Two environmental groups are asking the Federal Court of Canada to confirm that licences issued to Shell Oil 45 years ago to explore in Canada’s Lancaster Sound have long since expired, despite the federal government’s apparent willingness to honour them.
Oil and gas exploration permits typically expire after about nine years. An earlier report by Greenpeace revealed, however, that neither the federal department responsible for issuing Arctic drilling permits nor a broader Access to Information search showed any evidence that Shell had renewed the licences.
Nevertheless, “the federal government has relied on these expired permits to propose narrower boundaries for the Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area, over objections from Inuit communities,” said Paul Crowley, vice-president of Arctic conservation with WWF-Canada. “So long as these permits are allowed to stand, they will continue to obstruct efforts to ensure Lancaster Sound’s ecosystems and wildlife get the protection they need.”
WWF Canada, represented by lawyers for Ecojustice, filed an application April 11, asking the Court to declare the permits expired and no longer valid, and to order that federal registry records be appropriately updated.
“Under the law, exploration permits do not stay valid forever,” said Ecojustice lawyer Ian Miron. “It’s time the government recognized that Shell’s permits are well past their expiration date.”
“Lancaster Sound is one of the richest marine mammal areas on earth,” the groups note in a release, “home to narwhals, belugas, bowhead whales, ringed seals, harp seals, and walruses. The area also harbours one of the highest densities of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic and provides