Photos From Projection On Equinor’s Risks To Whales Around The World
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 9, 2022
MONTREAL — In downtown Montreal last night, just blocks away from the UN biodiversity summit, Équiterre and Sierra Club Canada projected a powerful video showcasing whales from around the world that are at risk from offshore oil projects owned by Equinor, the Norwegian state-owned multinational oil and gas giant.
The projection highlighted how Equinor’s offshore oil projects threaten whales in Norway, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.
Currently, Equinor is pursuing oil projects throughout the Atlantic that threaten marine life and which contradict our ability to reach global climate targets. These include the Rosbank field in the United Kingdom. Burning Rosebank’s oil and gas would create more CO2 than the combined CO2 emissionsof all 28 low-income countries in the world, including Uganda, Ethiopia and Mozambique.
Equinor also currently holds several exploration licences in the Argentine Sea to conduct exploratory drilling and seismic exploration. The blocks of area that Equinor plans to exploit overlap with the migration patterns and feeding grounds of elephant seals, penguins, and the Southern right whale.
In Argentina a federal court issued an injunction suspending oil exploration in three maritime areas off the Atlantic coast of Buenos Aires, and ordered environmental impact studies to be carried out. Unfortunately, in early December 2022, a Court of Appeals reversed the judiciary injunction, allowing Equinor to start seismic exploration activities. The government also authorised the company to start drilling an exploratory well close to the Mar del Plata shores.
The projection also reflected the contradictions of the Canadian government, which on the one hand claims to want to protect biodiversity, while on the other hand has approved the oil company Equinor to proceed with its offshore drilling project Bay du Nord, knowing that it presents a 16% risk of serious spill.
In April, Canada’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault approved Equinor’s Bay du Nord offshore deepwater oil project, a decision that was opposed by over 118 environmental and civil society groups.
In Canada, an organization representing eight Mi’kmaw groups of Mi’kmaq First Nation is joining a court challenge filed by environmental law group Ecojustice asking for a judicial review of Ottawa’s approval of Bay du Nord’s environmental assessment. The group says Minister Guilbeault did not consider greenhouse gas emissions that would be released by the project. The project could extract over a billion barrels of oil, which would result in over 400 megatonnes of carbon pollution over the project’s 30-year-lifetime.
An early government review of Equinor’s environmental impact statement for Bay du Nord revealed multiple concerns by scientists, including that “risks were significantly underestimated”. Groups like the Sierra Club Canada and World Wildlife Fund Canada have repeatedly flagged that scientists’ concerns were overlooked in the decision to approve Bay du Nord.
“In a recent interview Minister Guilbeault said that ‘he was bound by recommendations from the country’s permitting agency, which concluded the project’s effects would be minimal.’ But the government’s own scientists showed the impacts were far from minimal. Now we know that the actual risk of a significant spill is around 16%. This is a huge risk not only to ecosystems but to the tourism and fisheries industries in Newfoundland and Labrador which rely upon those ecosystems, while the climate impact of Bay du Nord will contribute to more severe storms like Hurricane Fiona,” says Conor Curtis, Head of Communications at the Sierra Club Canada Foundation.
In the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s (CEAA) environmental assessment report, Equinor claims that the risk of a major spill for Bay du Nord is very low (0.00013). However, scientists who contributed to the review of the Environmental Impact Statement, say that, extrapolating the data provided by the oil company on the 40 wells under consideration for their 30-year production life, there is actually a 15.6% chance of a significant spill occurring.
Current Canadian regulations are weak – there is no requirement to contain a major oil spill from Bay du Nord within a prescribed time frame. Equinor’s estimates, in the event of a spill, it would take 18 to 36 days to install a well capping system at the site and up to 115 days to install a relief well. This means for days oil could spill into the ocean, threatening the biologically diverse and rich waters of the North atlantic.
“When Canada approved the project they ignored its impact on marine biodiversity. Now that the COP15 is being held in Montreal, the government is showcasing itself as a leader in biodiversity. But you can’t have it both ways. You either put marine life and ecosystems at risk or you don’t,” says Marc-André Viau, Director of Government Relations at Équiterre. says Marc-André Viau, Director of Government Relations at Équiterre.
As part of COP15, a conference on the impacts of offshore drilling on biodiversity will also be held on December 13 at 7:00 p.m. at the Sherbrooke Pavilion of UQAM. Three speakers from international NGOs will discuss the risks that Equinor’s projects pose to marine ecosystems and the means to counter them. Last month, an international campaign launched, targeting Equinor to stop its expansion of oil and gas.
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