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Effective Environmental Assessment Processes Critical to Offshore Development

February 1, 2018 (St. John’s, NL) — With legislative changes imminent, the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil & Gas Industries Association, Noia, continues to advocate for renewed environmental assessment processes and calls on the federal government to designate the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) as Responsible Authority (RA) for these assessments.

“The C-NLOPB’s excellent track record proves it has the expertise and experience required to conduct these assessments and should be designated RA, as it was previously,” said Charlene Johnson, Noia CEO. “The C-NLOPB is a reputable, arms length regulator that employs more than 85 experienced policy and operational experts dedicated to ensuring environmental protection. Located in close physical proximity to our offshore operations, they know the industry, have hands-on experience in the province’s harsh offshore environment and are best placed to take the lead role in environmental assessments.”

Noia is also asking the federal government to avoid unnecessary duplication in the new legislation. For example, the C-NLOPB currently conducts Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) using reputable environmental firms, the most recent one being the updated SEA for Eastern Newfoundland including the Flemish Pass and Orphan Basin in 2014, www.cnlopb.ca/sea/eastern.php  “Having CEAA duplicate this work would only add unnecessary time to an already thorough process performed by experts located right here in our province and closest to the resource,” said Johnson.

Johnson went on to note that duplication with regard to exploration wells should also be avoided. Currently under CEAA (2012), exploration wells in the first drilling program in an area set out in one or more exploration licenses require an environmental assessment.   “Again, Noia believes that the C-NLOPB should be the Responsible Authority for this, but also that exploration drilling programs that are adjacent to or overlapping each other should not require separate environmental assessments as this is another example of unnecessary duplication,” said Johnson.

Further, Noia is emphasising the importance of upholding what is clearly stated in the Atlantic Accord around management of the province’s oil & gas industry.

“The Atlantic Accords Acts have enabled the C-NLOPB to effectively regulate the offshore industry for over 30 years. Section 4 of the Accord Implementation Act specifically states that it takes precedence over any other act of parliament that applies to the offshore area or any regulations under the Act,” added Johnson. “The Atlantic Accord gave Newfoundland and Labrador equality with the federal government in the joint management of our resources and we firmly believe this principle should be upheld.”

Johnson noted that increasing bureaucracy does not enhance environmental protection – it only adds more time and uncertainty and reduces Newfoundland and Labrador’s ability to attract global investment. Johnson concluded by adding that the livelihood of thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians depends on a well-regulated offshore industry that is supported by a robust environmental assessment process and includes appropriate consultation with directly impacted groups. “Every resident of the province should be very concerned that decisions are about to be made that could erode the principles of joint management, increase centralization and jeopardize future development of the industry.”