13 June 2011

Offshore board recommends mediator or panel review for Old Harry drilling proposal

The  Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board issued the following news release on Monday:

“The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board
(C-NLOPB), in its role as Responsible Authority pursuant to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), has recommended to the Federal Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Peter Kent, that the proposal by Corridor Resources Inc. to drill a petroleum exploration well on its Exploration Licence (EL) 1105, in the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, be referred to a mediator or a review panel.

“In the aftermath of the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, Canadians are particularly sensitive to the risks associated with offshore oil exploration drilling. This proposed well is in an area where there has been little public experience with offshore drilling, and it has attracted an especially high level of concern. These concerns have been expressed clearly to the C-NLOPB and we are of the opinion that a level of environmental assessment beyond a screening report is warranted,” said Max Ruelokke, C-NLOPB Chair and CEO.

On February 21, 2011, Corridor Resources Inc. filed a Project Description pursuant to the CEAA respecting its plans to drill an exploration well on EL 1105. The C-NLOPB is the Responsible Authority respecting the project since its authorization is required before the project may be carried out. Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Department of National Defence indicated that they were in possession of relevant specialist or expert information or knowledge and would contribute this to the environmental assessment of the project.

On February 25, 2011, the Board published a draft scoping document respecting the assessment and invited the submission of public comments no later than March 28, 2011. The solicitation of public comments on the draft scoping document resulted in the submission of over 50 comments from individual citizens, fish harvesting groups, elected municipal government representatives, First Nations, and environmental advocacy groups. The C-NLOPB has posted all comments on its website at http://www.cnlopb.nl.ca/environment/corridorresinc.shtml.

Under the legislation, exploration wells normally require a screening level of assessment. However, paragraph 25(b) of the CEAA, enables a Responsible Authority to recommend that a proposed project be reviewed by a mediator or panel if it believes the project may cause significant adverse environmental effects, or if public concerns warrant this level of review.

Based on information available to date, neither the C-NLOPB nor the expert departments have identified evidence indicating that the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. However, the public commentary received to date is of a level and nature greater than any the C-NLOPB has received respecting environmental aspects of a proposed exploration or production project in its 26-year history. The Board believes that this level of concern warrants such a recommendation.

Letter to Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, June 3, 2011

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