Government of Canada

 

Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee recommends the creation of a more Democratic and Environmentally Sustainable Marine Coastal Governance and Environmental Assessment and Regulatory Processes

Submitted By: Bill O'Gorman December 22, 2016
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Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee
December 22nd, 2016
Re: Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee recommends the creation of a more Democratic and Environmentally Sustainable Marine Coastal Governance and Environmental Assessment and Regulatory Processes
The Port au Port Fishery Committee was formed in November 2013 at a public meeting in the Community of West Bay in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The founding meeting was attended by fishers and other residents of the Port au Port and Bay St. George area who were concerned about the collapse of the scallop fishery in Port au Port Bay. Fishers reported never having experienced such a scallop population collapse and a subsequent loss of income averaging over $25,000 annually per fisher. Fishery Committee members are concerned that environmental pollutants may be contributing to the drastic decline in scallops and that developments have been occurring in the Port au Port Bay area without adequate regulatory oversight and regard to their impact on scallops and other marine species. There are thirteen (13) or more abandoned oil wells at Shoal Point and there are also other abandoned dump and oil tank sites around the coastal area of the bay leaking toxic substances which have not been adequately, investigated, mapped, recorded and remediated. Some of these sites were once on land but due to coastal erosion are now located offshore in coastal waters and are leaking oil into the surrounding bay
The Fishery Committee, based on our experience in trying to stop oil leaking from abandoned oil drilling sites and our knowledge of past and proposed oil developments in the Port au Port Bay area , is very concerned about the dysfunctional system of governance and environmental regulatory oversight of oil and gas exploration and development in our immediate area. Our concerns and recommendations in this regard are detailed in our March 10, 2016 report Marine/Coastal Governance and Management - Port au Port Bay, Gulf of St. Lawrence: Report and Recommendations which was forwarded to both Federal and Provincial Environment Ministers, the Prime Minister, Premier and other government officials. This report highlights concern regarding oil leaking from an abandoned oil drilling sites that were supposedly capped in November 2015. In May of this year it was discovered by one of our committee members that the oil is still leaking. The consultant firm that the provincial government hired to investigate and oversee remediation work at the sites has indicated that the work done to stem the flow of oil was only meant to be temporary and that a more permanent fix in accordance with acceptable industry standards is required.

Integrated, Ecosystem-based, Marine/Coastal Management System

The impact of this pollution and lack of adequate regulatory oversight extends beyond our bay to our larger coastal and marine region and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

"The Port au Port Bay is an integral part of the larger Gulf of St. Lawrence marine and coastal ecosystem. It is our view that an appropriate governance and regulatory regime must first be established for the whole spatial, temporal area of the Gulf of St. Lawrence before determining if specific areas may or may not be suitable for resource developments.
The Gulf of St Lawrence borders five Canadian provinces and is one of the largest marine ecosystems in Canada with over 2,000 marine species that spawn, nurse and migrate year around; its abundance and diversity sustain a multi-billion dollar fishery and tourism industry, and provide approximately 50,000 jobs in QC, NS, NB, PEI and NL.
It is also home to endangered blue whale, right whale, leatherback turtle, harlequin duck, to name a few. It hosts some of the largest lobster production in the world and scientists have called it one of the most precious ecosystems on this earth.

After 17 years, government still has not conducted a Gulf-wide environmental assessment on this inland sea and sensitive ecosystem - sensitive due to its winter ice cover, high winds and counter clockwise currents that flush into the Atlantic only once a year.
During the past decade there has been significant government policies, plans and legislation developed supporting the creation of an integrated, ecosystem based marine/coastal management system. However the implementation of such plans and integrated, ecosystem based management of human developments and activities in marine/coastal environments is still long overdue.

One of the latest plans yet to be implemented is The Gulf of St. Lawrence Integrated Management Plan, published by Ocean Management Division Fisheries and Oceans Canada Quebec, Gulf and Newfoundland and Labrador Regions DFO/2013-1898, 2013.

The intention of this Plan as outlined in the Executive Summary as follows:

"The Gulf of St. Lawrence Integrated Management Plan uses a risk-based management approach designed to identify and prioritize key management themes stemming from a review of interactions between ecosystem components and related human activities.
The desired outcome of this Plan is to establish the ecosystem basis for integrated management of activities in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as well as a framework and practical approach that:

1. Determine key management themes leading to the identification of priority issues and management actions;
2. Establish formal agreements on the actions to be implemented by all implicated federal and provincial regulatory authorities in a coordinated manner, utilizing existing governance structures;
3. Engage targeted stakeholders, including Aboriginal groups, industry associations, environ-mental and community groups and municipal governments to participate in the process of planning and implementing management measures identified jointly with implicated federal and provincial regulatory authorities; and
4. Implement management actions through the regulatory bodies with the authority to effect changes, and at scales that are appropriate to the specific nature of the concern being ad-dressed. "

http://www.qc.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/gestion-management/doc/2013_12_16_FINAL_ANGLAIS_web.pdf

Inadequate Environmental Assessments - Community Engagement - C-NLOPB
Concern regarding hydraulic fracturing in the Bay St. George and Port au Port area first arose due to a request in 2010 from Shoal Point Energy to the C-NLOPB to amend a 2007 Environmental Assessment to allow Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) at Shoal Point on the Port au Port Peninsula. Fracking possibly would have been approved at this site if it were not for the intervention of a regional Fracking Awareness Group and other concerned citizens.
There were no public consultation meetings or forums conducted as part of the original 2007 Environmental Assessment Process which approved the last conventional drilling project at Shoal Point in Port au Port Bay. The Fishery Committee believes that this environmental process facilitated by the C -NLOPB was invalid, undemocratic and failed the residents of the region.

The 2007 Environmental Assessment for the Port au Port Bay Exploration Drilling Program at Shoal Point makes no mention of the potential high risk and the site’s vulnerability to tidal surges, coastal erosion and other impacts from extreme weather related to climate change. The risks associated with rapid rate of coastal erosion caused by extreme weather and tidal surges in the area are self-evident with recent washouts on parts of the main road to Piccadilly, Fox Island River and the main roadway to the Shoal Point drilling site.

The existent environmental assessment process is neither democratic, transparent nor effective. The process does not adequately protect the environment, the interest of the residents of this province or their communities. Environmental assessment should be more independent from the oil development proponents who register their projects with the required government environment departments. Presently the proponents are directly paying for most of the costs of environmental assessment process as follows:

• The hiring of the consultants, engineering firms, scientists, etc. who conduct or acquire the research and studies on the proposed project’s impacts on human health, safety and the environment.

• The production of the actual environmental assessment document by the hired consultants.

• Conducting of environmental public consultations is carried out by hired consultants and not the government environment departments. In 2013, in the Bay St. George area,
Investcan, an oil company, hired a consulting company to conduct an environmental public consultation session. Notice of the environmental public consultation sessions in Jefferies and Flat Bay was announced by the NL Provincial Government Environmental Assessment Division as part of this environmental assessment process. There was no one present at these consultation sessions from either the Provincial Environment or the Health Departments. The public was presented with a power- point presentation of the proponent's project description and any concerns expressed were curtly dismissed by the proponent's representatives as having no or little validity.

With reference to the Federal and Provincial Government, the C- NLOPB and the regulation of oil and gas development, Scott Vaughan, Canada's Federal Government Commissioner of the Environment in January, 2013, reported that environmental protection (which includes regulating) is not keeping up with resource development, leaving people and their environment exposed to the risks of oil spills, pollution and damage to fragile habitat. Nothing has substantially changed in this regard since 2013.

The members of the Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee are concerned about the independence and objectivity of the C-NLOPB. We support the recommendation of former NL Judge Robert Wells in his report on offshore safety in the oil industry and what he considered to be his most important recommendation “that there should be a separate, independent regulatory agency created for worker safety and environmental protection”. Our Committee believes that the C-NLOPB and the Provincial Department of Environment and Conservation as partners in a conjoint regulatory body, should not be both a facilitator for oil and gas development and also a regulator for worker safety and environmental protection.
The C-NLOPB is losing credibility, legitimacy and the confidence of the general public. The Board conducts strategic environmental assessments to supposedly determine if it is appropriate to proceed with oil and gas development in Gulf waters and, at the same time, it allows seismic testing, issues licenses, makes land ownership and control agreements with oil companies and actively promotes oil and gas exploration and development. The Board focuses on oil and gas exploration and development backed up by industry consultants who focus on the ‘mitigation’ of negative impacts, instead of protecting vulnerable and poorly understood ecosystems.

The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee is making the following recommendations pertaining to the creation of a more Democratic and Environmentally Sustainable Marine Coastal Governance and Environmental Assessment and Regulatory Processes:
Recommendation 1:

Before an offshore petroleum development agency, such as the C-NLOPB, issues licences, authorizations to oil and gas companies for site specific exploration and development, there should be a legitimate democratic governance and management system created for the larger spatial context - the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Oil and gas and other developments in the Gulf region should be reviewed and approved subject to a democratic process which includes legitimate collaboration, consultation and a credible environmental assessment process involving the federal government, provincial governments, communities, industry, first nations and the general public.




Recommendation 2:

The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee strongly urges the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada to commence discussions to create a separate, independent offshore regulatory agency for worker safety and environmental protection for the Gulf of St. Lawrence as an integral part of a multi-sector, integrated ecosystem based management and regulatory system referred to in this report.

Recommendation 3:
The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee requests that the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador determine which agencies are responsible for responding to oil leaks such as is occurring at Shoal Point, Port ay P[ort Bay, NL and for the remediation and monitoring of such abandoned industrial sites.

Recommendation 4:
The environmental assessment process should be changed to be an integral part of a more democratic, multi-sector, integrated, ecosystem and science based management and regulatory system which works in the interest of citizens, communities and the environment.

Recommendation 5:
The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee is asking the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to enact a moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of St. Lawrence until a more democratic governance and ecosystem based management system has been created and proposed developments are subject to a credible independent, science based environmental assessment process.


Thank you for your anticipated consideration of our submission including our recommendations.

Bill O'Gorman, West Bay Centre, email: billogorman@eastlink.ca
phone:709 642 5715, 709 649 2174




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