Canada approves controversial Bay du Nord offshore oil project
Steven Guilbeault said in a statement on April 6 that Norwegian firm Equinor’s proposed development of oil discoveries in the Flemish Pass Basin, some 500 kilometers east of St. Johns, Newfoundland, passed an environmental assessment.
That four-year review, the minister said, determined that the Bay du Nord project “is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects when mitigation measures are taken into account.”
Canada is the world’s fourth largest oil producer. The Bay du Nord project, which split Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and was widely seen as a test of the government’s resolve in tackling climate change and curtailing oil output, is expected to generate an estimated 3.5 billion Canadian dollars ($2.8 billion) in government revenue.
For Newfoundland province, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country, it also represents a much needed economic boost.
Ottawa set 137 binding conditions on the project, including incorporating reduced greenhouse gas emissions in its design, protecting fish habitat and air quality, which Guilbeault said represent “some of the strongest environmental conditions ever” applied in Canada.
But environmental groups immediately panned the decision, citing U.N. warnings to stop tapping new oil sources or risk irreversible and catastrophic climate impacts.
“Approving Bay du Nord is another leap towards an unlivable future,” Environmental Defence’s Julia Levin said in a statement. “The decision is tantamount to denying that climate change is real and threatens our very existence.”
Greenpeace Canada climate campaigner Patrick Bonin said fossil fuels need to be phased out as quickly as possible, and that the approval of Bay du Nord “only worsens the climate crisis and the global reliance on fossil fuels that are burning the planet.”
The decision on the project had twice been delayed, after the Trudeau government last year enhanced its Paris Agreement target to reduce carbon emissions by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.