The Cape Breton Post
Gretchen Fitzgerald, Atlantic director of the Sierra Club of Canada, said the 'phoney' sessions held on behalf of the CNLOPB provided little in the way of actual consultation.
© Steve Wadden - Cape Breton Post
From left, Gretchen Fitzgerald of Sierra Club Canada, volunteer Chelsey Marshall of Chapel Island, and Angela Giles of the Council of Canadians walk through downtown Sydney on Thursday to protest oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
[SYDNEY, NS] — A coalition concerned about oil and gas development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was left unimpressed by a public consultation meeting in Sydney.
Gretchen Fitzgerald, Atlantic director of the Sierra Club of Canada, said the “phoney” sessions held on behalf of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board provided little in the way of actual consultation.
She also said the key question of whether or not the gulf can handle oil and gas exploration is not being asked.
“We don’t think that what people (are) saying is being put on a public record in a valid way,” said Fitzgerald. “If you write something down, how is the board going to actually receive that information? How is it going to be put up there on the public record? In this case we’ve been told informally some of the staff here are taking notes. I’m sorry, that is not a consultation.”
Consulting firm AMEC hosted the public session at a Sydney hotel Thursday. The petroleum board has said the purpose of the consultations is to update the public about a strategic environmental assessment for the western Newfoundland and Labrador offshore.
Earlier in the day, coalition members held a press conference and staged a small demonstration in downtown Sydney.
Ronnie Heighton, president of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fleet Planning Board, is a among those calling for a moratorium in the gulf where Corridor Resource Inc. is planning an exploratory drill in the Old Harry area.
Heighton and the coalition are also calling on Ottawa to remove unelected petroleum boards and to reinstate federal marine protection.
“With today’s technology look what happened in the Gulf of Mexico with the spill,” said Heighton. “If that happened here in the middle of winter — when the ice is there — there’d be no way to clean it up. Every province would be polluted completely and every fishery would be destroyed. So we’re saying wait until they have technology that they can take it safely out of the ground.”
Mary Gorman, who represents the Save Our Seas and Shores Coalition, said if Canada’s oil and gas industry is serious about coexistence, they will stay out of the gulf. According to Gorman, Save our Seas and other environmental groups were not invited to a closed-door session set to take place today for stakeholders.
“It is one large breeding area and should be left alone,” said Gorman. “There’ll be no coexistence if they go into our gulf. They’ll wipe it out.”
Petroleum board spokesman Sean Kelly said the environmental assessment is still in the early stages, adding that the public still has plenty of time to submit letters to the board.
“They can provide feedback there (consultation) or at several points throughout the process because we’re really at the beginning of the process, not the end,” he said.
Concerned citizens will also have the opportunity to comment on the draft assessment to be produced this winter. Kelly said as part of the assessment, written submissions will be posted on the board’s website. However, Kelly couldn’t say exactly when those comments would be made available.
As part of the environment assessment process, consultation sessions are being held throughout the gulf region, including Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Iles-de-la-Madeleine, and the Quebec north shore.
Kelly said the locations for the meetings were selected based on input from a working group comprised of federal and provincial officials.
Corridor Resources Inc. says it has completed seismic and a geohazard survey in the northeastern gulf, and is asking the board for approval to drill an exploration well at Old Harry by the end of 2015.