HOW FEDS PLAN TO KILL NL OFFSHORE OIL INDUSTRY

NL can now see for themselves the strategy that the Federal Government plans to employ to kill the offshore oil industry in NL.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson called for a 90-day delay on the 2022 CNLOPB bid process, in which offshore oil companies compete for rights to explore for oil and gas.

The first stage – the call for nominations of specific parcels of land – closed on March 9 and drew, according to CNLOPB, a “high level of interest”. Observers would naturally see this response as a positive sign that the NL offshore is still an attractive place in which to commit significant exploration dollars.

Amidst an essentially negative investment climate for big budget oil exploration, we should be so lucky!

Except that the Feds have decided that the NL offshore must be killed. The fact that oil will be needed for the next fifty years is irrelevant. Reducing domestic demand for oil is deemed too politically costly; it is far easier to obstruct the exploration programs of oil industry players and to mollify weak populations, like ours, with promises that they are partners in phantom “renewable” opportunities, and with periodic hand-outs.

Imagine that Minister Guibeault had the cohunes to tell the burbs of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to reduce their commute by 20% or that certain industries in those Provinces will be forced into decline…and fast!

Alas, this stalwart of Greenpeace does not let feigned environmental zealotry interfere with the re-election of the Trudeau Government. Local partisans, like Premier Andrew Furey and Minister Andrew Parsons, make his environmentally dumb, politically strategic mission, easy.

The 90-day delay invoked by the Feds continues. The naïve among us, starting with the Premier, would have you believe that the Government of Canada is engaged in heavy thinking about the issue. Ottawa has long disposed of the issue, a fact to which Premier Furey is aware.

Federal Environment Minister Guilbeault has confirmed as much, as well as the mechanism the Government of Canada intends to use to slaughter NL’s vital offshore sector.

Speaking in French on April 20, Guilbeault informed a CBC Radio Canada reporter that “It would be very difficult for a new (offshore) project to pass the bar”.

Guilbeault stated that ‘the environmental approval process used for Bay du Nord, established by Stephen Harper’s former Conservative government, was less rigorous than the new process put in place in 2019.’

Perhaps lifting an eyebrow, Guiltbeaut continued: “There is nothing at present that prevents a company from continuing to explore and develop a project”.

This is likely the basis on which Industry Minister, Andrew Parsons, got the encouragement to say, as he did: “I do believe the 2022 call for bids will proceed.”

The Minister didn’t hear or, if he did, misunderstood, what the Federal Minister said next.

Guilbeault continued: “Before such a project can be approved or not by the federal government, there are four or even five years ahead of us, and the more time passes, the more unfavourable conditions will be for oil projects.”

He stated that “he believes new offshore oil projects will become less attractive for companies as the federal government ratchets up emissions pricing, with the goal of reducing oil emissions by 31 per cent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.”

So here you have it. The message to oil companies is this: drill if you please, but don’t expect your investment to be repaid. If you have the temerity to test the GoC’s environmental regulator, we will make it as difficult as possible for you. We will go so far as to lose your Development Plan Application (DPA) in the bowels of Ottawa for “four or even five years” and, if you complain, we’ll “ratchet up emissions pricing…(so that) new offshore oil projects will become less attractive.”

Now, a more competent Provincial Industry Minister, one having responsibility for the province’s oil and gas industry, ought to know that what occurs at the end of a drill bit dictates whether there will be future offshore jobs, royalties, and other economic spin-offs, and that those investments require years before reserves are proven and markets are in a state to make new projects viable.

Equally, the Minister ought to know that no offshore company is going to commit $100-200 million to a drilling program that the Feds intend to thwart – even after having assumed the high risk that the drill-bit is successful.

In short, no company is going to come here to invest in the NL offshore on the basis Federal Minister Guilbeault describes. No Corporate Board of Directors would let them.

There is no need for any announcement from the Feds at the end of the 90-day land sale moratorium. If the Bid process is commenced again, as it is will be as a charade, don’t expact any bidders.

It’s over for the NL offshore. Announced in Quebec. A perfect place, too. A place, unlike Newfoundland and Labrador, that understands self-interest and doesn’t suffer fools gladly, including Guilbeault.

Let the public record show that the Furey Government demurred to the Federal Minister and continued to ignore this enormous threat to the NL economy, content, as he is, with the prospect that Bay du Nord might eventually receive the approval of Equinor.

One other feature of the GoC’s plan is disturbing, It is that less partisan and more sensible souls among the public are noticeably quiet on the issue.

From what source can they possibly be expecting leadership?

Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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