Call for bids under new exemption for offshore drilling accelerates risk to marine refuge

The Maersk Developer drills an exploratory well into Statoil’s Martin prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, with work expected to finish in the third quarter of 2014. Two years ago, Statoil paid $157 million for the right to drill into a single 9-square-mile block at the site and the Norwegian company is now spending about $1.1 million a day to rent the Developer, supply the drilling rig and pay for other contractors. (Jennifer A. Dlouhy / Houston Chronicle)

Drilling could move forward in Newfoundland’s largest marine protected area despite legal challenge

For immediate release: July 2, 2020

St. John’s, NL – A marine refuge designed to protect sensitive marine life in Atlantic Canada’s offshore is once again being opened up for oil and gas drilling — this time on an accelerated timeline.

Last week, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) issued its 2020 call for bids in the Eastern Newfoundland region. Many of the areas included in the call directly overlap the Northeast Newfoundland Slope marine refuge, which is the largest protected area off Canada’s East Coast and was created to help protect the region’s unique biodiversity. Canada has committed to protecting 25 per cent of its coastal and marine waters by 2025. Despite being open to oil and gas, the Northeast Newfoundland Slope counts toward this international conservation target. When oil and gas production occurs within the refuge, the affected area is cut out of international accounting, leaving a patchwork of different levels of protection.

(Marine refuges in other parts of Atlantic Canada, such as Nova Scotia, are also still under threat from oil and gas development.)

The call for bids east of Newfoundland comes shortly after Jonathan Wilkinson, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, enacted a controversial exemption for exploratory drilling projects in this region. Under the exemption, individual exploratory projects no longer require a federal impact assessment.

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