Environment Minister ignores petroleum board’s request for assessment

OTTAWA – Despite heavy public concern, Environment Minister Peter Kent has rejected a request by the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) to conduct a federal review panel on the proposed Old Harry drilling project in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Board requested a federal review after a flood of letters from citizens concerned about the safety of the project.

“People in these communities saw what happened in the Gulf of Mexico and want to make sure the same tragedy doesn’t wash up on the shores of the St. Lawrence,” said NDP Environment Critic Megan Leslie. “They want to be assured that this drilling will be done safely. They shouldn’t be waved away by the Minister.”

The Old Harry drilling area borders five provinces, and encompasses 400 coastal communities - with economies inextricably tied to the ocean.

“This was a vital and valuable opportunity for community involvement and consultation, particularly in an area that has seen no previous oil and gas development,” said NDP Natural Resources Critic Romeo Saganash.

“But instead of playing a leadership role, the government has just passed the buck back to the province. If we’re to have any sort of national resource development best practices, we need to start working together.”

New Democrats are urging the Environment Minister to listen to the C-NLOPB and assist in an environmental review of the Old Harry site.

“The Minister has a responsibility to the hundreds of communities around the St. Lawrence to protect their environment, public safety and economies,” added Leslie. “Their concerns and livelihoods are more important than rushing through a drilling project without a proper review.”