CNLOPB has ‘revolving door,’ group says

Published on April 23, 2013
Max Ruelokke

Members of the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition were less than impressed with a recent report by The Telegram stating Max Ruelokke, the former chairman and CEO of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB), has started a new job with Aker Solutions in St. John’s.

The group characterizes the news as a sign of a “revolving door” policy at the offshore regulator.

The CNLOPB members “are not prepared to give up their power as alleged environmental regulators,” said Mary Gorman, a leader with the coalition and coastal landowner from Merigomish, N.S.

“They want to retain all of that power, but they also want to be oil executives, coming from oil industry companies and then go back to oil industry companies.”

Gorman’s group has been advocating against oil and gas activity in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, calling for the environmental arms of the CNLOPB and its Nova Scotia counterpart to be separated, as a new regulatory entities.

As for Ruelokke’s appointment, the CNLOPB does not regulate supply and service companies, including Aker. Instead, it deals with offshore operators like ExxonMobil, Husky, Chevron and Statoil.

Ruelokke noted as much in his recent interview with The Telegram.

Gorman said members of her group see little difference between working with an oil company and working on contracts for an oil company. “My point to you is: how do you effectively police companies that you could be looking for a job from when your tenure is over on the board?”

She specifically challenged the impartiality of the CNLOPB’s new chairman and CEO, Scott Tessier, who was jointly appointed by the provincial and federal governments.

“Mr. Tessier is a lot younger, from what I understand, than Mr. Ruelokke. I’d like you to ask him: does he plan on going back? And our coalition would like to know does he also plan to resume his work with the oil industry, with Chevron, upon the completion of his tenure? We’d like to know.”

In an interview Monday, Tessier said the board takes pride the professionalism, objectivity and impartiality of its members and staff.

“We have conflict of interest policies and (a) code of conduct that are in place to safeguard against those very concerns,” he said of Gorman’s statements.

“In terms of my future, Thursday will be my two-month mark as chair and CEO. So my appointment has five years and 10 months to go. I’ll turn my attention to my future at that point.”

Tessier said his employment background includes experience in government regulatory agencies and the non-profit sector, in addition to oil industry companies.

Also of note: Ruelokke and Tessier’s work experience in the oil and gas industry is unusual among the current board appointees.

The board’s new vice-chairman, Ed Williams, has a background in human resources work for oil projects, but more recently has been a business development manager for Kruger and a director of human resources at Aurora Energy — a mining company.

The rest of the board members are not executive and not paid full-time salaries akin to the chairman and vice-chairman. These regular members often retain positions outside board activities.

Interim chairman for a time following the end of Ruelokke’s term, board member Ed Drover is a financial adviser and businessman by trade, president of Ringwood Wealth Management Inc. with Freedom55 Financial and majority owner of The Wilds golf resort.

Conrad Sullivan comes from a background in the fishery and has most recently taken to real estate, involved with development company Southern Holdings Ltd.

A retired president of the federation of labour, board member Reg Anstey is also steeped in the fishery. Anstey represented the province and the country at the international labour organization of the United Nations from 2002-2007.

The other board seats are empty, awaiting appointments from the federal government following the departures of Reg Bowers and the now-senator David Wells.

The board members are advised by expert staff before issuing their decisions.

Whatever their background, Gorman said the board still lacks scientists, particularly scientists with experience relevant to environmental protection.

“If we’re going to have boards, we want people who have understandings of ecosystems, who have understandings of what should be protected, of what shouldn’t be placed open to the industry,” she said.