February 28, 2005

Comprehensive study chosen for EA of Orphan Basin offshore exploration project

The proposed Orphan Basin exploratory offshore drilling project in Newfoundland will undergo a comprehensive study as the level of environmental assessment (EA) deemed most appropriate. Federal Environment Minister St√ąphane Dion based his decision on the report and recommendation submitted by the responsible authority, the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NOPB).

The report describes the scope of the proposed project, lists the factors to be considered by the environmental assessment, summarizes public comments submitted to the C- NOPB and discusses 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 C-NOPB will now continue the comprehensive study and submit its final report to the Environment Minister. At that time, the public will have an opportunity to comment on the report's findings and recommendations before a final decision is made.

Chevron Canada Resources and its partners, ExxonMobil Canada and Imperial Oil Resources Ventures, are proposing to conduct an exploration drilling program in the Orphan Basin area, approximately 350 km northeast of St John's. Up to three wells would be drilled initially, with the possibility of adding nine additional wells. Drilling could begin as early as mid-2006.

The Minister's determination of the environmental assessment track is a new feature of the comprehensive study-level EA process brought about by amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act which became law in October 2003. The revisions give the Minister the option of deciding, early in the process and with public participation, whether a project should continue to be assessed as a comprehensive study or be referred to an independent review panel.

This requirement is intended to make the process is more predictable and provide the public more opportunities for participation. Once the Minister has decided to continue with the comprehensive study, the project cannot be referred to a review panel at a later date.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) will act as the federal facilitator for the Orphan Basin EA in order to co-ordinate the participation of the C-NOPB along with a number of federal departments, including Environment Canada, Transport Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. A copy of the report on which the Minister based his decision may be requested from Kim Coady at the C-NOPB, 709/778-1431, E-mail ead@cnopb.nf.ca.

As part of the assessment process, the Agency will provide a total of $20,000 in participant funding to two applicants to support their involvement in the project EA by comprehensive study. The recipients are the Natural History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Alder Institute.

More information is available from Lucille Jamault at the Agency, 613/957-0434, E-mail lucille.jamault@ceaa-acee.gc.ca, Web site www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca.

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