Halifax – The Sierra Club’s Atlantic Canada Chapter and the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition is calling on Newfoundland & Labradors’ offshore petroleum board (C-NLOPB) to fix their process to ensure there is a valid environmental assessment of whether offshore oil and gas development should proceed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The federal Minister of Environment, Peter Kent, instructed the C-NLOPB to perform thorough, region-wide public consultations to assess the impact of oil and gas activities off Western Newfoundland on the Gulf ecosystem.
“Invitation-only meetings are being held and co-called ‘Open House’ sessions are organized with no valid way for local citizens to express their concerns and share their values and providing little to no information on the ecosystem and culture,” according to Gretchen Fitzgerald, executive director of Sierra Club Canada – Atlantic Canada Chapter.
The coalition says this contradicts the terms sets out by Environment Minister Peter Kent and referred to a letter Minister Kent sent the coalition in 2011, which states: “To address these concerns, I have concluded that the Board needs to update its strategic environmental assessment for the Western Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore area, by conducting thorough public consultation to address the concerns highlighted to date and by better examining the broader effects of oil and gas activities in this area.”
“When you consider what is at stake, a globally significant ecosystem, multi-billion dollar annual fishing and tourism industries, coastal property values, our recreation, culture and national parks, this process is simply unacceptable,” said Fitzgerald.
The groups are calling on the regulator to make public the attendees and minutes of all “closed door” meetings they are holding. They are also asking for more meetings in key areas around the Gulf. The only consultation in Nova Scotia – in Sydney – is not even being held in a community on the Gulf, and requires extensive travel for Gulf Nova Scotia coastal community members to attend.
“Yet again, we see the process is fixed to diminish our voices of fishing and tourism industries as well as rural communities that will be impacted,” says Mary Gorman, of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, “The oil regulator initially asked for a public review panel assessment – a request we support. With their request denied by the federal government, at the very least, the oil regulator could do everything in its power to ensure public concern is on the record and apply consistent procedures for recording ALL comments and participation. “
In spite of their reservations, Sierra Club and the Save Our Seas Coalition are calling on all people around the Gulf to participate in the consultations, and to join them at the Nova Scotia consultations sessions, scheduled for Sydney, NS on October 11, 5-9 pm at the Holiday Inn.