August 2-9, 2004

BEPCo offshore exploration drilling proposal to undergo comprehensive study

A comprehensive study has been deemed the most appropriate level of environmental assessment for an exploratory drilling project proposed by BEPCo Canada. The company is proposing to carry out a multi-year, multi-well drilling program approximately 190 km offshore from Halifax. The project is subject to an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

The decision, announced July 16 by then-Environment Minister David Anderson, is based on a report and recommendation submitted by the responsible authority, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. The report contains information on the scope of the BEPCo project, the factors to be considered by the environmental assessment, public comments submitted to the Board, the potential of the project to cause adverse environmental effects and the ability of the comprehensive study to address issues relating to the project.

The Minister's determination of the environmental assessment track is a new feature of the comprehensive study-level assessment process brought about by improvements to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act which became law in October 2003. The amendments give the Minister the option, early in the process, of deciding whether a project should continue to be assessed as a comprehensive study or be referred to an independent review panel. The new requirement is intended to ensure make the process more predictable. Once the Minister decides to proceed with the comprehensive study, the project cannot be referred to a review panel at a later date.

The project report may be viewed on the Offshore Board's Web site, www.cnsopb.ns.ca.

Subsequent to the decision, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has provided $24,912 to two applicants to support their participation in the environmental assessment, by comprehensive study, of BEPCo Canada's proposed exploratory drilling project. The recipients are Nova Scotia's Ecology Action Centre and the Native Council of Nova Scotia. The funding is coming from the Participant Funding Program administered by the Agency.

More information is available from Elise Dhaussy at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, 613/957-0406.

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