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BP offshore drilling threatens Nova Scotia coastal waters

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Photo by Robin Tress.

There is a deposit of an estimated eight billion barrels of oil and 120 trillion cubic feet of gas under the ocean floor off Nova Scotia’s coast that should stay where it is.

This past February, defying climate science in favour of corporate profit, the Trudeau government granted BP Canada Energy Group permission to drill up to seven exploratory wells over a three-year period.

In April, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board then, not surprisingly, approved the drilling of the first exploration well, Aspy D-11.

BP began drilling that well on April 22, Earth Day.

Work on the well was briefly halted on June 22 when the West Aquarius rig spilled about 136,000 litres of synthetic drilling mud about 330 kilometres offshore of Halifax. The petroleum board, again not surprisingly, gave permission to BP to resume drilling on July 22.

BP's plan to extract oil and gas off the coast of Nova Scotia should be considered a climate crime given it would release millions of tonnes of carbon emissions.

Numerous other concerns have been raised, including:

  • BP is responsible for the largest marine oil spill in history, the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, that saw about 4.9 billion barrels of oil spill into the ocean.
  • The waters where BP is drilling (almost three kilometres deep) are twice as deep as where the Gulf of Mexico disaster took place, with more severe tides and weather conditions (waves can reach 10 metres in height during a storm).
  • University of California expert Dr. Robert Bea has concluded that BP failed to properly assess, document and validate the risk of its drilling off the shore of Nova Scotia.
  • The Trudeau government approved BP to drill offshore with a plan to ship a capping stack from Norway that would take 12 to 19 days to arrive when a spill occurs, while it could take 13 to 25 days or longer to cap the well with the device.
  • An oil spill off the coast of Nova Scotia would put at risk the fisheries industry, a sector that employs about 17,538 people, and a spill from a major blowout could reach the fishing grounds of Emerald Bank in just six days.
  • An oil spill would also put at risk Sable Island National Park Reserve, about 48 kilometres away from the drilling site, and the Gully Marine Protected Area, 71 kilometres away, and further put at risk the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
  • BP has indicated that in the event of an oil spill it would use Corexit 9500a, a chemical dispersant, that would cause the oil to sink and that critics say could pose human health risks and be toxic to marine life.
  • The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board is a captured regulatory body, with some of its members coming from the oil industry. One of the federal appointees to the Board, Corrina Bryson, worked for both Shell and Nexen.
  • There were no federal public hearings on the drilling and only minimal "invite-only" provincial consultations.
  • Grassroots treaty rights holders have stated that they were not consulted and that free, prior and informed consent has not been granted as required under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

For detailed information and important updates, please see the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS) Facebook page and website.

Photo by Robin Tress

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

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