To the editor:
While I found Richard Gaines' story about oil and gas development on Georges Bank fair and balanced (Times, Tuesday, May 4), I feel compelled to respond to a disturbing comment made by the senior official with the Nova Scotia Department of Energy.
The official's statement that the government will make its drilling decisions independent of any science panel which might be convened is the equivalent of a bureaucrat and a politician at the state level expressing a position on an issue between Canada and the USA.
Because we manage important groundfish stocks on Georges with the United States and because there is a unique, strong circular current on Georges certain to rapidly spread any oil spill into Canadian and U.S. waters and coastlines, any decision on oil and gas exploration by either country will affect the other country.
This is not a wholly state or provincial issue, but in Canada the federal government seems to be silent and willing to let the province make a decision that has clear international consequences.
If history is any guide, U.S. Sens. Kerry, Brown, Snowe and Collins — and their constituents — will consider the apparent disregard of U.S. fishing and environmental interests by the Nova Scotia government seriously misguided.
In the face of the recent revelations that British Petroleum had successfully lobbied U.S. regulators to lessen the burden on it for certain safety mechanisms, Prime Minister Harper and others are chanting the mantra that "we in Canada can do the regulatory regime more effectively than in the USA."
The oil and gas industry in the Nova Scotia offshore largely comes under the regulatory jurisdiction of the provincial government.
Nova Scotia has a sad history of regulatory control of the coal mining industry that culminated in the terrible Westray mine disaster in the late '90s.
There was an inquiry that concluded much of what is being revealed about the BP disaster; that regulations were inadequate and overly influenced by company economic needs, and that the key bureaucrats concerned with enforcement did not do their jobs.
New England should take no comfort in the promises of strict regulations from the Nova Scotia government.
Until the Louisiana and Gulf Coast disaster, the oil and gas industry and Nova Scotia Department of Energy bureaucrats always held the industry's record in the Gulf of Mexico as an example of how low the risk would be to Georges Bank — and how USA regulations and industry technology could take the risk out of these activities.
We should all be very worried and extremely vigilant.
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia