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Georges Bank up for grabs
By Don Orton, Letter to the Editor, 8 October 1997
The oil and gas industry is trying once again to open up Canada's share of Georges Bank, the Northeast Peak, to natural gas and oil exploration. This Bank is enormously biologically productive for fish (more than one hundred species), marine mammals (about 18 species of whales), and many sea birds. The Georges Bank commercial fishery contributes about ten percent of total Nova Scotia value and employs over 1,600 fishers.
I went to the "Information Public Meeting" held by the Georges Bank Review Panel in Halifax on October 6th. The media seem to have little interest in any critical examination of the vast changes facing Nova Scotians and other East Coast Canadians from the impact of the oil and gas industry. We are being set up as a fossil fuel extraction zone for the US, yet there is little public awareness of this. Boosterism by the media for the industry, is however in.
Part of the government/industry strategy seems to be to keep us ignorant of what is happening overall. Major land and marine use changes which favour the oil and natural gas industry are being presented as isolated, not interconnected events. The Georges Bank meeting needs to be seen in this context. (Another example is the most recent mega-change: the quiet opening up, without any public discussion, of nearly one million acres of land for oil and gas exploration in Northern Nova Scotia, at 12 cents per hectare.)
A lawyer from Yarmouth chaired the Halifax meeting. His opening remarks stressed the "openness" and "fairness" of the review process. He outlined the structure of the meeting as consisting of four presentations with questions from the audience after each presentation. The first two presentations concerned the biological and physical features and a fisheries profile of the Bank. The first speaker said he felt there would be some degree of "resilience" of the Bank to oil and gas exploration. The fisheries presentation was totally human-centered and all about dollars and fish landings. The third presentation was given by a spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), whose literature was prominently available. The fourth was given by the manager for Offshore Operations and Environmental Affairs, Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.
The fact that there were clearly two promotional voices for the oil and gas industry and no spokespersons for the position of continuing the oil and gas moratorium on Georges Bank was, it seems, not seen as unfair. It was so fair for the chairperson that he never asked the audience for the approval of the agenda or if changes were in order. An example: lease interests in the Georges Bank area are held by Amoco, Chevron and Texaco. The spokesperson for the Offshore Petroleum Board (who stated at the meeting "there have been no prosecutions to date"), worked for Amoco in Alberta.
CAPP's handout noted that over 50 percent of crude oil and natural gas produced in Canada is exported to the United States. 1996 saw a record drilling of 14,600 wells. There was of course no discussion of the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming and climate instability. Yet it is the existing solar energy, now threatened by green house gases from fossil fuels like gas and petroleum, which is the motor for the biological productivity of Georges Bank.
The world view taken for granted by the oil and gas industry, is that we need: increasing economic growth and consumerism; increasing use of fossil fuels like oil and natural gas; Canada's role is to feed energy to the United States; humans and corporations should treat Nature as a "resource" for consumption; the oil and gas industry is environmentally virtuous despite massive evidence to the contrary. This is not long term ecological and social sustainability, it is stupidity.
The oil and gas industry is driving the Georges Bank review process.