A request for a federal environmental review of a plan to drill for oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is no more than a public relations exercise, says a marine biologist on P.E.I.

'They've made up their mind in advance' — Irene Novaczek, marine biologist

Halifax-based Corridor Resources is looking for oil in a location known as Old Harry, east of Îles-de-la-Madeleine. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, the regulator in charge of the area, is asking for further review of the draft of the outline of the Old Harry environmental assessment.

The board says it has never seen this many public comments in its 26-year history. The more than 50 submissions include concerns about potential for an oil spill, similar to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

P.E.I. marine biologist Irene Novaczek calls it nothing more than a public relations exercise. She was hoping for an in-depth review of the environmental risks.

"They've made up their mind in advance in the absence of the evidence that public debate and public hearings could bring," said Novaczek.

Board chair Max Ruelokke said he does not believe there will be any environmental problems. What he's worried about is public perception. Ruelokke said even with this further review, Corridor should be able to explore Old Harry before the company's lease expires in 2014.

"We believe the licence, the terms of the licence, are still sufficient for this process to unfold and be completed and for a well to be drilled," he said, if the project is approved.

Any potential further review is now in the hands of the federal environment minister.