A pleasant and unexpected surprise! Most British Columbians favour keeping the offshore moratorium. And Roland Priddle is not going to help those politicians who expected him to ease the political risks associated with lifting the ban. Risks that grow by the week, as BC gets closer to an election in May 2005
Roland Priddle chaired a small panel that was charged with obtaining the views of British Columbians on lifting the federal offshore moratorium on oil and gas activities.
Among those opposed to lifting the moratorium was some cynicism and an expectation that Priddle’s lengthy career in the oil patch would bias his report in ways that would play well for those keen on its removal.
Not so! The “Priddle” report fairly represents and summarizes the views presented to the panel. Priddle essentially hands this information back to government, to elected officials, and says, “here’s how people feel”, “here are four options”, and “do with it what you will”.
75% of the public are opposed to lifting the moratorium. Significant knowledge gaps exist. The panel recommends four options to government, and gives no preference to any of them. The four options are:
- retain the moratorium
- retain the moratorium and fill the knowledge gaps
- lift the moratorium, issue no exploration permits, fill the knowledge gaps
- lift the moratorium
Key conclusions and recommendations from the report follow:
Report of the Public Review Panel (the “Priddle Report”) on the Government of Canada Moratorium on Offshore Oil and Gas Activities in the Queen Charlotte Region British Columbia
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The Panel concludes in Section 5 that the strongly held and vigorously polarized views it received do not provide a ready basis for any kind of public policy compromise at this time in regard to keeping or lifting the moratorium. It formed the impression that there had been little recent dialogue among stakeholders and that increasing this dialogue could be helpful. The need to address First Nations interests and concerns was the major area of near consensus. Ecosystem protection was a widely shared priority, but there is fundamental disagreement on how it could best be achieved: by keeping the moratorium, or by lifting it and relying on a modern regulatory regime.
There was near consensus among participants that there are significant information gaps regarding biophysical data and environmental and socio-economic impacts information for the QCR, were oil and gas activities to proceed. However, participants wishing to keep the moratorium consider it unsafe to lift the moratorium prior to filling those gaps, while participants wishing to lift the moratorium are of the view that the only way to fill those gaps is to lift the moratorium. Information gathering and consensus building activities would serve to reduce areas of disagreement.
The Panel in Section 6 sets out for the Government of Canada’s consideration options ranging from: keeping the moratorium (Option 1), which would be supported by 75% of those who took part in its process; to keeping the moratorium or deferring the decision on it while undertaking a suite of activities and taking a decision at a future time (Option 2); to lifting the moratorium and undertaking a suite of activities prior to accepting any oil and gas activity applications (Option 3); and to lifting the moratorium (Option 4) which would be supported by 23% of participants. The Panel had not specifically asked participants for views on Options 2 and 3, where the issues in regard to doing further work include: the activities to be pursued; the parties to be involved; and the process for that involvement. In addition to considering these options, the Panel considers that any further studies related to the moratorium should give particular attention to the following matters: environmental effects; fisheries; information issues; technology; hydrocarbon resources; regulatory regime; protected areas; alternative energy sources; the Kyoto Protocol; cultural values; and social and economic impacts. The need to address First Nations concerns is of central importance.