Skip to main content Skip to local navigation

Professor Gail Fraser: Canadian public in dark on effects of oil development off Grand Banks

Professor Gail Fraser: Canadian public in dark on effects of oil development off Grand Banks

The Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Canadian governments are reviewing a section of the Atlantic Accords that critics say lets offshore oil and gas operators veto a wide swath of information from being released publicly, including environmental and safety data, wrote Ottawa’s The Hill Times, Feb. 22:

Meanwhile, as governments keep talking, operators continue to use the controversial section to block access to information.

Gail Fraser, a biologist and professor in the [Faculty of Environmental Studies] at York University  in Toronto, placed five access to information requests in 2007 with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, a joint federal-provincial body that regulates oil and gas drilling and production off the Newfoundland coast. The board cited the same section of the Canada-Newfoundland Atlantic Accord Implementation Act to deny all five requests: Section 119(2).

But Fraser said she wasn’t asking for proprietary information, just environmental data about the frequency of oil sheens, for instance, and other pollutant information so she could compare the environmental effects predicted in the environmental assessments of oil production operations  to what’s actually happening. “The government is permitting oil and gas operators to operate in a public domain. And the waste involved in these developments is huge. And so it’s important for the public to understand what are the effects of those wastes. And so, you can’t,” she said in a phone interview with The Hill Times.

“Right now, the public is essentially in the dark as to the effects of oil development in the Grand Banks (off the Newfoundland coast).”

While there is obviously information that would make sense from a business perspective to not release publicly, said Fraser, she would like to see Section 119(2) scrapped and revised so that it is not applied to environmental and safety information. The Newfoundland and Nova Scotia boards have written to the federal and provincial ministers responsible for energy to ask them to review the section in Atlantic Accords, something Fraser welcomed.

Meanwhile, Fraser submitted another set of access to information requests to the Newfoundland board earlier this month and said she’s not hopeful she’ll get what she wants.

The complete article is available on The Hill Times website for a fee or to existing subscribers.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.