Nfld. & Labrador

Dwight Ball stands by N.L. oil industry, Roger Grimes after climate change comments

The premier maintains the province's oil is 'some of the best oil in the world,' and he supports continued development despite the decarbonization movement.

Premier maintains N.L. has 'some of the best oil in the world'

Former premier Roger Grimes, left, and current premier Dwight Ball agree on continuing to develop N.L.'s oil resources. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's oil is "some of the best oil in the world," says the premier, who is standing by continued expansion of the industry, as well as comments made by a former premier last week about environmental activists.

Before a conference of oil industry insiders and potential investors, former Liberal premier Roger Grimes, the chair of the province's offshore oil regulator, said the industry needs to temper the message of environmentalists and make its voice heard among the youth-led movement to combat climate change.

Premier Dwight Ball on Monday backed Grimes up, saying the province's oil sector is "very different than what's happening in Alberta" and other jurisdictions because it has a smaller carbon footprint.

"Those that would say 'shut down the industry in Newfoundland and Labrador,' what you're really saying is, 'Move it to more carbon-intense oil.' That is not good for our planet, that is not good for greenhouse gas emissions, it is not good for Newfoundland and Labrador," said Ball.

"If that's the communication that the chair is talking about, that is something that I can support."

'Find the right balance'

On Tuesday, Grimes said the main points in his speech were somewhat misconstrued, and he did not intend them as an attack on youth. He clarified that he believes it would be better to create a dialogue between the oil industry and environmentalists, rather than have the industry ignore their concerns.

"If you want to be one of the developers, and one of the people that believes there's a way to go ahead and do this in an environmentally sensitive way without any risk to destroying the planet, then you need to engage in the discussion, or you will lose the battle," Grimes told CBC News.

"If you don't get into the discussion, then you lose the discussion to the other side."

Protesters in Corner Brook spanned demographics, all united in one common message. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

Thousands of people, predominantly youths, marched through St. John's and other communities across the province as part of the global climate strike on Sept. 27, adding their voices to the millions around the world urging action on climate change.

Grimes said he was "surprised and taken aback" by public reaction to his comments, and maintained that without the oil and gas industry in Newfoundland and Labrador and its revenue, the province would become economically stagnant.

"If you don't develop something, then there will be no staying here," he said.

"We have to find the right balance of how to continue, and develop, and prosper, without putting the planet at risk."

Oil demand will continue: Ball

Grimes is the head of the Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, which regulates the industry, but he said he is not the person to be petitioned to in order to make environmental changes to the industry or to stop additional offshore projects.

"That's done by the elected leaders," he said. "Our role is just to enforce."

Ball maintained his government is interested in continuing to develop its oil resources, as he said global demand is continuing unabated at 96 million barrels a day.

"There is nothing in the near future that would suggest that that's not going to continue," he said.

Interest in the province's offshore oil is surging, with exploration activity expected to top $4 billion in the next few years.

Meanwhile, Alberta is on track this year to decommission more oil wells than build new ones, and Norway's biggest pension fund has divested itself of its oilsands investments, citing environmental reasons.

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