Environment Media release

Media release: Environmental assessment legislation contradicts Liberal election promise

Media release

For immediate release: February 8, 2018

K’JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – While there are some improvements in overall environmental assessment processes in Liberal legislation tabled today in Ottawa, the draft Bill is a  step backwards with respect to offshore oil and gas in Atlantic Canada, appears to give oil and gas boards more authority, and points to federal concessions in response to lobbying from the provinces and oil industry.

That assessment comes today from the Offshore Alliance, a coalition of 19 fishing, environmental and community groups in Atlantic Canada. As drafted, the Bill grants more power to the offshore petroleum boards by giving them the power to participate in environmental assessments for drilling projects. There was no indication that their existing powers would be removed.

“The Liberals were elected on a promise to ‘make environmental assessments credible again.’ The expert panel that reviewed our assessment law recommended a single authority with a mandate to review projects and decide on them. The Bill tabled today gives the offshore boards more power to advise on environmental assessments, and thus determine their outcomes,” says John Davis, Director of the Clean Ocean Action Committee.

Currently environmental assessments for offshore drilling off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are carried out by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The offshore boards can carry out assessments and issue approvals only for activities like seismic testing. Today’s Bill grants more power to the Boards to advise a new Impact Assessment Agency on all projects on the offshore, including drilling

Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director with Sierra Club Canada Foundation, says, “This decision will damage our oceans, prevent the recovery of species at risk like the Right Whale, and puts ecologically sensitive regions like the Gulf of St. Lawrence at further risk. It also places too much power in the hands of the oil boards to determine if we will meet our climate commitments. We will not take this lightly and will be pushing decision-makers to change the draft Bill in the months ahead.”

“Removing offshore boards from environmental assessments has the support of every East Coast fisheries group, NGO and environmental organization that has spoken publicly on the issue.” according to Marion Moore, of the South Shore Chapter of the Council of Canadians. “Pressure from the oil industry has clearly swayed the Liberal government, just as we feared.”

“New emphasis on regional and strategic environmental assessments, as laid out in the draft Bill, are intended to incorporate concerns about protecting ecologically sensitive areas, fishing grounds, and endangered species,“ stated Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director of East Coast Environmental Law. “However, if the offshore boards are granted more powers, these positive developments will be tainted from the start.”


ECELAW Assessment of Role of Offshore Boards
Letter from Offshore Alliance to PM Justin Trudeau, Jan. 24, 2018

For more information, please contact

Gretchen Fitzgerald
National Program Director, Sierra Club Canada Foundation

John Davis
Director, Clean Ocean Action Committee

Marion Moore
Council of Canadians – South Shore Chapter

Lisa Mitchell
Executive Director, East Coast Environmental Law