The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board is holding open houses across Atlantic Canada this week.      

Sean Kelly, public relations manager for C-NLOPB, said the purpose of the public meetings is to address questions and concerns from the public regarding oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

"After the [Deepwater Horizon] incident in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back, it certainly raised a lot of concerns," said Kelly.

"Well, certainly that's the intent of the public consultations, to find out what the concerns are and to gather opinions, but also to gather facts and scientific research."  

The proposed exploration area is the Old Harry prospect, located midway between the Magdalen Islands and Cape Anguille in western Newfoundland.

Similar consultations were held across the west coast of Newfoundland last week.  

The meetings drew criticism from environmental groups who said there was very little consultation in the process.

Marilyn Clark, who is with the Save Our Seas and Shores Action Committee, told the CBC last week that the session wasn't what she was expecting.

"I wouldn't even call it a consultation. It was about six posters with writing on it and three maps. It was like walking through a museum or an interpretation centre," Clark said.

But Max Ruelokke, the CEO of the C-NLOPB, responded to the criticism last week, saying the sessions are not designed as a forum for public debate, though people can speak with the consultant on hand.

The board is working on an update of its Strategic Environmental Assessment. The report will look at how off-shore drilling could affect industries such as tourism and fisheries, as well as the potential environmental impact.

The environmental assessment for a seismic well site survey in the Gulf region has already been submitted to the C-NLOPB.  

Under the 2005 changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, exploratory wells no longer need comprehensive assessments. The wells only need a screening, which requires the input of key federal agencies, but excludes community participation as a required component, though the public may still provide input.  

The first of three public consultations sessions will take place Tuesday night in Miramichi, N.B. at 5 p.m. at the Kinsmen Club.  

The second meeting will take place in Charlottetown, P.E.I. at the Best Western hotel at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, and the third consultation will take place Thursday in Sydney, N.S. at the Waterfront Holiday Inn at 5 p.m.