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Ottawa Did Fossil Lobby’s Bidding in Design of Marine Protected Area

Canada’s federal government gave the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) special advance access both before and after it drafted regulations to protect 11,619 square kilometres of the Laurentian Channel, a biologically diverse portion of the Gulf of St. Lawrence southwest of Newfoundland, DeSmog Canada states in an investigative report.

Citing documents it has obtained—some of them reproduced on its website—DeSmog links the privileged access to the omission from those regulations of a ban on oil and gas exploration and drilling in the so-called “protected” area, and its reduction in size “by more than one-third from what was originally planned.”

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is thought to hold 257 million barrels of oil and four trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

DeSmog details two specific occasions when says the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) appeared to give the fossil lobby group an inside track in shaping its approach to protecting the area.

In late 2016, after the department had completed consultations with all other affected stakeholders, a DFO manager provided CAPP with a presentation summarizing the department’s conclusions, DeSmog says. No other interested parties received the same consideration.

Then last year, just three days after it issued draft regulations governing the protected area, DFO officials met with “CAPP and at least six other industry heavyweights for 45 minutes,” the outlet states. Meeting participants “included senior representatives from BP, Shell Canada, ExxonMobil, Nexen, Suncor, and Statoil,” but emails DeSmog says it obtained suggest “more may have been present in the room.”

The news report says DFO officials entered that June meeting hoping to get a pledge from the industry that in return for not being formally excluded from the protected area, it might accept “a statement that ‘no calls for bid on leases in the Laurentian Channel will ever be issued in support of the long-term conservation of the area.’”

In the event, the oil and gas lobbyists offered no such assurance. They may also have skirted lobbying laws.

Among the attendees, DeSmog writes, “only CAPP and ExxonMobil actually registered the communication in the federal lobbying registry.” Under federal lobbying rules, every company with a representative present “should have registered the meeting, regardless of it being organized by CAPP,” it adds.

“My opinion is that the companies violated the Lobbying Act by failing to register the meeting in the monthly communications registry,” said Democracy Watch founder Duff Conacher.