I am writing to respond to Don Abbott’s letter to the editor entitled “Suncor fine is a bad joke,” which appeared in the Nov. 1 edition of The Telegram.
The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) takes its responsibility for environmental protection seriously and it is important that I address some of the false perceptions that could be created by Mr. Abbott’s letter.
Mr. Abbott speaks only of the $30,000 fine imposed on Suncor by the court, but they were also ordered to pay $100,000 into the Environmental Damages Fund and to post a notice relating to the offence and plea on their website. Suncor pleaded guilty to the charge of causing or permitting a spill into the offshore area. The charge resulted from an investigation by the
C-NLOPB into a March 28, 2011 spill of 26,400 litres of synthetic based mud (SBM).
The Atlantic Accord Acts are clear in stating that operating companies are required to prevent all spills from occurring.
The C-NLOPB has pursued two prosecutions for spills of SBM in the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area. Decisions relating to prosecution lie with the federal Crown prosecutor, not with the C-NLOPB.
Comparing the environmental effects of land-based developments like mining with a spill of synthetic based mud, as Mr. Abbott has done, is not an accurate comparison. SBM is a heavy, dense fluid used during drilling operations to lubricate the drill pipe and balance reservoir pressure. The synthetic based oil used in SBM is a food-grade oil of low toxicity.
Because of its weight, the mud sinks rapidly and rests on the sea floor, usually within tens of metres of the wellhead. Removing the SBM and bringing it to the surface for disposal elsewhere would inevitably cause further disruption and damage to the environment.
Environmental effects monitoring (EEM) has been and is being conducted for oil and gas activities in the Newfoundland offshore area for all producing projects. Currently, field programs are conducted every two years for
each project. As a key component of our transparency initiative, EEM reports are available on our website (www.cnlopb.nl.ca) and hard copies available through our Information Resources Centre.
Environmental protection is a priority of the C-NLOPB and we will continue to ensure environmental protection is a priority of operators.
Chief Executive Officer