2018-03-14 Offshore drilling too risky for U.S. Eastern Seaboard, but not for Canada? Chronicle Herald. (Minister McKenna approved BP to drill up to 7 exploratory wells off the coast of NS, wells up to twice depth of Macondo well of Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico disaster.)
BP has been shut out of more off-shore drilling in the U.S., by American citizens along the Eastern Seaboard. (What a surprise, after the Gulf Oil Disaster!) So where does BP go next? . . Please help out these people in Nova Scotia by spreading the information. There’s an action item (petition), too:
a powerful oped featured in the Chronicle Herald, Halifax (copy appended) by Antonia Juhasz.
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With thanks to Andrea, the Council of Canadians:
It’s been a few weeks since Minister McKenna quietly approved BP to drill up to 7 exploratory wells off the coast of NS, wells up to twice the depth of Macondo well involved in the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast spill disaster.
Here is a blog I’ve written today about the tour, would be great if you could check it out, and share!
. . . (Town Halls) will feature Antonia Juhasz, investigative journalist, energy analyst and author of Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill, Colin Sproul, a fifth generation lobster fisherman and spokesperson for the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association and Michelle Paul, a Mi’kmaq activist and treaty rights holder.
Antonia recently wrote a powerful oped featured in the Chronicle Herald, Halifax, that I encourage you to check out, and share (I’ve copied the text of the oped below). There is also a great article on the subject featuring quotes from Antonia and Colin.
Our tour webpage is here. The tour itself is featuring knowledgeable voices on the risks of offshore drilling including the BP Gulf coast disaster as well as the importance of offshore waters to NS communities.
The Council of Canadians believes offshore drilling is not worth the risk, our campaign is highlighting the risks of spills to fisheries, tourism and economies, the lack of consultation and problems with the changes proposed under Bill C-69 and signalling that new fossil fuel projects like this are inconsistent with our Paris climate agreement commitments.
You can take action by signing our petition which states: We, the undersigned, call on Prime Minister Trudeau to stop BP from drilling up to seven exploratory wells and institute a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in offshore Nova Scotia. We further demand an end to proposed changes under Bill C-69 that would grant east coast petroleum boards more power in the environmental assessment process for Atlantic offshore drilling.
Energy and Climate Campaigner, Council of Canadians
OPINION: Offshore drilling too risky for U.S. Eastern Seaboard, but not for Canada?
fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in April 2010. (US COAST GUARD via AP) (Click on a powerful oped, for the photo)
As early as this year, BP plans to drill up to seven wells off the Nova Scotia coast in a hunt for oil and natural gas. As Nova Scotia residents and elected officials review both BP’s plans and the Canadian government’s ability to regulate them, it may be helpful to consider the view from your closest U.S. neighbours, who, barely one month ago, expressed virulent opposition to just such drilling in their own waters.
In January, the Trump administration proposed opening almost all U.S. federal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling. Currently, such drilling is limited almost exclusively to the Gulf of Mexico, with exceptions found off the Alaskan coast and a few sites that were “grandfathered-in” off southern California’s coast after the state banned all new offshore drilling following the massive 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. There is no drilling in the U.S. Atlantic.
The Trump drilling proposal was immediately met with angry public protests at state capitals from California to South Carolina, and within a matter of weeks, Republican and Democratic attorneys general of 12 coastal states — including almost every single one of Nova Scotia’s closest American neighbours: Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina — wrote a scathing letter to the administration demanding withdrawal of the proposal and asserting firm opposition to oil and gas drilling off of their coasts.
The lawyers asserted not only their states’ opposition to drilling, but also their intention to sue if the administration proceeds with its plan.
The reasons for such extreme opposition will likely raise many red flags for Nova Scotia’s residents. Calling the risks from offshore oil and gas drilling “severe” and “an unacceptable threat,” the attorneys general cite critical jobs in tourism and fisheries, the prosperity of their states, and the dangers posed to “the unique ecologies of our shores and state ocean waters.” They declare, “Our oceans are not only an irreplaceable natural resource, but also a vital engine of economic growth.”
They assert that “offshore oil and gas drilling carries a significant risk of widespread damage, without regard to state borders,” and point specifically to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which “caused economic and ecological devastation across multiple states” estimated at $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources alone.
“Even without a disaster on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, offshore oil and gas drilling would threaten our coastal areas. Even a small spill has the potential to devastate sensitive marine and coastal resources and the communities and businesses that depend on them. Risks are especially high in frontier areas such as the Atlantic, which have virtually no spill-response infrastructure or capacity,” the attorneys general warn.
Maine, Nova Scotia’s closest U.S. neighbour, cites, in particular, the risk to the state’s “world famous” lobster industry; stating, “A major oil spill in these waters would cause a unique and unprecedented disaster.”
Within this context, Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna’s rather bizarre statement that BP’s Nova Scotia drilling project “is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects,” is somewhat shocking. BP, for example, dares not make such a claim, writing only that “BP aims to manage and mitigate environmental impacts.”
William K. Reilly, head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George H. W. Bush and the co-chair of the president’s National Oil Spill Commission investigating the BP spill, warns that even good regulation and oversight cannot prevent another disaster from happening. “Drilling in very deep water is a highly challenging affair that involves highly complex technologies, and they sometimes fail,” he told me. “One should not suffer the delusion that it can be done risk-free.”
My extensive offshore oil drilling investigations support the concerns of the U.S. public and its leaders. At its onset, I immediately began and continued to investigate the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 men and caused the largest offshore drilling oil spill in world history.
In 2014, I spent 13 days aboard the Atlantis scientific research vessel and dove to the bottom of the ocean in the Alvin submarine, getting closer to BP’s Macondo well than anyone had since the blowout. My Harper’s Magazine article revealed that an estimated 30 million gallons of oil from the BP spill remain in the Gulf — the equivalent of nearly three Exxon Valdez spills — and that about half of this amount has settled on the ocean floor. It is the most toxic parts of the oil which remain and will likely stay there forever, with ecological effects that could be devastating.
As I reported two years later, though many lessons have been learned from the disaster, few have been acted upon. Instead, it is “business as usual” in offshore drilling, David Pritchard, a petroleum engineer who consults for major oil companies, including BP, Mobil, Chevron and Halliburton, told me.
“(A) culture of minimal regulatory compliance continues to exist in the Gulf of Mexico and risk reduction continues to prove elusive,” wrote the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency that investigates industrial accidents.
BP’s plans for Nova Scotia include ultra-deepwater wells at depths of as great as over 3,000 metres below the ocean surface, or nearly twice the depth at which BP was drilling the Macondo well. BP will drill within a mere 48 kilometres of Sable Island National Park Reserve in an “Offshore Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area,” near to critical fisheries, whale habitats, and marine protected areas. This is more than 30 kilometres closer than the nearest shoreline to BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig; which means the damage could be much more severe. Yet, the drilling will also take place at nearly twice the distance from the closest major supply port; potentially making access to safety and spill mitigation equipment far more difficult and time-consuming to access.
BP’s current plans involve exploratory drilling, which includes virtually all of the risks which led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster: specifically, a loss of well control and the risk of escaping gas reaching the drilling rig. The BP Macondo blowout also occurred in the pre-production phase.
BP’s assertions of safety should be taken within the framework of U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier’s final rulings in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Judge Barbier did not mince words in his uniquely harsh ruling, finding BP “grossly negligent” and guilty of making decisions “primarily driven by a desire to save time and money” which were “dangerous” and “motivated by profit.”
As I detailed in Rolling Stone, these decisions include allowing the blowout preventer — the most critical device in offshore drilling and the last line of defence against a blowout — to run out of batteries, such that it failed to deploy when needed to stop the Macondo blowout. Even if it had deployed, however, blowout preventers only have about a 50 per cent success rate. The only proven way to permanently shut in a deepwater blowout is by drilling a second “relief well,” which took 152 days in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP had extensive plans for how to address a spill even twice the size of the Deepwater Horizonspill — it just didn’t, and in many instances couldn’t implement them. For example, though BP’s federally submitted oil spill response plan correctly predicted that oil from a blowout could reach the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, BP failed to have ready the necessary boom or skimmers to collect oil and stop it from hitting shore.
But perhaps the most important words come from the people who make, or in many cases, made their livelihoods from sea life that has yet to return as a result of the oil spill. “They’re basically ruined,” Byron Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oystermen Association told me. Encalade, like his family for generations before him, is an oysterman in the small, mostly African-American community of Point a la Hache, Louisiana. “We’re doing bad,” Encalade says. “We keep saying it can’t get any worse, and it keeps getting worse. There’s no oysters on the east bank of the river. None.” Now-former oystermen are supported by parents and grandparents; their hopes of sending their own children to college have been dashed.
“So, it’s a domino effect,” Encalade says. “In simple words: we still haven’t begun to recover.”
Antonia Juhasz is an award-winning policy analyst, author, and investigative journalist specializing in oil. She is the author of three books, including: Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill. She has written dozens of articles investigating the oil industry for outlets including, Harper’s Magazine, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, and CNN.com. She lives in San Francisco, Calif. http://www.AntoniaJuhasz.net
Juhasz will be speaking in Nova Scotia March 20-22 in a series of public forums organized by the Council of Canadians. https://canadians.org/NS-offshore-tour