Thursday, September 18, 2014
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First Nations target drilling

AARON BESWICK

TRURO BUREAU

thechronicleherald.ca

Group to hold information session in Halifax on plan to explore off N.L. coast

It’s about to get hot in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

A proposal by Corridor Resources Inc. to drill a test well for oil and gas has caught the attention of industry, cash-strapped provincial governments, aboriginal leaders and environmental groups.

This morning, the First Nations Alliance for the Protection of the Gulf of St. Lawrence will host an information session at the World Trade and Convention Centre in Halifax to explain why they are opposed to the drilling. Meanwhile, three aboriginal fishing boats from Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula will be at the site where Corridor intends to drill, off Newfoundland’s southwestern coast, to protest.

“We have rights and we have to be consulted,” Chief Claude Jeannotte of the Micmac Nation of Gespeg said Tuesday.

“We’re not against economic development but there are a lot of questions the (Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board) cannot answer.”

The southern Gulf of St. Lawrence is underlain by a sedimentary basin up to 12 kilometres deep and, according to a 2009 resource assessment by the Geological Survey of Canada, contains all the necessary geological structures for a commercially viable petroleum resource.

That survey estimated the potential for 39 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.5 billion barrels of oil in the southern gulf and adjacent areas based upon geological formations and the 10 wells that have been drilled in the gulf since the 1940s.

Corridor’s application to drill a test well in the Laurentian Channel at a site called Old Harry is being reviewed by Newfoundland and Labrador’s energy regulator.

“New areas of the world to do exploration are getting fewer and the Gulf of St. Lawrence is starting to come back on the radar screen of companies,” said Paul Barnes, Atlantic Canada manager for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

“The companies are watching two things: what activity Corridor may take and, secondly, how the regulatory regime in that area gets worked out between the federal government and Quebec and New Brunswick.”

The two provinces are negotiating with Ottawa to set up their own offshore regulatory authorities similar to the ones in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Setting up those boards would give oil and gas companies the security of knowing the provincial governments support development of the resource for the entire gulf. In February, Quebec announced it would contribute up to $115 million to finance $190 million of exploratory work on Anticosti Island in the gulf.

The increased shipping activity, the effects of seismic testing on blue whales and the potential for oil spills has groups like Sierra Club Canada up in arms.

On Monday, the Sierra Club and the Save our Seas and Shores coalition announced a fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $10,000 to help their Blue Whale Campaign fight oil and gas development in the gulf.

“With a population so small, the slightest misstep at Old Harry could spell the end of the blue whale,” said Zack Metcalfe, a spokesman for the Sierra Club.

He said seismic testing performed in the search for oil and gas can interfere with the feeding and mating habits of the endangered whale and has the potential to deafen the animal. Increased ship activity could lead to more ship strikes.

For its part, in a written response, Corridor said it is confident it can drill without adverse environmental consequences.

“Hundreds of exploratory wells have been drilled safely in the offshore waters of Eastern Canada, where governments and the industry have co-operated in developing one of the most robust and effective regulatory regimes in the world,” the statement said.

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