It was ironically Earth Day (April 22) when BP Canada Energy Group ULC (BP Canada) spudded its first exploratory well in the Scotian Basin, after being given authorization the day before by the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB).
The company had received permission on April 7 from the CNSOPB to move the drilling rig Seadrill West Aquarius to the Aspy D-11 drilling site (42° 50′ 0.336″ N 60° 17′ 52.169″ W) and begin preparatory work in advance of its planned drilling operation ― after the rig was already on its way to the Scotian Shelf.
“It’s clear to me that there’s a very cozy relationship between Canada’s various governments and the oil and gas industry,” said Robin Tress, Atlantic Regional Organizing Assistant for the Council of Canadians. “It’s been that way for decades,” calling the weeks leading up to BP Canada starting to drill a “perfect example of that cozy relationship. They knew they were going to get the permit. It was costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars a day to move the rig and they started moving it before they even had permission. To me that points to the company having complete faith that they would get the permit right on time and there would be no barrier.”
“I think that cozy relationship is why its so difficult to get action on climate change and environmental protection, especially in regard to fossil fuel extraction and that is the problem we are seeing with Bill C-69. More power is being handed to offshore petroleum boards. I think this long-standing cozy relationship between government and industry has landed us in a position where industry has undue power and opportunities to influence decisions made about that industry. I call it corporate capture.”
The Council of Canadians, along with the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS), the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation, the Ecology Action Centre and the Clean Ocean Action Committee (COAC) have been leading lobby efforts for a moratorium on petroleum exploration in offshore Nova Scotia.
A petition delivered to the Prime Minister’s office on April 26 “call(s) on Prime Minister Trudeau to stop BP from drilling up to seven exploratory wells and institute a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in offshore Nova Scotia. We further demand an end to proposed changes under Bill C-69 that would grant east coast petroleum boards more power in the environmental assessment process for Atlantic offshore drilling.” The online petition has collected over 15,000 signatures so far.
Tress said the online petition will keep running and signatures will be forwarded as they come in.
“BP has seven potential wells they are going to drill so there’s still an opportunity to block them from drilling another six wells and there’s also other offshore projects coming down the pipe that we also hope to stop,” including Statoil Canada Ltd. That company is seeking the approval of 3D seismic survey exploration licenses for offshore parcels 2435 and 2436, which are in close proximity to Georges Bank, Brown’s Bank, Roseway Basin, the recently announced MPA of interest, Fundian Channel-Browns Bank and the LFA 40 lobster box.
Tress said the Council of Canadians noted during the recent coastal speakers’ tour in Nova Scotia, that many residents, fishers, and tourism operators were not aware of the federal environmental review of BP’s proposal to drill.
“The people of Nova Scotia largely don’t know what BP has planned. They don’t have access to information that has been independently created… There are so many instances where red flags should have gone off if our regulatory system worked well. There should have been red flags along the way that would have changed how this process has gone and none of that has happened because the process is totally captured by industry.”
In the press release announcing authorization for BP to drill, CNSOPB CEO Stuart Pinks said “As we worked through the authorization and approval processes, we focused on ensuring that BP Canada has in place the necessary equipment, systems, operating plans and procedures and appropriately trained and competent personnel. Our team is proud of our rigorous review process, and we remain diligent in our compliance monitoring to ensure BP Canada’s activities are conducted in a safe and responsible manner for the duration of the project. We understand that the decisions we make can impact our environment and community.”