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The Federal Minister of Environment Has Released Regulations to Exempt Exploratory Oil and Gas from Environmental Assessment in Offshore Newfoundland and Labrador

Photo Credit: Oleg Magni Photo Credit: Oleg Magni

June 6, 2020

The federal Minister of Environment, Jonathan Wilkinson, has announced the enactment of the Regulations Respecting Excluded Physical Activities (Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Exploratory Wells).

The regulations are created under the Impact Assessment Act and based on the results of the Final Report of the Newfoundland and Labrador Regional Assessment Committee. The regulations are effective June 4, 2020, meaning they are now law. 

Ministerial Response was released alongside the regulation, outlining the government’s response to the recommendations of the Regional Assessment Committee regarding climate change impacts, public engagement, and ongoing research needs. 

In order to create regulations, the Minister was first required to consider a Regional Assessment as set out in section 92 of the Impact Assessment Act. A Regional Assessment was begun in the spring of 2019 and concluded in a Final Report that was provided to the Minister in February 2020. 

East Coast Environmental Law has already written about the serious flaws with the Regional assessment, including the Committee’s failure to assess the risks and cumulative effects of exploratory oil and gas and to meaningfully engage with the public and stakeholder groups. For more information, see our dedicated webpage about our work on the Regional Assessment Committee.

East Coast Environmental Law staff lawyer Mike Kofahl comments: "The regulations as written do not address the serious concerns that were raised during the regional assessment process with respect to climate change or cumulative effects of exploratory oil and gas drilling in the offshore of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are also seriously concerned by the regulations because they do not provide for any future public participation or input on exploratory oil and gas development from the public."

Several of the participants—the Ecology Action Centre, Sierra Club of Canada, and the World Wildlife Fund—have launched a judicial review of the Regional Assessment Report. They are represented by EcoJustice. That judicial review is currently before the Federal Court of Canada (Trial Division).