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

Environmental groups WWF-Canada, Sierra Club Canada Foundation and Ecology Action Centre are currently challenging the process that led to this exemption in court. The groups argue that the underlying regional assessment (an assessment of the combined impacts of exploratory drilling in Newfoundland’s offshore) was so flawed that it should not be used to create project-level exemptions.

If the regional assessment and regulation stand, drilling in the Northeast Newfoundland Slope could begin in as little as 90 days following a successful bid, with no opportunity for the public to weigh in.

Additional information:

  • In May 2020, the groups, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, filed a Judicial Review application challenging a flawed Regional Assessment (RA) on the impacts of exploratory drilling off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. The groups also requested an interim injunction to prevent regulation to “fast-track” exploratory drilling approvals and vastly increase exploratory drilling activity in the area. In response, the federal government filed a motion to dismiss the case.
  • In May 2020, the groups successfully fended off the government motion to strike the case but the court denied their request for an interim injunction, allowing the regulation to move forward.
  • On June 4, the regulation to exempt oil and gas offshore drilling from federal environmental assessment came into force.
  • On June 11, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board issued a call for bids under the new exemption.
  • On June 29, 2020, the environmental groups filed a second Judicial Review challenging the new regulation.

Press release (June 4, 2020): Flawed environmental assessment of offshore drilling in NL to be scrutinized in court[1]

Press release (May 12, 2020): Flawed environmental assessment of offshore drilling in Newfoundland and Labrador puts marine ecosystems at risk[2]

About the Northeast Newfoundland Slope

  • Created in December 2017, the marine refuge is about 46,800 square kilometres, an area roughly the size of Denmark.
  • The C-NLOPB has called for bids for oil and gas projects in parts of the marine refuge’s area (see map).
  • The refuge was created to protect slow-growing, fragile cold-water corals and sponges, which provide essential habitat for fish and other marine life.

Offshore oil and gas bids off eastern coast of Newfoundland

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