Contributed by Tara Gadoua.
Starting Sunday, 30 September, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) is holding a series of public consultations along the coast of Western Newfoundland discussing the future of major oil and gas development at the Old Harry site, only 70km from the coast of Newfoundland. There are a number of questions and concerns being raised over the project; namely, what are the consequences of an oil spill in the Gulf of St-Lawrence?
The gulf is home to a multitude of marine animals which is reflected in its 1.5-billion dollar fishing industry. It is a breeding ground for many species, has the largest krill population in the North Atlantic and is thus a leading food source for nearly all marine species. Any oil spill in this region would have profound and long-lasting effects not only on wildlife, but on the fishery as well. One has only to look at the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to see the effects of a spill. No matter how profitable the industry is in the gulf, it cannot withstand the costs of remediation for an oil spill in terms of clean-up and lost revenue due to negative impacts on the fishing season. The situation is even worse in the St-Lawrence, where its waters only empty into the ocean once a year and a spill anywhere in the gulf affects all five provinces that border it.
Other issues have been the result of the way the process is being conducted. The public consultations are being rushed, and are taking place before the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which is designed to ensure that environmental considerations are incorporated into the earliest stages of planning, could be completed. Moreover, the company chosen for the assessment has ties to the petroleum board itself and has worked extensively in offshore development. How can we ensure impartial research and assessments from a company with such clearly defined oil interests?
It cannot be denied that oil development would generate a substantial sum of revenue, but how much of this gain would stay in Newfoundland and not disappear in the pockets of foreign investors? Is it worth the risk to the fishing industry and the environment?
Other questions that need to be answered: Does the Board have complete baseline data on all key Gulf species and ecosystems? Does the Board have a complete scientific understanding of the impacts of seismic exploration? Has this research been done by independent scientists, researchers who were not paid by industry?
Have your say.
The public consultation is the only opportunity that citizens of Newfoundland have to voice their concerns over this development, and to pose serious questions. The above represents only a fraction of what could occur if the C-NLOPB is allowed to go ahead with operations as planned. What takes place on our coasts is a decision that belongs to us as much as it does the C-NLOPB, and it is time to make that known.
The public consultation in Corner Brook takes place Tuesday, October 2 from 5-9pm at the Pepsi Centre. I urge you as fellow citizens of this beautiful province to attend this meeting and make yourself heard by your presence and voice.
Not in Corner Brook? Public consultations are also taking place in:
Port aux Basques: Sunday, Sept 30, 5-9pm, Bruce II Sports Centre
Stephenville: Monday, Oct 1, 5-9pm, Holiday Inn
Corner Brook: Tuesday, Oct 2, 5-9pm, Pepsi Centre
Rocky Harbour: Wednesday, Oct 3, 5-9pm, Community Hall
Lourdes de Blanc Sablon, QC: Thursday, Oct 4, 5-9pm, Salle Municipal