Thursday, April 29, 2010

Georges Bank Needs Our Protection

It's been a couple of years since I was scuba diving on the Arrow which sits on the bottom of Chedabucto Bay off Arichat. The Arrow was an oil tanker which sank on February 4, 1970. To this day, as the power of the waves break it down, it slowly leaks oil into the marine environment. I think of that wreck when people talk about drilling on Georges Bank. A decision on whether the moratorium should be extended to prevent drilling is due by June 1, 2010 and the government is not yet showing its hand, despite being firmly opposed to drilling on Georges while in opposition.

There is talk that the technology has improved and perhaps it is reasonable to allow drilling on Georges - or at least testing to see if oil or gas does exist. The technology hasn't changed much in the past few years, and certainly hasn't changed since the NDP came to power. The unfortunate accident last week in the Gulf of Mexico which saw the sinking of a BP oil rig and a massive oil slick is evidence of what can happen with the latest technology. We can't take that risk on Georges Bank.

Georges Bank is one of the richest fishing areas in the world. Those riches resulted in the development of communities like Yarmouth, Pubnico, and Digby Neck. The bank continues to sustain fishing and tourism industries in the region and internationally. Interestingly, between 1976 and 1982 ten test wells were drilled on the US side of Georges Bank. They reported no commercial quantities of oil or gas, so while that is a small test sample, there is no reason to think allowing exploration on Georges Bank will suddenly be a huge financial gain to Nova Scotia and Southwest Nova Scotia in particular.

We should also be looking to our neighbours to the south. While the US government recently opened the possibility of inshore and offshore oil and gas exploration in US waters, President Obama specifically excluded Georges Bank. In fact Georges Bank is effectively excluded for exploration on the US side until 2017. On fishery issues we work with the US government on management decisions. While we don't always agree there is good cooperation. There is no reason a decision on this issue should be any different.

Maybe one day there will be some oil and gas exploration and extraction method that is so safe and so proven that there would be no risk. That day is not today, and it's not likely to happen in the next few years. If Oil and gas exists in commercial quantities on Georges Bank it's not going anywhere so there is no lost opportunity in taking the cautious approach and continuing the moratorium

Some things in life just aren't worth the risk. Drilling and exploration activities on Georges Bank fall into that category.