The Hibernia oil platform was anchored to the seabed in Newfoundland’s offshore 19 years ago this week, and is scheduled to produce its one billionth barrel of oil in 2017

The Hibernia oil platform was anchored to the seabed in Newfoundland’s offshore two decades ago. Environmentalists say Canada's new proposals for offshore drilling and safety give the industry too much latitude to regulate itself.
Photo Credit: CBC

Concerns over changes to Canada’s offshore drilling policy


Several environmental agencies have expressed concerns over relatively quiet changes being proposed for offshore drilling.

They say notice for public consultation has been barely advertised, that affected first nations tribes have not been consulted at all, and that most input into regulation for the petroleum industry over the past year has come from the industry itself.

Susanna Fuller (PhD marine biology) is senior marine coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre based in Nova Scotia.

Susanna Fuller (PhD), marine conservation co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre
Susanna Fuller (PhD), marine conservation co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre © CBC

The proposed changes are known as the Frontier and Offshore Regulatory Renewal Initiative or FORRI.

Environmental and other affected groups, including the World Wildlife Fund-Canada say the proposed changes could have “profound implications for safety and environmental protection”

Susanna Fuller says the proposed changes are going in the opposite direction to those of the U.S. for example which has been strengthening regulations.

In many cases the changes place more responsibility for safety and clean-up of spills in the hands of the oil and gas industry. In many cases they are also vague, saying for example such things as reducing risk to “as low as reasonably practicable”, and response to accidents should be “as soon as the circumstances permit”.

The 14-billion Hebron platform was towed out to its location about 150 km southeast of St John’s Newfoundland this summer.
The 14-billion Hebron platform was towed out to its location about 150 km southeast of St John’s Newfoundland this summer. Environmentalists say new government proposals for the petroleum industry regulations for safety, spill prevention and cleanup are being weakened not strengthened. © ExxonMobil

Fuller also says the proposed changes seem to be in conflict with other environmental regulations and laws.

The Ecology Action Centre and others are asking that FORRI be halted, and that offshore oil and gas drilling be controlled by other more stringent existing government agencies and laws.

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