Environment featured

News brief: Recent amendment to Bill C-69 further increases Big Oil influence over offshore environmental reviews

Environmentalists rallied in downtown Halifax when the Senate committee came looking for feedback on Bill C-69. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A recent change to Bill C-69 increases concerns among Nova Scotia environmentalists about undue influence by the oil and gas industry on environmental approvals of offshore oil and gas projects in the Atlantic.

Bill C-69 contains complex and sweeping federal legislation that changes the way the government approves major developments such as pipelines, hydro dams, mining projects and offshore exploration. The legislation is still a work in progress, and was recently reviewed by the senate.

See also: Environmentalists rally while senators conduct Bill C-69 hearings in Halifax

One of the amendments that came out of the senate review was recently accepted by the federal government. It allows appointed members of the Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Boards to chair environmental reviews.

This worries groups such as the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), East Coast Environmental Law and the Sierra Club Atlantic, who were opposed to a Petroleum Board presence on these review panels in the first place.

The two provincial  Petroleum Boards are unduly influenced by industry, and suffer from a double mandate of both regulating and promoting offshore exploration, they say. Why would you give them even more power by allowing them to chair major review panels?

“When environmental assessments happen for projects of a certain size and impact, the government appoints a panel, explains Mark Butler, policy director for the EAC.

“Now we will have offshore review panels that could be chaired by a Petroleum Board appointee. It will have two appointees on the panel, and there could even be a third oil industry person involved,” Butler says.

“Given all this, I don’t think the federal government will be able to order an offshore review and claim it has integrity as an independent exercise,” says Butler.

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