Nunavut: Seismic testing off Clyde River cancelled for 2015

Aerial view of Clyde River, Nunavut.

Aerial view of Clyde River, Nunavut.

Consortium of energy companies made announcement to community this week

CBC News, May 27, 2015

Clyde River, Nunavut, is declaring victory after an energy company cancelled this summer’s plans for offshore seismic testing.

“I’m very happy about it,” said Jerry Natanine, mayor of the hamlet on Baffin Island’s east coast that strongly opposed the seismic plans.

“I’m reassured by the fact the company is willing to do what it did and go with our request.”

The Norwegian-based consortium informed Natanine of the cancellation earlier this week. It said the decision only pertains to this summer’s plans and it retains the right to test in the future.

A spokesman was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Last June, the National Energy Board approved plans from the three-company consortium to begin five years of seismic tests in the Davis Strait, up and down the entire length of Baffin Island. The testing, which uses loud, high-intensity sounds to help map the sea floor and the geology underneath, was to begin last summer but it was postponed until this year. Now it has been postponed again.

The program is strongly opposed by the people of Clyde River, which argued before the board that the testing would disturb or harm seals, whales, walrus and other marine mammals locals depend on for food.

Nunavut Clyde River 2The hamlet was joined in its opposition by all the communities on Baffin Island, regional and territorial Inuit groups and the Nunavut Marine Council, which represents Nunavut’s wildlife management bodies. In a rare example of Inuit teaming up with southern activists, a wide spectrum of 44 non-governmental groups and individuals also supported Clyde River, including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Amnesty International and faith-based groups such as KAIROS.

Clyde River also argued in front of the Federal Court of Appeal last month for an injunction that would prevent the consortium from going ahead with seismic testing until a federal environmental assessment makes recommendations on which areas should remain closed to development.

A decision on that request is expected soon.

“Regardless of their reasoning, I think it’s a sensible decision,” said Nader Hasan, the lawyer representing Clyde River in their court case. “The case of challenging the National Energy Board’s decision to grant them the license to conduct seismic testing, that case is currently before the court.  And it is important to preserve the status quo on the ground while the court is considering the case.

“I think it’s quite respectful of the court’s process to at a minimum wait for the court of appeal to issue its decision before doing anything to disturb the status quo on the ground.”

The three companies — TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company ASA, Petroleum GeoServices and MultiKlient Invest AS — argued in court that their tests would occur well outside the areas where marine mammals are hunted.

They pointed to studies suggesting that seismic tests only harm fish a few metres away from the sound source. It said any damage to the hearing of whales or other mammals would be likely to be short term and mitigated by the use of observers on the survey vessel, who could stop tests if animals were seen in the area.

But scientists say spotters can miss 80 per cent of whales in an area. Research also has suggested seismic tests are linked to a long list of stress behaviours, and most whales and dolphins leave.

Natanine said his people don’t oppose development. They just want answers about its possible consequences — and a better shot at reaping some of the benefits from resources.

‘In one way it affects it very little and in another way it affects it a lot’

Hasan said the decision affects Clyde River’s case for an injunction “very little, and in another way it affects it a lot.”

“It affects it very little in the sense that they could still go on and conduct seismic testing next year unless we get a court decision quashing the National Energy Board’s decision,” he explained.

However, Hasan explained that the decision creates ‘a little bit of certainty’ if the judge does not rule in favour of the hamlet.

“In the short term… if we lose at the Federal Court of Appeal, we live to fight another day because they are not going to do anything until 2016 anyway,” he explained. “so there is enough time to ask the Federal Court of Appeal, for example, for an interim injunction so we can get the issue before the Supreme Court. So in that sense it matters a lot.

“Now if we win at the Federal Court of Appeal level, then the decision to postpone obviously doesn’t matter very much at all. It only matters for this brief interim period between now and when the Federal Court of Appeal releases its decision. But since we don’t know at this stage what the Federal Court of Appeal is going to do, it’s important.”

Nantanine said he hopes the consortium’s decision means it might be starting to see things his community’s way.

“It leads me to think that the company is not just wanting to do what it wants to do and forget about us.”

“The battle is far from over, said Hasan, “but this is certainly a welcome development, and it gives people of Clyde River the opportunity to focus for a little while at least on things that they would ordinarily be doing in the summer, rather than be preoccupied with going into court in the very near future to ask for an emergency injunction.”

Posted on May 27, 2015, in Oil & Gas and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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