Fishery committee wants action

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Dear Editor: The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee is concerned about  the  lack of action to prevent, stop and clean up pollution of the marine environment in the coastal Port au Port Peninsula area.

The committee has recently written the provincial minister of the Environment and Conservation, Joan Shea,  and other government officials expressing their concerns about contaminated sites and an ineffective environmental assessment regulatory system.

A  recent Parliamentary Budget Office’s (PBO’s) 41- Federal Contaminated Sites Report released April 10, 2014, stated that in 2013 the federal government set aside nearly $4.9 billion for national remediation work. The PBO report, however, suggests that the Federal Government  didn’t consider the full scope of the undertaking, nor the discovery of additional contaminants at some of the more than 10,000 contaminated sites in Canada's online inventory.

More than half of the sites are polluted by petroleum products where oil has spilled, or where batteries containing PCBs and other chemicals have leached into the soil

The Port au Port Bay  Fishery Committee is aware of  at least 13 and possibly more abandoned oil drilling sites on Shoal Point. Several of these sites were once on land but due to coastal erosion are now located offshore in coastal waters and some are leaking oily substances into the surrounding bay. The fishery committee, like the people in Notre Dame Bay who are frustrated about lack of adequate response to leaking oil from the sunken ship  Manolis L, want  permanent solutions to leaking oil which threatens both the ecology and the economy.

The fishery committee has asked the Environment minister if the provincial government is going to identify and recommend that the  abandoned oil drilling sites in the Shoal Point area of the Port au Port Peninsula be included in the National Inventory of Contaminated Sites requiring remediation.

The committee is also concerned about what they believe is an inadequate environmental assessment of Black Spruce Exploration (BSE) drilling plans for the  Garden Hill area near Cape St. George, Port au Port Peninsula.

Black Spruce in late 2013 announced that they were intending to drill three conventional wells with the potential for the addition of two more wells in the Port au Port licence area known as EL1116.

The company has also stated that they used an acid squeeze process at their Garden Hill Site in 2012.

However, the 2007 Project Description and Environmental Assessment for Drilling in the Garden Hill area makes no reference to such an unconventional acidization, acid squeeze process that we can find.

The committee has questioned the Environment minister as to why there wasn’t a new project description and environmental assessment required  for this unconventional drilling process conducted in 2012.

They have asked if matrix acidization, or other forms of an acid squeeze process will be used for the five wells planned by Black Spruce?

Other questions to the minister include: Will there be an independent, science-based environmental assessment with public consultation required for these oil drilling projects? Will there be any base line testing (pre- and post-drilling) of local wells, community water sources and the aquifer to document their condition such that if they become contaminated it will help determine the origin of the contaminants?

The public of Newfoundland and Labrador knows little or nothing about acidization, the chemicals used in the process and if there are any related threats to human health and the environment.

Considering  government’s statements regarding emphasis on transparency, public engagement and consultation,  the fishery committee believes there should be democratic public engagement and consultation regarding this issue.

The Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee has also expressed its concerns  to government regarding the independence and objectivity of the Canadian-Newfoundland and Labrador  Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), the primary regulatory agency for  oil exploration and development activities in marine and coastal areas.

The committee charges that this Board is in conflict of interest as being both a facilitator of oil and gas development and a regulator for worker safety and environmental protection for  the same sector.

They have asked the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador if they are actively requesting the government of Canada to establish a separate independent regulatory agency for worker safety and environmental protection as recommended by Judge Robert Wells in his Offshore Safety Report, Recommendation 29. Judge Wells considered 29 to be most important in recommending the establishment of a separate independent safety regulatory agency that would encompass prevention of injury, prevention of loss of life, and protection of the environment.

Bill O’Gorman, West Bay,

Gus Hynes, Fox Island River

Organizations: Port au Port Bay Fishery Committee, Parliamentary Budget Office, Dear Editor Federal Government National Inventory of Contaminated Sites Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board C-NLOPB

Geographic location: Port au Port, Canada, Shoal Point Garden Hill Site Notre Dame Bay Newfoundland and Labrador West Bay Fox Island River

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