The federal government has delayed bids for more oil exploration in Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore by as many as 90 days.
The delay, requested by federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, is the second delay for the province’s oil and gas industry in March.
It comes three weeks after federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault called for an additional 40 days to make a decision on the future of the proposed Bay du Nord oil project, 500 kilometers east of St. John’s. A decision on the project could come by April 13.
In a statement to CBC News, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, which issues the call for exploration bids, says the call for nominations closed on Mar. 9 after drawing a “high level of interest” but made no reference to a delay. The group says a call for nominations for parcels is scheduled to begin in August 2023, and the official call for bids will come in the coming weeks.
The C-NLOPB’s plans were approved by the province, but that approval was suspended by the federal government for 90 days to allow for additional review time, according to the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology.
A statement from Industry Minister Andrew Parsons offered no outright guarantee plans are moving forward, saying only, “I do believe the 2022 call for bids will proceed.”
Interim Progressive Conservative Leader David Brazil called on his provincial and federal colleagues to stand up for the province’s industry as future decisions are made.
“This industry is too important to the people of this province, it has too much value financially to what we’re doing here. And it does set the tone for being able to transition into other areas of production in our province and support other sectors ,” Brazil said Wednesday.
“If [the Liberals] know something, come clean on it.”
Brazil said the delays send the wrong message to potential stakeholders in the offshore industry, showing the province may not be fully open for business.
“I think it’s going to a point of either there will be some projects that are allowed to go forward, but with caveats that this will be the last time of them. Or there will be a minimal of what you can take out of the ground or produce,” he said.
“We’re having the provincial government here staying silent. They’re saying that this is their cousins in Ottawa. Well, use that family connection here to benefit the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
In a statement to CBC News on Wednesday night, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said any delay in the bidding process is a concern.
“Exploration is critical for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador’s oil and gas industry and its ability to supply responsibly produced resources to meet growing global demand,” said Paul Barnes, director of Atlantic Canada and the Arctic.
“Facilitating access to lands to explore and eventually develop discovered resources will benefit the province and the world as Newfoundland can provide a secure source of energy globally.”
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