St. Lawrence Coalition Condemns Québec's Push for Oil and Gas Development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
Québec minister of Energy and Natural Resources, M. Pierre Arcand, as well as minister of Sustainable Development and Environment, M. David Heurtel, have unveiled today Québec’s comprehensive Action Plan on oil and gas. Among other things, this plan aims to continue procedures to open Québec’s part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to oil exploration. The
St. Lawrence Coalition condemns this favorable bias and this supposed urgency that neglects the fragility of the Gulf as well as the fears of Gulf-wide coastal communities directly concerned.
On one hand, the moratorium on Québec’s part of the Gulf will be maintained for a while but no indication is given as to the modalities of its eventual lifting. Will it be lifted as soon as Fall 2014 when Québec tables its mirror-Act on offshore oil and gas? Will a real public consultation (BAPE) on this major issue be held before lifting the Québec moratorium? Will the concerns of coastal communities be heard?
The Québec government wants to initiate legislative procedures by tabling as soon as Fall 2014 its mirror-Act on offshore oil and gas. It must be understood that this Act has to be modeled on a similar Act
tabled simultaneously by the federal government in Ottawa. We hope that Quebec will incorporate in that Act the promised « highest standards » without compromising with the constantly undermined
federal standards :
• Absolute liability of oil companies should be unlimited, as is the case in Norway or Denmark, and not capped at $1 billion with a ministerial discretion to lower it as proposed by the Harper government;
• All exploratory drilling as well as all seismic surveys should be submitted to environmental assessments, and not only the first drilling as is now required by the Harper government;
• The current veto of oil companies on environmental and security information, required by the Harper government, should be rejected by Québec in favor of total transparency;
• Québec should request independent observers on offshore platforms contrary to federal norm;
• The Québec-Newfoundland border issue should be settled before any offshore drilling.
The Québec Action Plans affirms that Newfoundland is on the verge of drilling at Old Harry and that Québec could have all the risks without any of the benefits. It is important to mention that the Old Harry drilling project is still under environmental assessment and Newfoundland is far from having authorized the project.
In addition, the Québec Action Plan only sees the Gulf of St. Lawrence from a Québec perspective. Yet, five provinces share the Gulf of St. Lawrence and any oil exploration, by Québec or any other province, would put its neighbours at risk without them gaining any economic benefit. This interdependency requires openness and dialogue between all Gulf provinces. Québec occupies over 56% of the Gulf surface and the St. Lawrence Coalition strongly encourages the Québec government to assume leadership with its neighbours concerning the management of this unique ecosystem :
• The five Gulf provinces should agree on a Gulf-wide moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development;
• The five provinces should put in place, with the federal governement, and independent public review to address the offshore oil issue in the totality of the Gulf.
« The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a unique ecosystem of great fragility, shared by five coastal provinces. As a first step, any lifting of the Québec moratorium should be submitted to a public consultation (BAPE). In addition, Québec should assume leadership in the Gulf and work with its neighbour coastal provinces to implement a Gulf-wide moratorium on oil and gas activities as well as holding a Gulf-wide independent public review » concludes Sylvain Archambault, spokesperson for the St. Lawrence Coalition.