The federal government has been working with the fossil industry for more than a year to rewrite and consolidate its regulations governing offshore oil and gas drilling, without consulting environmental or Inuit organizations, the Globe and Mail reports.
“A draft of the proposed changes would allow the industry to decide what safety measures can be reasonably and practicably implemented,” the Globe reveals, citing the environmental organizations that first brought the Frontier and Offshore Regulatory Renewal Initiative (FORRI) to light. “They suggest oil and gas companies would be able to argue that some are too expensive or too difficult.”
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada, the Clean Ocean Action Committee, the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia, and Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre have written to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, asking him to put the brakes on a process that is already in its final stages. “The groups say they became aware of the effort to amalgamate and update five existing regulations under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act only after it was raised incidentally at a meeting this summer” between NRCan and WWF officials.
“We are extremely active on this issue all over Canada, so we were very surprised that we hadn’t been formally notified,” said WWF-Canada President David Miller. “And when we contacted colleagues, whether in Indigenous communities including in the North, or other [environmental groups], we found the same reaction. Almost nobody had heard about it.”
This week, NRCan said the third of four consultation phases on the new regulation is scheduled to end September 20. While the department said stakeholders will be able to review the results in a final consultation phase next spring, its own website refers to only three phases, the Globe notes.
“The ministry said its stakeholders list includes more than 20 non-governmental organizations representing environmental and fisheries interests as well as 18 Northern and Indigenous organizations, and that it has offered to hold additional meetings with other Indigenous groups,” writes reporter Gloria Galloway. “Environmentalists are concerned the fourth phase will occur after it is too late to make significant changes.”
With no minimum standards baked into the current draft of the regulations, the groups are worried that Ottawa “is capitulating to the oil and gas industry and to an immensely powerful lobby,” said Clean Ocean Action Committee Director John Davis. “We have immense concerns.”
The only Inuit group consulted, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation in the western Arctic, “expressed significant concerns about the initiative and the consultations,” Galloway states. The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association were not consulted.
“We believe in order to work collaboratively with Inuit, there need to be greater efforts to include opportunities for meaningful participation from our communities,” said QIA Director of Lands Rosanne D’Orazio.