The time for public input on the Hebron Public Review came to a close Wednesday, as Commissioner Miller Ayre heard from the last of 43 presenters, offering their thoughts on the developing Hebron megaproject.
Public meetings as part of the review began Nov. 21 and moved, over a period of three weeks, from St. John’s to Marystown, to Clarenville and back to St. John’s.
Subjects arising — in both written submissions and 11 days of scheduled meetings — focused mainly on the overarching topics of benefits, safety and environmental protection as they relate to Hebron.
Presentations often included direct requests from the presenters to the Hebron partners, or simply suggestions for how financial benefits to the province arising from Hebron might be re-invested.
Among the requests: money for more area-specific research relating to the offshore oil industry; one or more daycare centres for children of Hebron employees; a divided highway from Whitbourne to Clarenville; greater investment in training skilled workers; and, financial support for affordable housing programs to mitigate the socio-economic effects of the province’s multiple large, natural resource projects, including Hebron.
A request was made that the Hebron partners more clearly convey opportunities for local companies in the construction phase.
A separate request was made for the creation and publication of more independent environmental data from offshore installations, like the planned Hebron structure.
On Wednesday, Federation of Labour president Lana Payne asked for $300 million from the Hebron partners, above and beyond the project’s Benefits Agreement. She outlined a plan wherein $50 million would go to low-income housing, while $250 million could be split between college and university grants (30 per cent), early learning programs and childcare (30 per cent) and worker re-training and apprenticeship programs (40 per cent), to address issues raised across multiple presentations to the commission.
NDP MHA Dale Kirby pressed for a commitment on the use of helicopters able to fly at least 30 minutes without oil in the main gear box for ferrying workers to and from the Hebron platform. He also called for the helicopters with that capability be used for existing offshore operations.
Like Kirby, others expanded to address all oil and gas activities within the province, such as with Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ union president Earle McCurdy’s appeal for involvement of fishing boats in exercises on oil spill response.
The commissioner allowed all comments — even those outside of the mandate of the commission.
Through presentations and subsequent question and answer periods, further details of the developing Hebron project were revealed. For example, the Marystown fabrication facility was found to be capable of bidding on only one piece of the Hebron topsides.
In a final address to the commission, Hebron project manager Geoff Parker said all the presentations were “both informative and thought provoking.”
He underscored what he saw as a distinct level of “passion” infused in presentations on safety and environmental protection.
Parker said he believes the royalties, taxes, etc. to come to the province from Hebron — as outlined in the Benefits Agreement — “will help to fund” projects and initiatives requested by presenters.
“The informed and thoughtful nature of the presentations indicates to me that the public are aware of and engaged in what goes on in the oil industry, and are deeply concerned about how such a huge development proceeds,” commissioner Ayre said in his closing.
“The Newfoundland and Labrador oil industry is maturing. This was reflected in the number of presentations that indicated willingness of diverse members to work together to solve problems, strengthen the economy and find new ways to benefit all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians now and in the future.”
Ayre said he will use the presentations made to the commission in the creation of his report, evaluating the benefits of the Hebron project to the province. The report is expected to be completed by the end of February.
It will be presented to the offshore regulator as well as provincial and federal Natural Resources ministers.