ROCKY HARBOUR — An employee of the Bonne Bay Marine Station is asking if there is “intelligent life on Earth” after a public meeting at Rocky Harbour’s community centre about west coast offshore oil exploration.
Station employee Bob Hooper said he and his colleagues at the Marine Station were not invited to a stakeholder meeting earlier Wednesday, which is something he does not understand.
“According to this process we’re not stakeholders, which is kind of amusing,” said Hooper. “We’re at the centre of this study (area), we’re doing research and I, for one, am feeling terribly left out.”
The meeting was the third in a series hosted by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, the first two of which were held in Stephenville and Corner Brook earlier this week.
Representatives were on hand to answer questions locals had about offshore oil exploration and its impact on the surrounding areas. Residents within the boundaries of Gros Morne National Park said environmental concerns were at the top of their list of questions.
Norris Point resident Gene Bellows said there should be more meetings as the offshore exploration develops.
“We know there’s going to be drilling, I want to know what are the safety valves?” he said. “If they start drilling, fine, but then they have to transport it and a lot of these tankers aren’t in the best of shape; this area needs to be protected at all costs.”
Joanie Cranston of Norris Point said there is good information, but it’s convoluted and she would like to see it put in what she called plain English.
“It’s important that they hear what we value, which is a sustainable fishery, tourism and a healthy environment,” she said.
“These are the factors that would be majorly affected by a process such as this.”
Local politicians, including Rocky Harbour Mayor Walter Nicolle, Port aux Choix Mayor Carolyn Lavers and NDP MHA Christopher Mitchelmore, attended the meeting as well.
Nicolle said the drilling will take place eventually and although he echoed calls for environmental caution, he admitted it could be something that helps revitalize smaller communities.
“Every community is looking for job opportunities to try and keep our people in the area,” he said. “I hope they use caution as they go forward, but if it doesn’t happen here it will happen somewhere else on the island.”
The meeting saw offshore board staff utilize informational placards and maps to answer questions attendees had. They would not, however, answer media questions.
Some in attendance approved of what the board is doing.
“I think this is wonderful, I think we need it,” said Rocky Harbour resident Ernest Shears.
“We need employment and I think they’ll make good on their environmental promises.”