rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Harper weakens rules for offshore oil drilling

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: Way Out West News/flickr

The Harper government has weakened the rules for offshore drilling.

Now, rather than every exploratory offshore well needing an environmental assessment, projects will only be required to undergo an assessment for the first exploratory well 'in an area set out in one or more exploration licences.'

What does this mean? If Corridor Resources Inc.'s current proposal to drill an exploratory well in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is approved, then future wells in the area covered would not need an environmental assessment, they would only need to meet technical requirements for individual wells.

The Globe and Mail reports, "William Amos, director of the EcoJustice Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Ottawa (says) the federal-provincial boards or the National Energy Board will determine what is meant by 'an area set out in one or more exploration licences', and therefore, when a review is needed... Officials at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency said the new regulations would cover a 'drilling program' -- a series of wells in a given area -- by a company or consortium that could include several licences."

How big could these 'areas' be? The Old Harry 'prospect' is a 30-kilometre stretch of the Laurentian Channel off the southwest coast of Newfoundland. BP has three licenses for exploration rights in a 6,000 square kilometre area about 180 kilometres off the coast of the Northwest Territories in the Beaufort Sea. Chevron has an exploration license for 205,000 hectares of seabed off the north coast of the Yukon.

Implications for the Great Lakes should also be considered. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources estimates that there are about 156 million barrels of oil and 1 trillion cubic feet of gas on the Canadian side of Lake Erie. The US Geological Survey has estimated that there are 430 million barrels of recoverable petroleum liquids and 5.2 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes. Canada allows on-shore drilling for oil under the Great Lakes as well as offshore gas drilling. There are about 470 natural gas wells in operation on the Ontario side of Lake Erie. Most are 15 to 60 kilometres offshore, east of Point Pelee to south of Port Colborne. There are also about 23 oil wells drilled on-shore but extending under Lake Erie.

Photo: Way Out West News/flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.