With the Georges Bank moratorium set to expire on Dec. 31, 2022, a review process that examines the environmental and socio-economic impacts of exploration and drilling activities in the region will soon get underway as required by joint federal provincial legislation.
Under moratorium since 1988 to all oil and gas exploration and drilling activity, the federal Minister of Natural Resources and the Nova Scotia Minister of Energy and Mines may extend the moratorium in increments of up to 10 years through a joint federal-provincial ministerial decision.
“I want to be clear that our government wants to see the moratorium renewed and is working with the federal government for that to happen,” said N.S. Energy and Mines Minister Chuck Porter in a letter to Shelburne Municipal Council.
“Prior to this, the legislation requires a review to take place that examines environmental and socio-economic impacts of exploration and drilling activities. My department has been working closely with our joint management partner, Natural Resources Canada, on this matter and will launch this review in the coming weeks.”
Shelburne Municipality is one of 29 municipal units in Nova Scotia that border the Atlantic Ocean and Bay of Fundy that have been asked by the Clean Ocean Action Committee (COAC) to make sure their views are known while the Georges Bank moratorium review process is being defined.
Meanwhile, the Offshore Alliance, a consortium of more than 20 Atlantic Canadian community, environmental, fishery and non-governmental organizations, are applauding Porter’s commitment to extending the moratorium.
“We were thrilled and relieved to hear that Nova Scotia’s government is committed to renewing the moratorium on Georges Bank, securing the multi-billion dollar fishing industry and tens of thousands of long-term jobs in the fishing industry,” said John Davis, Director of the COAC, in a media release.
“We now call on all political parties to commit to this essential step to keep this critical fishing ground safe, and for the federal and provincial governments to work together to ratify the required legislation extending the moratorium at the earliest possible date.”
The Offshore Alliance has been calling for a full moratorium on offshore drilling in all of Nova Scotia’s waters and a full public inquiry into the social, economic, climate and environmental impacts of offshore drilling and exploration.
“The best way to protect Georges and our oceans is to stop offshore exploration and drilling entirely. I see the review on Georges as a step towards a full moratorium on offshore oil and gas in Nova Scotia,” says Council of Canadians’ campaigner Robin Tress.
“We know that a major threat to the fisheries is the changing climate, and we need work quickly to wind down the fossil fuel industry and transition to renewable energies.”
The Alliance is calling for legislation extending the Georges Bank moratorium indefinitely to be brought to the federal and provincial legislatures to be ratified as soon as possible.
“Drilling and seismic blasting on the Scotian Shelf could damage ecologically productive ecosystems like Georges Bank which supports habitat for endangered whales and other threatened marine species,” said Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Programs Director with Sierra Club Canada Foundation.
“The moratorium on drilling Georges Bank needs to be locked in and we also need to investigate how we regulate oil and gas in our oceans so that special places and endangered species are never put at risk and we secure a safe climate.”