 223
Halifax Nova Scotia, B3J 3C4
Fax: (902) 424-8953
e-mail: min_daf@gov.ns.ca


Links


News Excerpts - March 2003: Approval of Cape Breton seismic exploration plan a source of concern

News Excerpt - "Ad-Hoc working group to finalize report on seismic testing near Cape Breton", Cape Breton Post, January 24, 2003

Open Letter in Halifax Herald Calls CNSOPB to Continue Moratorium on Oil and Gas Exploration off Cape Breton Island - Thursday, January 23, 2003

SOSS Open Letter to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, January 23, 2003 (PDF format)

Sierra Club Lambasts Petroleum Board Bias - June 4, 2002

The Sierra Club of Canada applauds extension of the moratorium – has large concerns about CNSOPB process (May 24, 2002)


Coalition Opposing Oil and Gas Calls for Moratorium and Tougher Regulations - April 19, 2002


Good News on Oil and Gas Review (About the Commission Report), April 2002

The Commission Report, April 2002 (PDF format, 750K)

A collection of briefs submitted to the Public Review Commission Into the Effects of Potential Oil and Gas Exploration, Drilling Activities off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, January 2002

Crude Costs: A Framework for a Full-Cost Accounting Analysis of Oil and Gas Exploration Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, December 2001. Available in PDF format (large download, 2.2 mb)

Fisheries committee calls for exploration ban: Ottawa urged to consider oil, gas moratorium off Cape Breton coast,
excerpt from the Halifax Herald, November 9, 2001

Maritime Fisherman's Union: “Fishermen say NO to Oil/Gas Exploration on Cape Breton’s Coastline”, September 7, 2000

Friends of Cape Breton Island: A GALAXY OF STARS COME OUT TO SUPPORT ATLANTIC FISHERMEN; International group of celebrities call on Prime Minister Chrétien to protect sensitive fisheries, November 14, 2000

Save our Seas and Shores: Coalition Demands Nova Scotia Minister’s Resignation, February 12, 2001

Sierra Club of Canada: Brief to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, February 26, 2001




1-412 Nicholas St
Ottawa ON K1V 7B7
(613) 241-4611
www.sierraclub.ca/national/
sierra@web.ca
. Sierra Club of Canada
Cape Breton Group
Steelworkers Hall, 2nd Floor
369 Princess Street
Sydney NS B1P 2L2
Tel.: (902) 539-3303



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