Gulf of St. Lawrence oil projects topic of discussion for 2014

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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From Old Harry to offshore Port au Port, western Newfoundland centre of talk

The coming year promises to be one with plenty of news relevant to oil exploration in western Newfoundland into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Some of the debate around seeking oil in the Gulf will be coming from the Quebec side, as the provincial government there, on Dec. 19, issued a call for tenders on an economic assessment of oil exploration and development in the area known as Old Harry, about 80 kilometres east of the Magdalen Islands, and the American Bank, about 15 kilometres east of Pointe Saint-Pierre in the Gaspé Peninsula.

Old Harry locator map. — Telegram file graphic

The call is being met with dismay from anti-drilling activists based in Quebec, including a coalition of chiefs from the Innu, Malécite and Mi’gmaq communities of Quebec.

“The gulf is a unique and fragile area,” said Chief Claude Jeannotte of the Mi’gmaq community of Gespeg, a spokesperson for the coalition, in a Dec. 23 statement.

“Our peoples have depended on it since time immemorial and we will not allow the government of Quebec to destroy it.”


On Old Harry

The offshore area known as Old Harry, about 80 kilometres east of Magdalen Islands, is of interest to companies with stakes on the Newfoundland and Labrador side of the border as well as the Quebec side.

Corridor Resources has proposed drilling an exploration well in this province’s Old Harry area, on a licence awarded by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) — EL1105.

In 2013, despite protests from individuals and groups standing in opposition to oil exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the CNLOPB granted Corridor an extension on its exploration licence, giving it until Jan. 2016, to drill.

It prompted a letter to the CNLOPB leadership, as well as the provincial and federal ministers of Natural Resources, from Sylvain Archambault, a spokesman writing for the anti-drilling St. Lawrence Coalition.

“Oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is, ultimately, an inter-provincial issue of great concern to many individuals and stakeholder groups,” he stated. “These groups and people are closely observing what the CNLOPB, and the Newfoundland and Labrador and federal Natural Resource ministers, are deciding in the Gulf. Let’s make sure their concerns are heard and respected.”

Corridor’s plan to drill has been on hold since the CNLOPB began a strategic environmental review for the entire region offshore western Newfoundland — essentially a broad environmental assessment.

The results of that review are expected in the coming year.


Fracking regulations

Closer to shore, Shoal Point Energy is continuing to hold two remaining offshore licences, after losing one to inactivity.

Given the timelines around the offshore licences, set against the backdrop of past suggestions of onshore to offshore drilling by the company and the provincial government’s standing moratorium on fracking in the area, 2014 is bound to include more than a few instances of back and forth.

There are already calls from the provincial Liberals and NDP for government to get moving on lifting their fracking ban, moving the regulatory needle one direction or the other.

The full halt on fracking was officially announced in November, with the

promise of an official review by the province.

Liberal Jim Bennett has since been a vocal proponent for getting on as quickly as possible with developing regulations around the practice of fracking.

And on Dec. 23, the NDP issued a news release beginning as follows: “What (MHA) George Murphy wants most for Christmas is a public and transparent review of hydraulic fracturing.”  

Murphy is the NDP’s Environment critic.

“The potential negatives of fracking could affect so much in this province that government must both take it seriously and be seen to be taking it seriously,” he said in his pre-Christmas statement.

So what will the government have to do to be recognized as taking the issue and its coming review seriously?

Murphy has suggested Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley appoint an arm’s-length panel for the fracking review in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Who could be considered expert enough to appoint to the panel, yet arms-length enough to satisfy the firm fracking opponents? Murphy did not say.

Organizations: Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, NDP, Corridor Resources Lawrence Coalition

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Port au Port Magdalen Islands

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Recent comments

  • brett
    December 30, 2013 - 11:46

    I am looking forward to having more and more drilling rigs operating at the same time here in NL. If we can get enough work going on at a time then maybe the population will actually increase. The restrictions forcing only one floating rig being built at a time and taking 3-4 years for completion slows the growth for everyone not directly involved in the building of the rig. We need critical mass here.

  • Joe Wiseman
    December 29, 2013 - 11:49

    As a species I sometimes wonder if we most resemble the ostritch. If we duck our heads, ignore the problem for long enough, it will just, maybe, hopefully, please, go away. Or perhaps our approach is more like Bill Clinton's solution to gays in the military - don't ask, don't tell! After all, if nobody talks about it, it isn't there, is it? My brother-in-law, a house painter and his friend, who has worked in Alberta sum it up this way: "it's been about 150 years since the Industrial Revolution and we've done this much damage to the environment. We might get another 100 years out of it all." At a church luncheon, a fellow parishoner relates to me his experience of reading about the poisoning of the St Clare River at Sarnia. "I was there the night the company put that stuff in the ground and supposedly sealed it off." There was pain in his eyes and no doubt, in his heart and in his soul. I stated that it was amazing how many people I speak with, ordinary people, blue collar workers, who understand that we are gradually destroying the planet. He casually observed, "there will be a revolution." It's hardly unlikely that for some inexplicable reasson, I am the only guy who has these conversations. It is more likely that most of us see the truth for what it is. We are gradually, speeding up, speeding up, speeding up, destroying the very planet that gives us life. Suicide or madness? Take your pick, I can't figure it out. I wonder who our political leaders talk to? Do they have these conversations or are they shielded for their own protection? They don't appear to be losing much sleep about it all as the oil companies drill away, as the auto manufacturers continue to turn out the gas combustion engine, as poisons are released into our rivers, lakes, oceans, landfills - anywhere the millions upon millions of barrels of poisonous waste can be hidden for awhile. Hopefully long enough to finish making the money, packing up and leaving the deadly stuff behind. Perhaps, like Chernoble, the animals will have another paradise, free of humans, in a future that may be as inevitable as the prediction of my house painter friend - a hundred years or so. Is it possible to change a future that is rushing towards us virtually unhindered except for sporadic demonstrations and vocal minorities who are often perceived as "radical", "inhibiting progress", "tree-huggers", "terrorists", "trouble - makers",etc? Most days are like today - I simply have no idea whether we have the rational or empathetic abbility to slow down, stop and possiblt reverse the race to the "end of the human race."

    • John Smith
      December 30, 2013 - 11:19

      Hey you drive a car? Have you ever been on a plane? Do you use plastics? Do you watch TV? How do you heat your home? Do you have a computer? I'm so sick of people like you....the David Sucksukis of the world...who want to fly around on their private jets, and play with their Ipads, while telling us how we are all destroying the planet...

    • Chantal
      December 30, 2013 - 12:33

      Do you ever use the public healthcare system?Do you drive on public roads? Did you attend a public educational institution? Do you feel secure knowing that there are fire fighters and police officers out there? Do your streets get plowed? Do you receive mail? Do you eat federally inspected meat? Then you must be a socialist.

    • Brett
      December 30, 2013 - 13:25

      No Chantal, using services you pay for makes you a consumer. What you are talking about is totally different from what John Smith wrote about. He is just pointing out the hypocrisy in some of the do-gooder environmental claptrap. Most people believe in having some services by government, but they don't believe that ALL services serve the population best by being run by government. There is very little accountability for public servants (politically appointed positions or municipal corp's). In my experience that's the biggest sticking point for not having everything "socialized". Inefficiency and lack of repercussions for actions.

    • Ted
      December 30, 2013 - 14:54

      Not consumers. Citizens. As for a lack of repercussions; one need to look at how well Wall Street criminals did after the recession they caused.

    • Brett
      January 02, 2014 - 11:03

      @Ted - all property tax paying citizens pay for the services (citizens), consumers consume something. They are not necessarily paying citizens. Wall Street criminals made out like bandits because of public corruption. It was not politically beneficial for the politicians to apply the law to them. That is still happening.

  • Randy
    December 29, 2013 - 07:25

    The NDP wants a panel and a committee for everything, don't they? Lorraine needs a committee to investigate the two gutless backstabbers she still has sitting with her.

  • Hank
    December 28, 2013 - 06:42

    A program seen on TV about Fracking , shower a person turning on a water tap in a home, and lighting the water or gas that was flowing out of the Kitchen water tap with a lighter, It appears this Fracking was creating a ticking fire bomb at that Home, It could be like lighting a match in a Gas Tank ?

    • david
      December 28, 2013 - 12:08

      The infamous video of someone lighting their tap water with a match was VERY LONG AGO disproven as having anything to do with the petroleum industry. The guy actually drilled his own shallow water well into a natural pocket of methane without any casing or liner on the any other uninformed, unregulated idiot might do to get some free water. But hey, don't let inconvenient facts get in your way...carry on with the folklore and fear-mongering. Do like the anti-sealing crowd does and 'win at all costs', right? Fascinating.