Public consultation sessions regarding oil drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence area are now expected for communities in Western Newfoundland and Labrador.
The sessions, yet unscheduled, are to be part of a broad environmental assessment update, assisting the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) in deciding whether it should continue to issue exploration rights for the area offshore Western Newfoundland.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the board released an 11-page document outlining what will be covered in the strategic environmental assessment (SEA).
The outline comes from a 17-member “working group” — including representatives of federal and provincial government agencies and non-governmental organizations.
“SEA typically involves a broader-scale environmental assessment that considers the larger ecological setting, rather than a project-specific environmental assessment that focuses on site-specific issues with defined boundaries,” it reads.
Its results are directly connected to proposed work at the so-called Old Harry oil field.
The SEA does not replace a project-specific assessment for Old Harry. It has the potential, however, to lead to a regulatory block to the development and others in the offshore area between Newfoundland and Quebec.
There are currently nine exploration licences in the area to be considered. Past exploration in the area has included eight wells, with all but one being drilled from onshore locations in Western Newfoundland.
A call for bids on two parcels in the offshore area in May resulted in bids. “Subject to the bidders satisfying the requirements specified in the call for bids and upon receiving ministerial approval, the board will issue exploration licences for the parcels in January 2012,” the board has stated.
The SEA update was sanctioned by the federal Minister of Environment, Peter Kent, in a letter to the board on Aug. 15, 2011.
Kent specifically referenced plans for exploratory drilling by Corridor Resources in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“I am confident that a screening environmental assessment that will include extensive public consultation can adequately address the issues associated with the project,” Kent stated.
Written comments for consideration in the SEA are being accepted until Jan. 18, 2012. They can be submitted by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org