Format of oil sessions questioned

Gary Kean
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Marilyn Clark, right, of the St. Lawrence Coalition talks to, from left, Kyle Curlew and Tara Gadoua, during the public consultation session on the industry in western Newfoundland in Corner Brook Tuesday evening.

CORNER BROOK — Marilyn Clark pulls out a copy of the strategic environmental assessment report done on the western Newfoundland offshore oil industry first drafted in 2005.

The roughly 400-page document, which was updated in 2007, is in the process of being updated again.

Clark, who is concerned about the public consultation process currently being undertaken as part of updating the report, said the consultations fall short of addressing the many issues raised by the prospect of continued exploration and production of oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“I am very disappointed this has been condensed into eight slides,” she said of the session hosted by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board in Corner Brook Tuesday night.

Board staff were stationed at each of a series of maps and informational placards and prepared to try and answer whatever questions the visiting public had.

Clark, who is from the Magdalen Islands and intends to go to all four public meetings in western Newfoundland this week, said the consultation process is lacking an organized exchange of information between the industry and the public.

“We have information on what the CNLOPB (Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board) is, what an environmental assessment is, information on the process, a picture of a big oil rig and three maps,” she said. “It’s very basic and does not comprise what a strategic environmental assessment should talk about.”

Clark is a member of an environmental organization called the St. Lawrence Coalition, that is calling for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration and production in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. She said there should have been more information and open dialogue on the impact the industry could have on the environment, aquatic spawning areas and wildlife migration patterns, the gaps in data that exist and the plans for mitigation in the event of an accidental spill of oil along the coast.

Migrating salmon

Don Ivany, the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s director of programs in Newfoundland and Labrador, is concerned about the impact seismic studies and well drilling, not to mention the potential for an accident of some sort, could have on the salmon that migrate throughout the Gulf of St. Lawrence every year. Until that, and other impacts that could affect the region’s economy are better understood, he supports a moratorium on the industry in this marine area.

“There is very little baseline data available in the Gulf so, if there are any impacts, nobody can really determine what they are, or the magnitude of them, because we would have no starting point,” he said.

Will Baker was one of the 87 people who went to Tuesday’s session at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook. He too was expecting a format where the offshore board would make a presentation and then open the floor to questions for a joint discussion.

“I think that would be a bit more helpful in having everybody know what’s going on and everybody being on the same page and hearing different points that anyone might bring to the forum,” said Baker. “The way it is, there is less of a chance to see other people’s reactions and points of view. You’re not going to hear what each of these people at each of these tables have to say or what the responses are to them.”

The format of the public session wasn’t Clark’s only beef with the process. According to her, board officials are consulting with specific groups during the day before the evening sessions that are open to the public.

She wanted to know who is attending those sessions behind closed doors.

“Why do they need these closed private sessions and what format do those sessions follow?” she asked. “Do they have a question and answer (format)?”

She said every resident of the four Atlantic provinces and Quebec, all of which border the Gulf of St. Lawrence, are equal stakeholders when it comes to what happens with offshore oil and gas exploration and production.

None of the offshore board officials at the session would go on the record for an interview and, as of press time, the organization’s public relations officer did not return The Western Star’s request for a comment about private meetings with certain stakeholders.

Bob Cadigan, who is president and chief executive officer of the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association, was also at Tuesday’s session in Corner Brook. He said the oil and gas industry is tremendously important to the Newfoundland and Labrador economy and thought the open house format of the board consultations was effective in educating people about the industry and getting their views on it.

“If you take a different setup with presentations and so on, you tend to have a room dominated by a few people,” he said. “This kind of approach really lets everybody’s views be heard. So, there is an advantage to it in that regard.”

There will eventually be a draft of the updated strategic environmental assessment which everyone will have a chance to offer opinions on once again, noted Cadigan.

The public consultation sessions continue at the Community Hall in Rocky Harbour this evening and in Blanc Sablon Thursday.

Organizations: Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, Lawrence Coalition, Atlantic Salmon Federation Pepsi Centre Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association Community Hall

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK, Newfoundland and Labrador, Magdalen Islands Quebec Western Star Rocky Harbour

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Recent comments

  • Looking for attention
    October 05, 2012 - 10:53

    So she is upset that she doesn't have a microphone to shout into? I have read that "Newfoundlanders" like the format. Go back to the Maggies and wait for your turn.

  • Laurent Juneau
    October 05, 2012 - 09:08

    Please, think about this : all the 5 provinces are directely concerned about gax exploration . It is not a provincial law or territory debate, it should be a serious fédéral debate because our most important industrys, tourism and fisheries are in danger . Remind that the St-Lawrence Golf is one of the 5 most important on this planet, the echosystem is very fragile and it is a closen sea . If an accident, like the one of Mexico Gulf for exemple, happens the damages will be dramatic for any of this 5 provinces, dependently of the season . We must work together to protect this UNIQUE environment of St-Lawrence Golfe . Think of the future of all those kids who will live after us ... Laurent Juneau, Gaspé .

  • saelcove
    October 03, 2012 - 09:40

    Who care as long as the oil money keeps rolling in

    • Cape Anguille
      October 03, 2012 - 14:00

      Marilyn Clarke is trying to create a red herring. I remind readers that Mr(s) Clarke is a member of Coalition of St Laurent based in Quebec. Quebec doesn't respect NL legitimate right to our offshore resources and Quebec has doesn't respect the Southern Labrador boundary. I totally disagree with Ms Clarke's disagreement with Oil sessions format. I attended the session at the Pepsi Center and I found it informative and I certainly had opportunities to ask questions and discuss onshore drilling issues with the presenters. Cape Anguille

    • You should
      October 03, 2012 - 20:12

      Ever hear of Louisiana or of BP? The same thing can happen of the coast of newfoundland and should be a concern to you. If it does happen it will destroy whatever industry is remaining in the province.

    • OilFacts
      October 04, 2012 - 12:27

      Thank you, Marilyn Clark, for attending this meeting. Everyone should be very concerned about and involved in the issues that she's raised. The oil and gas industry traditionally provides little more than lip service on issues related to the environment. I know this because I've resided in Alberta for the past 30 years. In this province, the oil and gas industry has such political clout that they're able to maintain a 250 square kilometer toxic sludge lake just outside of Fort MacMurray. The University of Alberta has proven that run-off from the tar sands is polluting rivers and streams in the area. These are the same rivers and streams that provide food to norther Aboriginal peoples. This province also has to deal with regular pipleline breaks that pollute the land and kill wildlife. Amidst all of the environmental evidence, the Alberta Government does nothing to address these and other related issues. Newfoundlanders should be very concerned about the environmental issues that will accompany both land and offshore oil drilling. The positive impact on the economy is great from this activity; however, is it worth surrendering your way of life to obtain it?

    • Ember Snow
      October 05, 2012 - 13:38

      I met Marilyn there, and i am happy i did. She is standing up for what she cares for and what is very important. She traveled a long way to attend these environmental assessments. I agree with her completly, there should have been more information instead of letting it turn into a social gathering. SAELCOVE: ?? is the money going to stay, or is it going to be around for a bit until they have to move onto another location. They will be drilling into a very sensitive area where many species go to have their young. It is a very important aspect to the maratimes. The tow resources that people come to the east to really experience out here would be tourism and the fisheries. No matter how much they assess, if gas exploration continues there will be negative impacts on the area. Now say there is a spill, the companies only have to spend 30 million to clean the area up. Looking at the golf of mexico spill- it cost over 30 billion and the ecosystem there will never be the same. There is still oil washing up on the shore. If this happens in the golf- there goes the fishery industry, immediate dinner, and a lot of tourism will be affected. Instead of looking at the immediate consequence- money, i believe we need to shift our minds to sit down and think what is mroe important to stand for.

  • Cape Anguille
    October 03, 2012 - 07:50

    Marilyn Clarke is trying to create a red herring. Mr(s) Clarke is a member of the Quebec based coalition St. Laurent. and we known where Quebec stands on NL legitimate ownership of Western NL offshore lands and southern Labrador boundary. I attended the session at the Pepsi Center and I found it very informative. I was able to ask questions and even made some suggestions. I suggested to presenters last night that they should rename the NL section of Old Harry to be renamed Cape Ray which was its original name. This will depoliticize the controversy surrounding this area and put a NL brand to it. We will know that Corridor is drilling on Cape Ray which is in NL waters. Cape Anguille

  • Jack
    October 03, 2012 - 06:40

    Since CNLOPB is supposed to serve Newfoundland and Labrador, I'm wondering why they are having some consultations in another province, particularly Quebec? Since Blanc Sablon is part of Quebec and not Newfoundland and Labrador, the board should not old consultations there.