ARCHIVED – Meeting Summary – 31 May 2011 – St. Jude's Anglican Parish Hall, Iqaluit, Nunavut

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Arctic Offshore Drilling Review

Information Meeting Summary

Date and Location
Date Location
31 May 2011
1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
St. Jude's Anglican Parish Hall
Iqaluit, Nunavut

Purpose: Phase 2 Information Meeting

Brian Chambers Northern Advisor, NEB
Bharat Dixit Technical Leader, Exploration and Production, NEB
Pamela Romanchuk Environmental Specialist, NEB
Susan Gudgeon Northern Coordinator, NEB

Presentation (NEB):

National Energy Board staff gave a presentation providing an overview of:

  • the Board's role in the North
  • the scope of the Arctic Offshore Drilling Review
  • what has occurred to date including stakeholder meetings and information filed
  • where the Review is now at
  • what is coming up
  • funding

Questions and Comments:

The following questions and comments were posed:

  • How many wells are there in Nunavut, how many are capped, and how often are they checked?
  • The difference regarding jurisdiction in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is between river and ocean.
  • What will happen in the event there is an accident such as the BP blowout?
  • Not sure the comment regarding whether the Hudson Bay area applies to Nunavut is correct.
  • How are capped wells checked?
  • How would a leak of an abandoned well be discovered?
  • What is the reporting process to ensure there are no leakages?
  • Isn't it like the fox guarding the hen house to have industry monitoring and checking for leaks of abandoned wells? Industry should fund the National Energy Board to do the checking.
  • Epicenter of volcanic activity is offshore of Clyde River (100 miles and close to Cairn). There are tectonic plates/tremors. That should be another area of concern.
  • With respect to Cairn Energy, there are no details being released as to their capabilities to respond to a spill. The Greenlandic communities on the east side of Baffin Bay are equipped with response capabilities but there is nothing on the Baffin Island communities on the west side. Subsistence harvesting is a way of life. Where is the cooperation between the two countries that share a common ecosystem?
  • Does the National Energy Board have a record or list of naturally occurring oil seeps in the area being discussed?
  • Through the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum there is about a half dozen documented on the Greenland side but less research on the Canada side. There is some knowledge regarding Scott Inlet that has been known since the 1970s.
  • How does the application of Benefits Plans work outside of the Nunavut Land Claim settlement area and the territorial area?
  • Understand current vessels and workers are foreign on the west side. If there is to be drilling or seismic activities the assumption is that with risks come benefits. With fisheries, foreign vessels can't fish in Canadian waters. Will it be the same with drilling and seismic?
  • Benefit Plans are between developers and the Government of Canada. Inuit benefit provisions are for within territorial lands and do not apply to the offshore. How does that work?
  • Has there been an analysis of what went wrong in the Gulf? Presumably it went through the same type of review as this.
  • Would Benefit Plans also incorporate resource royalties?
  • There is vast wealth of resources and fisheries and with the rapid opening of waters Nunavut is not in a good position with respect to royalties due to devolution status. Resource revenues all flow into the general revenues of the Government of Canada.
  • The way of life of the people of Nunavut and the environment will be impacted. It is not a matter of if, but when. Canada Coast Guard has said they are not ready and people are not trained. The first 24 hours of a spill are the most critical.
  • The North is not prepared. What are the plans in preparing communities if there is a spill?
  • Lessons learned from the Gulf in the U.S. puts the onus on the companies. In Canada there is a $40 million cap and then the rest of the clean up would fall to the public.
  • Does the area where there is increased financial responsibility only apply in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region?
  • Are there any disputed areas (international) and if so where are they?
  • What are the plans for meetings with Nunavut communities and Aboriginal groups?
  • Is there a list of the dates and locations of where NEB meetings will be held?
  • Only heard about this meeting in the last few days. This is not sufficient for people to attend with all the other meetings that are going on at the same time.
  • The traditional knowledge component of what is going on in the Nunavut waters (i.e. migratory routes) is an important factor.
  • Note there are no Aboriginal National Energy Board Members.
  • The Arctic is the last frontier in the world to tap into. More resources should be put to engaging elders and other Aboriginal people for their traditional knowledge and this should be key.
  • The information Minister Prentice gathered in Greenland was not brought back to communities. There is still a component missing and that is consultation and meaningful dialogue.
  • There is a disconnect between the National Energy Board and the people of the last frontier. Those attending the meeting today are mostly workers and not individuals. There is concern about the process and how Nunavut people are being engaged.
  • Want to hear more about the cooperation that exists between countries.
  • Need to put differences aside and get down to protecting the environment.
  • What is the scope/mandate with respect to recommendations coming out of this Review and what is the mechanism for implementing recommendations?
  • Does the Government of Canada have a similar process in place to answer the question of whether or not there should be drilling in the Arctic?
  • Curious as to why and how the decision was made to have the Roundtable in Inuvik. There should be a Roundtable in Nunavut as well. People think the North is just a big frozen desolate land. This is not the case. The environments are different between the western and eastern Arctic. There are different animals (narwhals, walruses, 4/5ths of the polar bear population), different environments, etc. Nunavut holds the vast majority of the coastline in the Arctic. Nunavut has a benthic based marine environment and not many people have looked under the water to see the animals. This is different than the western Arctic. There are other differences as well – they are different territories, with different land claims and initiatives that are being undertaken as a result of those claims. The Roundtable should be an opportunity to discuss Nunavut specific issues and it would be a missed opportunity for the National Energy Board not to do this. Not convinced there will be another Review that will occur down the road that would look at Nunavut specific issues. Having one Roundtable in Inuvik will end up being a competitive event with both regions trying to put their issues forward.
  • Iqaluit is not the only community in Nunavut. There are 27 other communities and the National Energy Board should be consulting other communities.
  • The Report is said to focus on filing requirements but there are bigger questions to be answered for big projects (e.g. cumulative effects) or where there isn't good science (impact and activity of oil under ice) how those gaps will be filled.
  • There are different levels of risk and geographic considerations depending on the project. Can it be assumed level of risk is considered at the project stage?
  • For the big questions where there is no information, individual proponents won't have the information to answer those questions.
  • Saying an environmental assessment will be done by technical staff is equivalent to a visually impaired person critiquing a painting. They just don't have the information or knowledge. Much of the information has not been documented. There is traditional knowledge and some people may know that information. An example of how information is being gathered is the Coast Guard throwing bottles with notes overboard ships to see where the bottles end up. This is not reassuring of how studies are being conducted for information that isn't available.
  • The precautionary principle should be used for industry – if information isn't available and known, the precautionary principle should be used.
  • Nunavut Research Institute has a lot of information available. As it was not known in a scientific context, it is often overlooked but should be taken into consideration. The information is relevant and available.
  • Reality is bigger questions are not being dealt with. If it is known that there needs to be more information about xyz, in an environmental assessment for a specific project, the bigger question remains unresolved.
  • Even though this Review has a limited scope, at least it is a forum to note that there are gaps.
  • Involving the Nunavut Impact Review Board in projects provides an opportunity for community level input. The challenge though is for municipal governments to meet the requirements – who to hire to put a report together to reflect their community concerns.
  • Tapping into the Nunavut Impact Review Board and Nunavut Research Institute for information and knowledge would go a long way.
  • The fiasco in Lancaster Sound could have been avoided if the Nunavut Research Institute had been involved.
  • Saying the National Energy Board mandate is safety and protecting the environment, when an application comes in, it won't have the information for up here and won't be in a position for a long time. The information is missing. Seems to be putting the cart before the horse. Who are the technical experts that will deal with oil spills in an ice packed environment?
  • On what basis could a project ever be approved with so much missing information?
  • Why would the National Energy Board be willing to accept an application if it can't be assessed effectively?
  • Great that the National Energy Board is here today and is doing this Review to plan for applications and there is a separation between safety and the economics, but once an application comes in, then what? There is still a huge amount of information to be collected in a short period of time (assessing an individual application).
  • Is there a policy that if there is not enough information in a certain area, the National Energy Board can't make a decision?
  • Hopefully as part of the Report recommendations can be included identifying gaps that need to be filled.
  • Is the National Energy Board in the general practice of holding public hearings in areas where the project will affect communities? Can oral submissions (traditional knowledge) be made?
  • What can people expect if the National Energy Board receives an application?
  • Is there a chance of offshore drilling going ahead with just a screening without public scrutiny?
  • If the National Energy Board has been around since 1959 and there was drilling in the 1980s, what has changed? There wasn't consultation in the 1980s.
  • If something happens outside of the National Energy Board's jurisdiction, it will be here quickly.
  • How will the National Energy Board validate information submitted?
  • What process will be used to ensure community input?
  • With respect to seismic, industry spoke to communities where the project will occur but it was not clear from the company who did the presentation how input/feedback could be made. This speaks to the issue of self-reporting. The company could put emphasis on one area and not other areas where communities were concerned about.
  • How information is distributed is a concern and has been brought up before (seismic applications). The current process is that information is on the National Energy Board website but it doesn't get to the communities. Community members are unilingual and need, at a minimum, a summary of the application translated. Regional organization has been doing this but the National Energy Board should make it a requirement of the company.
  • How far from the land mass is the jurisdiction of the National Energy Board beyond the 25 km?
  • Has there been a licence issued for seismic activity in Baffin Bay?
  • Is there coordination with the Nunavut Impact Review Board?
  • Nunavut Impact Review Board should still be involved for projects outside of their jurisdiction because of harvesting rights (marine).
  • Even with cement plugs, who says there won't be leakage into the water? Already there is mercury coming from Asia. People rely on marine life for food.
  • How would private companies prove infrastructure is in place when much of it is the responsibility of federal departments (Coast Guard, Transport Canada, Fisheries)?
  • If a Benefits Plan was not approved by a community would the National Energy Board take that into consideration?
  • How does the National Energy Board ensure a company is held accountable financially in the case of a massive clean up effort? What happens if the company goes bankrupt?
  • Thinking back to the Gulf, the information provided was "cookie cutter" and was not geared to local considerations. Looking here and the challenges with infrastructure, Inuit would not accept this as a lot of the resources would have to come from outside. Would the National Energy Board consider more stringent requirements given the environment?
  • Has emergency response been tested and, if not, how can it be guaranteed if not tested?
  • Looking at Greenland, they have a 3 tier response (rig, community for smaller incidents and ships and equipment for a larger spill). The third level has government as part of that response. Ultimately this would be looking at financial liability and if it is a huge spill, government would have responsibilities. Inuit would want to know arrangements are in place and not just the company's capabilities and responsibilities.
  • Federal departments have very little infrastructure in place to even get up here, never mind to do any type of rescue.
  • Drilling the well is one thing but getting the resource out is another. Is that part of the assessment?
  • Does Greenland do seismic testing?
  • Will the results of the seismic testing now being done be made available to the Canadian government?
  • Could the National Energy Board have a requirement to have seismic information as a condition to the licence?
  • Is the National Energy Board going to Pond Inlet as part of the Review? Pond Inlet is very concerned with oil and gas and the security of their food sources.
  • Where is the National Energy Board drawing its benchmark from globally?
  • Most changes/advancements are made after a disaster and the benchmark is raised higher and higher. It was a different world after the Ocean Ranger incident.
  • How many barrels of dispersants were used in the Gulf? Fish in this area are bottom fish. Is the use of dispersants ranked or a critical component of a clean up plan?
  • Usually clean up is scraping oil off the surface of the water or fire. This only cleans up 1/8th of the oil. What are the long term effects? Why not take the initiative and not allow it at all?
  • Is this the first time the National Energy Board has held a public meeting in Nunavut. In recent seismic meetings communities felt disconnected with the National Energy Board. Coming to Iqaluit should not be considered as engaging communities nor does a meeting with NTI.
  • Pond Inlet community members are looking at the floods in Manitoba and see the province providing compensation to farmers as that is their livelihood. The marine environment is their livelihood in Pond Inlet and there would need to be compensation.
  • Is there a mechanism in place to go out to communities to provide basic knowledge on what seismic is, how drilling occurs and the difference between exploration and production so they are not at a disadvantage in meetings?
  • Nunavut Impact Review Board requires at least a summary of applications to be translated. Will there be a similar requirement for drilling applications? Hopefully the National Energy Board will take this as a flag for moving forward in the future.
  • Information coming back from Clyde River (RSP) is that what is being done there is the bare minimum and is not sufficient.

Concluding remarks:

  • NEB staff are available to assist in completing registration forms for the Roundtable as well as funding applications.
  • Copies of DVDs containing the information on the NEB Arctic Offshore Drilling Review website are available.
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