Public review commissioner adds 64 recommendations
Miller Ayre (right), commissioner for the Hebron Public Review Commission, and project manager Ed Foran speak to reporters at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s Tuesday morning as they released the commission’s report on the Hebron Development Application. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Hebron, the province’s fourth major offshore oil development, is the definition of “megaproject.” It has an estimated construction cost of $6.5 billion and is expected to drop $20 billion into the provincial treasury while in production.
The project received an endorsement Tuesday from Hebron Public Review Commissioner Miller Ayre.
It came within a detailed, final report, one that includes 64 recommendations, aimed at maximizing benefits for the province from Hebron and from future projects offshore.
The statements address a variety of issues, from availability of skilled labour to safety and environmental concerns.
Ayre has called for a closer look at the apparent labour shortage. He calls for the Hebron partners, led by ExxonMobil Canada, to immediately provide a detailed breakdown of the project’s labour needs — what trades will be needed when, and in what numbers.
“There is universal agreement on the need for an aggressive program to train residents of the province to meet the expected high demand for skilled labour,” he noted. “There is no clear concensus, however, on the degree to which the various stakeholders, including the proponent, should bear the cost of training and the associated employment experience required for certification on the (trades) accreditation process.”
Simultaneously, Ayre called for more work on Hebron to be completed within the province. Specifically, he called for construction of the derrick equipment set, a $100-million project, to be completed here.
On diversity in the workforce, without “targets as well as more diligent and transparent compliance efforts, it is improbable that the activities cited (by the Hebron partners) will have the effect of significantly increasing the representation among the diversity eligible groups,” Ayre said. He called for firm targets.
On helicopter safety, he submitted the project should use aircraft that follow guidelines set out by the regulatory agencies, including Transport Canada.
Looking at the environment, he called for research into the cumulative effects of oil and gas developments on the Grand Banks and “the undertaking of necessary research” into seabird mortality “since the same questions remain unanswered after 20 years of offshore operations.”
There was more. The report is available in its entirety online at the Hebron Public Review Commission website.
ExxonMobil Canada has stated it has received a copy and is reviewing it.
It has been submitted to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and “will be considered” in the board’s final decision on the Hebron development application. The provincial and federal government will have 30 days to approve or reject that decision.
There was some immediate reaction to Ayre’s report Tuesday. Most revolved around the subject of the availability of skilled workers for project construction.
“I was pleased to see that the commissioner pointed out that as much of this work should be done in this province as possible,” said NDP MHA and advanced education and skills critic Dale Kirby.
Kirby said “Alberta or Saskatchewan-level wages” might be enough to draw workers from other provinces — solving anticipated worker shortages in skilled trades.
“The biggest concern has to be the commissioner’s finding that we still have no solutions in place to address the skilled labour shortages to staff this project almost four years after signing it,” said Liberal MHA and energy critic Yvonne Jones.
“Under current timelines, the people who will construct this project have to be in training today, but that’s not the case,” she said.
Executive director of the Office to Advance Women Apprentices, Karen Walsh said her office is ready to work with the Hebron partners to see more women apprentices employed on the project as construction ramps up.
“It’s good that they have identified (labour) as a problem and that’s the first solution to it, is really identifying it and saying: it is a problem, we see the problem, now we need all the groups to work together to solve that problem,” she said.
“We’re extremely pleased that Mr. Ayre listened to what we had to say and understood the importance of including supplier diversity in his recommendations,” said executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE), Paula Sheppard.
Like Sheppard, NOIA president and CEO Robert Cadigan made a presentation to the commission during public sessions in late 2011. Cadigan said Tuesday he felt the concerns raised were “addressed and echoed” in Ayre’s remarks when he presented his report at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s.