Nova Scotia

Shell Canada target of anti-drilling online petition

An international environmental group says it has 56,000 signatures on its online petition opposing Shell Canada's application to drill for oil off Nova Scotia.

SumOfUS says it has 56,000 Canadian signatures opposing Shell's application

A small boat crosses in front of an Shell oil drilling rig as it arrives in Port Angeles, Wash., on April 17. (Daniella Beccaria/seattlepi.com/AP)

A international environmental group opposing Shell Canada's application to drill off Nova Scotia says its online petition has been signed by 56,000 Canadians.

SumofUs, which calls itself "a global consumer watchdog," posted the petition on Aug. 15 and hopes to gather 75,000 signatures before delivering it to the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, spokeswoman Liz McDowell said.

Shell Canada's offshore drilling application caught the organization's attention because of its "outrageous" requirement allowing 21 days to cap a subsea oil blowout, she said.

The number of names on the petition, McDowell says, shows "it is an issue that has really struck a nerve with Canadians. It is pretty shocking that Shell can drill off the coast and not cap a spill for three weeks."

American capping requirements stiffer

The petition was sent out to Canadians only so the vast majority of signatures will be from Canada, McDowell said.

"As a Canadian, our oceans are so important to us, to our coastal communities and to the environment in general and having watched Deep Water Horizon and watched that spill go on for days and days and weeks, we don't want that to happen here."

Regulators in the United States require Shell to have blowout-capping equipment on site within 24 hours when it begins drilling off the coast of Alaska, McDowell said.

Meanwhile, Shell Canada's equipment in the event of a blowout will be no closer than Norway, 5,000 kilometres away, she said.

Canadian Coast Guard staff work to remove an oil-soaked boom from around the bulk grain carrier Marathassa, which had a major oil spill in Vancouver's English Bay in April. (Richard Lam/CBC)

The Ecology Action Centre has put a link to the petition on its Facebook site and website and plans to be part of the delegation delivering the document to the offshore regulator, spokeswoman Susanna Fuller said Tuesday.

Shell Canada has until the end of October to file its final application for drilling. In 2013, the company estimated the project would cost about $970 million.

Details needed for oil spill response

The Ecology Action Centre is also concerned about British Petroleum's plans to drill seven more wells on the Scotian Shelf, Fuller said.

"We would expect they will be looking for the same capping the requirements as Shell," she said.

The environmental group is also pressing the federal Environment Department for information on what kind of resources are available in Atlantic Canada to react during the first 24 hours of an oil spill.

"How much [containment] boom do we have in Atlantic Canada, I don't know. Are we depending on dispersants (spill-treating chemicals)?"

A containment boom is a temporary floating barrier used to hold or slow movement of oil during a spill.

A review of literature on dispersants, written by a former Environment Canada scientist, showed they are harmful to humans and wildlife and aren't particularly effective in keeping oil spills from reaching the shoreline.

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