Offshore drilling not worth the risk: Protect communities, fisheries, tourism and climate from Big Oil

We, the undersigned, call on the Trudeau government to institute a moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration until such time as a full, independent public inquiry has been completed. We further demand an end to proposed changes under Bill C-69 that would grant east coast petroleum boards more decision-making power in the environmental assessment process for Atlantic offshore drilling.

Despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s urgent plea to governments to immediately stop exploring for and extracting fossil fuels, and the clear risks to marine life and related industries, federal and provincial governments are continuing to support offshore drilling and exploration. The regulatory playing field is tilted in favour of “Big Oil”, instead of responding to the dire warnings of a climate crisis and looking out for the interests of the people and the planet.

We know this regulatory regime unfairly favours the fossil fuel industry in a number of ways. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) – the body responsible for the majority of offshore regulation in Nova Scotia – is stacked with ex-industry representatives. This Board conducts ‘public consultations’ that do not include genuine public hearings, and there is no clear path for communities to influence decisions made by the Board.

Dr. Robert Bea, a leading expert in risk assessment, was unable to assess BP’s proposal to drill offshore Nova Scotia because it lacked vital information. In spite of this, the federal government gave BP the go ahead to drill in the North Atlantic under conditions for which there is no safe regulatory precedent. Shortly after drilling started in late 2018, BP had a 150,000L spill of synthetic drilling mud onto the bottom of the ocean. We still don’t know if that toxic mud has been cleaned up because the CNSOPB has not yet released the incident report, though based on similar spills in the past, we can guess that it will never be cleaned up.

The federal government passed Bill C-69, which further weakens the regulation of offshore drilling by granting more power over environmental assessments to the industry-captured Offshore Petroleum Board, which already has a conflicting mandate to both promote and regulate oil and gas development.

The continued provincial and federal support for offshore drilling in Nova Scotia is a clear example of corporate capture. Communities have not been given the chance to make an informed decision about whether offshore drilling is in their best interests. The information available to the public about drilling is largely produced by corporations wishing to drill for profit. The provincial government is shelling out public money to support exploration for more oil, and the federal government is happy to hand over more decision making power to the CNSOPB. This is corporate capture.

On the campaign trail in 2015, Justin Trudeau stated that “communities would grant permission” for projects. It’s clear, based on the 12 municipalities calling for an inquiry into offshore drilling, and this petition’s wide reach, that Nova Scotia’s communities have not given permission, nor have we ever been properly asked.

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