This is a short summary of a much more in-depth report on National Observer. Get the whole story here.
A scathing investigative report this week by National Observer is raising tough questions about whether the federal government did all it could to protect marine wildlife and ecosystems when it approved BP’s plans to drill for oil in the Scotian Basin, 300 kilometres off the Nova Scotia coast.
The wells, approved in April by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, will be twice as deep as the one that blew out during another notorious BP operation, the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The Observer set out to assess the likelihood of a similar disaster happening here—and the impacts Nova Scotians could expect if it did.
“The new BP rig floats near to two crucial habitats. Sable Island National Park Reserve is its closest neighbour, sitting 48 kilometres from the drill site, and the Gully Marine Protected Area is 71 kilometers away. The two ecosystems, home to a vast array of life including northern bottlenose whales, rare corals, and the famed wild horses of Sable Island, are vulnerable to a spill due to their proximity to the site,” the Observer notes.
“Also vulnerable to oil spills, increased underwater noise pollution, and the potential of being struck by BP ships, are the few remaining North Atlantic right whales. This docile surface skimmer is already among the most endangered of whale species,” and experts are “warning of extinction” for a species the government has vowed “every possible measure” to protect.
Protecting Canadian coastlines to the same standard imposed by the UK and Australia would have meant requiring BP to locate a “capping stack” near the new drilling site. “These 130-tonne steel giants, covered in tentacle-like pipes, were developed to seal the kind of underwater spill that decimated the Gulf of Mexico in 2010,” the Observer notes. “Canadian bureaucrats reviewing the project initially asked for a capping stack to be kept nearby but BP pushed back and Canada relented,” settling for a device located two weeks away by sea at Stavenger, Norway.
“When Australia required an on-location capping stack for proposed drilling in their Great Australian Bight,” the Observer discovered, “BP withdrew its application.”