BP Offshore Drill Project Approval Points to Need for Reform
OTTAWA - Sierra Club Canada Foundation is disappointed, but not surprised, that Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna approved up to seven exploratory drill wells for BP off Nova Scotia yesterday. The leases where BP will be drilling are located 48 km from Sable Island National Park and 71 km from the Gully Marine Protected Area, home to the Northern bottlenose whale and deep-sea corals. "I wish I could say I was shocked, but sadly I'm not," stated Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director of Sierra Club Canada Foundation. "This project could result in a massive blow out on the East coast, one that we are not prepared nor equipped to deal with. Even under the best conditions, BP says it will take two weeks to cap a well. That's two weeks for oil to flow, threatening whales, fish, birds, and fisheries." The Environmental Assessment Report for the project indicates that in case of a spill, oil could reach fishing grounds on Emerald Bank in 6 days, and Georges Bank in 20 days. Since the company’s own estimate of getting a well capped and contained after a blowout is between 13-25 days, and its self-assessed "worst case" scenario is that a blowout would be uncontrolled for up to 30 days, this puts these fishing grounds at an unacceptable risk. It should be noted that the Gulf of Mexico spill lasted almost 90 days. The approval, signed by federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, lays out some conditions, including the requirement that BP consult indigenous groups regarding the specific aspects of its spill response plan. In addition to readiness for capping wells, spill response may include using dispersants - chemicals that have been shown to harm marine life and threaten human health. However, final say on the oil spill plan will go to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, which has a conflicting mandate to promote the oil industry. "This is exactly the type of regulatory capture that was reversed in the United States after the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Our offshore oil regulations are deeply flawed and the soon-to-be released new environmental assessment law must absolutely demonstrate improvements in this direction," adds Fitzgerald." We will continue to mobilize with our allies to stop the BP project from proceeding this spring."