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Questions:

Is oil and gas a sustainable industry?
Will regulations protect our ocean?
Will this industry help struggling coastal communities?
What can I do to help protect the ocean from this industry?
Hasn’t modern technology eliminated most environmental problems associated with offshore oil and gas development?
Shouldn’t we at least find out how much oil is out there?
Who decides if oil companies can drill for offshore oil and gas in B.C.?

Responses:

Is oil and gas a sustainable industry?
No. Petroleum is a non-renewable resource. Petroleum, or oil, is a natural fossil fuel. It is called a fossil fuel because it was formed from the remains of tiny sea plants and animals that died millions of years ago. When the plants and animals died, they sank to the bottom of the ocean and were buried by thousands of metres of sand and silt.

Over time, this organic mixture was subjected to enormous pressure and heat as the layers increased. The mixture changed chemically, breaking down into compounds made of hydrogen and carbon atoms—hydrocarbons. Finally, an oil-saturated rock, much like a wet household sponge, was formed.

Petroleum is called a non-renewable energy source because it takes millions of years to form. Natural gas is formed by a similar process as oil, and can be found in separate deposits or mixed with oil. Because oil and gas are difficult to locate, especially in the ocean, exploration and drilling are key activities in extracting these fuels.

From the initial stages of work, exploration and drilling have detrimental effects on the marine environment. From seismic testing (to locate fuel deposits), to construction of drilling platforms (that sit on the ocean floor or float on the surface) to drilling into the ocean bottom, this industry causes serious and irrevocable environmental damage.

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Will regulations protect our ocean?

A study produced by Living Oceans Society determined regulations will not protect the coast from the negative impacts of offshore oil and gas. National regulations that oversee the offshore oil and gas industry are getting weaker. For example, regulations around seismic testing and exploratory drilling are in the process of becoming weaker as a result of pressure from the offshore oil and gas industry and provincial governments with interests in pleasing the industry. For more information about the failure of regulations to protect the ocean from offshore oil and gas click here.

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Will this industry help struggling coastal communities?

No. The promise of jobs is an empty one. More jobs would be at risk than created from an offshore oil and gas industry. A study carried out by Simon Fraser University on behalf of Coastal First Nations found there would be more oils spills than jobs created from an offshore industry on the B.C. coast. In the meantime, the industries that do exist here, such as commercial and recreational fishing and ecotourism, depend on a healthy ocean. An oil spill could wipe out these industries.

A report contracted by the provincial government stated, “government must recognize that major benefits from offshore development tend to flow out of the province. The return on investment will flow out of the province to non-resident operating companies. In the Atlantic for example, most of the oil and gas is exported to the U.S. Few local companies played a significant role in supplying goods and services during field development.”

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What can I do to help protect the ocean from this industry?

  • Sign on to the oil free coast by clicking here
  • Write a letter to the prime minister and your MP
  • Click here to send a free fax to the Prime Minister and your MP. Let them know you want the moratorium maintained on offshore oil and gas
  • Your financial contribution will help us maintain the moratorium on offshore oil and gas and continue to protect the coast Click here to donate to our campaign
  • Stay informed by signing up for our Oil Free Coast newsletter by clicking here
  • Tell a friend about this campaign and how important it is to keep our coast oil free.

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Hasn’t modern technology eliminated most environmental problems associated with offshore oil and gas development?

  • Advances in technology have not addressed threats from seismic testing. In 2000, the offshore oil and gas moratorium was extended on Georges Bank on Canada’s east coast due to, in part, concerns about the impacts of seismic testing on the fisheries.
  • Improvements in technology may reduce the threat of oil spills, but they do not eliminate them. Although industry may think the risk of a blow out or oil spill may be reduced, the consequences remain devastating and far reaching.
  • The only way to stop global warming is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. No improvements in technology will enable us to fix this problem.
  • The development of water-based drilling muds, which are thought to be less toxic to the marine environment, might address some pollution concerns, however these carry their own concerns. Studies have shown that even the less-toxic drilling muds can reduce the health, reproductive success and survival rate of scallops.

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Shouldn’t we at least find out how much oil is out there?

It is true we do not know the size of B.C.’s offshore oil and gas reserves. Industry and government often cite numbers like ten billion barrels of oil and 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. These are estimates, however.

While some people believe we should find out the size of reserves to determine whether the coast is opened to drilling, the technique used to look for oil and gas, called seismic testing, is harmful to fish and marine mammals. Therefore, it is impossible to measure the amount of offshore oil and gas in B.C. without harming marine species and, therefore, the economic activities that rely on these species, such as sport and commercial fishing and tourism.

The process of seismic testing and drilling exploratory wells is also very expensive. It is unlikely that oil companies would invest if they do not believe they will be able to extract oil. Even if the coast is only opened for exploration, it is likely extraction will follow.

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If offshore oil and gas drilling is successful in other parts of the world, why can’t it be here?

Industry proponents often cite Cook Inlet in Alaska and Canada’s east coast as examples of success stories where offshore oil and gas development, a healthy ocean and healthy communities co-exist. However, since the 1950s, the oil and gas industry in Alaska has dumped billions of tons of toxic muds, cuttings and produced waters into Cook Inlet. Recent studies by the Environmental Protection Agency show pollution is entering the local food chain. The same type of toxins found in drilling muds and produced waters have been found in clams and mussels harvested in the local subsistence fishery.

On Canada’s east coast, a coalition of fishermen, First Nations, scientists and concerned citizens fought the establishment of inshore oil and gas development in order to protect their livelihoods. Opposition was voiced over seismic testing in the inshore waters of Cape Breton; however, Corridor Resources Ltd. was allowed to proceed.

The moratorium on Georges Bank, off the coast of Nova Scotia, was extended for ten years because of concerns about the impacts of seismic testing on commercial fisheries. As well, research by the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, found that drilling wastes, characterized as slightly toxic to non-toxic, could significantly affect the health, reproductive success and survival of adult scallops.

Residents of economically depressed remote coastal communities on Canada’s east coast are not experiencing the economic boom they were promised, while unemployment rates remain among the highest in the country.

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Who decides if oil companies can drill for offshore oil and gas in B.C.?

The federal and provincial governments have imposed moratoria prohibiting offshore oil and gas development from occurring on the coast of British Columbia. Various First Nations governments have also imposed moratoria prohibiting offshore oil and gas. In order to develop an offshore oil and gas industry on the coast of B.C., the governments would have to lift these moratoria and a royalty sharing agreement would have to be negotiated. The lease area lies within the traditional territory where many First Nations have laid claims through the treaty process. A press release sent out in May 2004 by the Coastal First Nations stated the moratorium should remain in place. A recent federal review of First Nations’ perspectives found unanimous opposition to lifting the moratorium. Click here to see full report.

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