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


Urgent Action Alert

March 2003

WE CANNOT ALLOW THE RICHEST FISHERY IN ATLANTIC CANADA, MIGRATORY ROUTE FOR ONE MILLION TONS OF MARINE ANIMAL LIFE -- including endangered leather-back turtles, Right and Blue Whales --TO BE DEVELOPED FOR OIL AND GAS.

IF THEY TAKE THIS AREA, NO COASTLINE IN CANADA IS SAFE!!


Please contact Prime Minister Jean Chretien, (fax: 613-941-6900) and federal Ministers David Anderson (Environment, fax: 613-952-1458), Robert Thibault (Fisheries, fax: 613-996-9857), and Herb Dhaliwal (Natural Resources, the department that over-sees the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, fax: 613-995-2962), and ask that the federal government protect the coastal areas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Sydney Bight.

(You can also send a letter postage-free to the House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6).

The areas with fifty miles of shore should be under a moratorium. Letters to Premier John Hamm of Nova Scotia (mailing address: PO Box 726, Halifax, NS B3J 2T3) and the provincial newspaper, the Chronicle Herald,(letters@herald.ns.ca) would also be appreciated.


The following story from the Toronto Star provides a good background. For scientific studies and expert testimony form the Public Review process, see the Sierra Club of Canada web site.

Excerpt from March 8, 2003 Toronto Star (p. F2):

    "Oil decision flies in face of facts"
    Kelly Toughill in Halifax

    Cape Breton Island joined the deep south of the United States and several Third World countries this week when it became one of the few places on the globe where oil exploration is allowed close to shore.

    The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board ruled Thursday that two oil companies can begin seismic testing within 10 kilometres of Cape Breton's scenic Cabot Trail and near Sydney.

    The ruling was a crushing blow to environmentalists, fishermen, and tourism operators who have fought almost four years to keep oil rigs out of the Gulf of St.Lawrence and away from their shores.

    Elizabeth May, the smart, feisty, outspoken director of the Sierra Club of Canada, thought this was one problem that was more or less solved.

    May sat on an expert working group to advise on the issue. She says the board simply ignored the advise it was given by the group, which warned there were no proven economic benefits to the oil projects and that the testing threatened several marine species already on their way to obliteration.

    The Department of Fisheries and Oceans told the board that the Gulf of St.Lawrence and Cabot Strait are some of the richest fishing grounds in Canada and a migration route for thousands of animals, including endangered whales, leather-back turtles and cod. But the board largely ignored that advice, ruling that underwater sound blasting could begin this fall.

    "That fishery supports 20,000 people in the Gulf of St.Lawrence and another 5,000 in Sydney Bight," May says. "How can they pit that against the pipe dream of economic development from oil and gas? Our report should have tied the board in knots."

    The issue was never really a jobs-versus-environment argument, though some tried to portray it was such. Officials with the two oil companies promised that if they strike oil or gas off Cape Breton, oodles of jobs will flow to the island, which has some of the starkest poverty in Canada.

    But Nova Scotia has heard these promises before. A gas project far off shore near Sable Island was also supposed to spark an economic boom. It has done nothing of the kind. In fact, Nova Scotia can't even use that gas. It is piped directly to New Brunswick and then on to New England.

    May and others worry the seismic testing will destroy larvae and baby fish crucial to the fishing industry, disrupt the migration patterns of sound-sensitive whales and do other damage scientists can only imagine.

    And that's just the testing part. If oil or gas is discovered, she expects an entirely different set of problems: spills, tankers and sheer ugliness polluting one of Canada's most beautiful places.

    Kayak companies, outfitters and cottage owners cringe at the thought of oil rigs or gas plumes close to the Cabot Trail, a winding trek of small villages and majestic cliffs that lures tourists from around the world with its beauty.

    May says there are few other places that allow the oil and gas industry to operate close to scenic shores.

    None of the northeastern U.S. states allow it. In Florida, oil companies can't operate within 160 kilometres of land and yet the board is suggesting only 10 kilometres for Cape Breton.

    The West Coast is similar, with moratoriums or outright bans stretching form Alaska to California.

    Only the Gulf of Mexico states -- Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana -- allow rampant oil development near their shores, May says. The result is that their shores are a mess. Several Third World countries allow oil rigs close to shore, a consequence of their desperate need for US cash.

    May says the buffer zone won't even keep the rigs out of view, much less protect beaches or animals from spilled oil or seismic damage.

    "We aren't giving up, but this is a real setback and a blow," she says.

    "This could be a precedent across Canada that it is open season for the oil and gas industry. It's very, very scary."



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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