Clyde River HTO calls for additional five years to oil and gas moratorium in Arctic waters

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In a late 2018 letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB), the Nangmautaq Clyde River Hunters and Trappers Organization called for the federal government’s moratorium on new offshore oil and gas licences to be extended for another five years.

photo courtesy Nunavut Impact Review Board
Community members attend a Nunavut Impact Review Board public meeting in Clyde River in fall 2018 to share information and concerns about oil and gas development for the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.

That letter is a response to a request for input on the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.

“Our community needs jobs and we are not opposed to development; however we believe that certain conditions must be met before we can support oil and gas activities in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait,” stated HTO vice chair Mosa Palituq.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama put in place an indefinite ban on oil and gas drilling in Arctic waters, a decision to be revisited every five years,  in December 2016.

The SEA is a federal government initiative, handed off to NIRB in early 2017, and is intended to inform the feds when it reviews the moratorium. The NIRB process began in the spring of that year.

The Clyde River HTO’s reasons for an extension fall under various categories: concerns about financial benefits and employment; significant gaps in research and baseline data; inadequate oil spill response capacity; free, prior and informed consent must be prioritized; and questions about how such development might drive climate change.

“The NIRB’s Preliminary Findings Report does not provide adequate information on projected financial benefits or job opportunities for communities,” stated Palituq.

“NIRB officials have stated that they can’t access benefits and royalties in the SEA, as it is the federal government’s responsibility, yet this is a critical consideration for us.”

The HTO’s concern in this area has to do with being compensated for any impact on wildlife, as the community relies on hunting and fishing for its livelihood and survival, Palituq stated.

“As noted in the NIRB’s letter of appreciation to the Clyde River HTO, these types of future benefits for a specific development proposal within the Nunavut Settlement Area would not be negotiated or otherwise imposed by the NIRB or Government of Canada and would be entirely dependent on project-specific negotiations between industry, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the applicable regional Inuit association at the time such an oil and gas development entered the regulatory system,” NIRB’s director of technical services Tara Arko explained to Nunavut News by e-mail.

The Resolute Bay Hunters and Trappers Association expressed concern about insufficient time and resources to provide meaningful comment. It notes, in its letter to NIRB, that meetings were held a day after the Preliminary Findings Report was released.

“Similarly, the two development scenarios reports were long and complex documents that were a combined 700 pages in length. Our HTO does not have the capacity to review and comment on technical documents of this length and this has been an impediment to the meaningful engagement of our community,” stated Philip Manik Sr.

The Resolute Bay HTO expressed similar concerns to those of the Clyde River HTO, including concerns about seismic testing as relates to wildlife, lack of clarity about the study area, spill prevention and response, trans-boundary effects, economic benefits, and impacts on sea ice.

photo courtesy Nunavut Impact Review Board
The Nunavut Impact Review Board holds a public meeting in Arctic Bay to gather information and concerns about oil and gas development for the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait.

SEA not project-specific

Arko pointed out a strategic assessment  and a project-specific assessment are two different processes.

“The objectives of the strategic assessment are to identify possible impacts of likely development scenarios, community concerns with these types of development, and process or legislative gaps that need to be addressed prior to assessing actual project proposals,” she said.

“Whereas project specific impact assessments are expected to inform parties of specific activities with locations, timelines, and scale of impacts to weigh off against specific offsets, commitments for jobs and other benefits, that would be negotiated through the appropriate impact benefit agreements.”

In a letter to the Clyde River HTO dated Jan. 9, Arko assures Palituq that HTO concerns will be included with all the evidence NIRB has gathered during the SEA process, “up to and including the evidence presented and discussed at the final public meeting in March, for development of its recommendations for the final report to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Northern Affairs and Internal Trade.”

Meanwhile, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA) is behind schedule, as they had reports due in the second half of 2018.

“The written reports that QIA is working on regarding IQ (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit) and the SEA have not yet been submitted to NIRB, we are still finalizing them,” stated director of lands and resources Rosanne D’Orazio by e-mail, adding the Inuit organization hoped to submit the documents by the end of January.

The final public meeting on the SEA is scheduled to be held in Iqaluit March 18-22.

“The NIRB encouraged the Clyde River HTO to attend the final public meeting, as it has been doing for all parties throughout the strategic assessment, because of the value in not only getting the issues on the table, but having parties together to discuss and develop these issues in front of the board to better inform the development of the board’s recommendations for its final report,” said Arko.

The federal government contributed $2.6 million to NIRB to carry out the SEA over a two-year period, a first for the regulator, which usually assesses projects application by application.

In a June 2017 interview, executive director Ryan Barry said he expected a final report to be submitted to the federal government in a timely fashion.

“Although the issues themselves are very complex and broad, we have every bit of confidence we will provide a report, as requested, in advance of March 2019,” said Barry.

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